Wollongong families benefit from Education Tax Refund by up to $4 million

Nearly 7000 families in the Cunningham electorate made claims for the Education Tax Refund (ETR) last year helping with the costs of starting and returning to school, Federal member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, revealed today. “Sending children to start school or returning to school for another year can be expensive for families. “I want to remind parents that the Commonwealth Government introduced a 50 percent Education Tax Rebate (ETR) to help with those unavoidable costs and encourage them to keep receipts for the school purchases and make a claim for the ETR. “Last year, 6560 families living in my electorate made an ETR claim and received $4.1 million of assistance through the ETR. “Eligible education expenses include school uniforms, laptop and home computers, home internet connections, computer software, and school textbooks. “Families may claim an ETR of $409 for eligible expenses up to $818 for each primary school child and $818 for eligible expenses up to $1636 for each secondary school child”, Ms Bird said. She said that an ETR could be claimed in an individual’s tax return or by completing the Education Tax Refund for Individuals claim form available from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Ms Bird has also produced an Education Tax Refund envelope to help families keep secure and organised all receipts relating to education spending, which are available by contacting her office on 4228 5899.

Strong response to Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund

The Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund, created to secure jobs and the long-term economic future of the Illawarra, has received 28 proposals that could result in $95 million of new investment in the region. An advisory committee, chaired by a member of the local business community, Mr Robert Terpening from Bisalloy Steel Group Limited, has been appointed and will review the proposals. Successful proposals are expected to be announced in March. The Commonwealth has committed $20 million towards the Illawarra Fund, with a further $5 million each from the New South Wales Government and BlueScope Steel. Federal Minister for Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet, said the strong interest in the Illawarra Fund would create opportunities and help build sustainable businesses throughout the Illawarra. “The Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund is strengthening the region by stimulating co-investment opportunities and diversifying its economic and employment base,” Mr Combet said. “The interest in the Illawarra Fund is enormously promising. It shows that there are lots of firms ready and willing to invest in the region. Continue reading

Illawarra seniors to meet Minister for Ageing

The Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler and Illawarra Labor MPs Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones will today meet with over 200 local seniors in Wollongong as part of a national conversation on healthy and positive ageing. The views of local seniors will help inform the Gillard Labor Government’s response to the Productivity Commission Final Report, Caring for Older Australians. “Australians are living longer, healthier and more prosperous lives than at any other time in history. They have greater opportunities to age well, lead vibrant lives and participate productively in society,” Mr Butler said. “To capture the opportunities presented by an ageing population, we need to provide support and encouragement to older Australians to continue contributing to our community - whether in work, in retirement or in caring roles. “Providing access to quality care and support will give older Australians the confidence to age with dignity and security. “We also want to see a system that is financially sustainable, and is fair for those being cared for as well as for the rest of society, and a system that meets the highest standards of quality.” Continue reading

Illawarra urged to support Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians

The Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, and the Federal Member for Throsby, Stephen Jones, today urged all Illawarra residents to show their support for the Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians. Yesterday the Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander handed its report to both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The report’s conclusions, based on thousands of discussions with individuals and organisations, submissions and public consultations, across Australia, is that: The Australian Constitution should ensure the equality of all Australians Constitutional recognition will more accurately reflect Australia’s national identity, and Constitutional recognition will go some way to building a stronger relationship among all Australians for the future. “The Panel report is comprehensive. It is available online at www.youmeunity.org.au “I urge all Illawarra residents to examine the report and its recommendations, and show support for the Constitutional recognition of our Indigenous Australians”, Mr Jones said.Ms Bird said that, “Constitutional change has a chequered history in Australia, with most referendum proposals failing to gain support. “We need to develop a consensus for Constitutional change just as Australians did with the historic referendum of 1967, which removed discriminatory references to Australian Indigenous people.” The Commonwealth Government will now consider the Panel’s report and recommendations.

Cultural exhibition to tour to Wollongong

Wollongong will soon host a unique arts and cultural exhibition thanks to almost $1.7million in Australian Government funding announced today by Arts Minister Simon Crean. “We are committed to taking the great art-forms of the capital cities to the regions to ensure all Australians continue to access and participate in our dynamic arts and culture,” Mr Crean said. “The funding announced today will support 14 organisations to develop and tour exhibitions to venues across Australia, with a particular focus on regional and remote communities.” This support is provided through the Australian Government’s national touring program Visions of Australia and the Contemporary Touring Initiative. The funding will provide a wide variety of communities with the opportunity to view significant exhibitions from major galleries and museums, as well as cutting edge contemporary art. “In advance of Australia’s first National Cultural Policy in almost 20 years, we are demonstrating our commitment to regional arts initiatives,” Mr Crean said. “This investment will enhance the liveability of the regions and encourage greater participation in the cultural life of our nation.” Continue reading

478 new homes for vulnerable Australians in the Illawarra

Nearly 500 new homes have now been built in the Illawarra under the Federal Labor Government’s $5.6 billion Social Housing Initiative. “I am happy to say that this region has benefitted greatly from the Australian Government’s $5.6 billion investment in social housing, with 478 new homes being delivered here in the Illawarra,” Member for Throsby, Stephen Jones said. “Developments like these are important in helping to provide a safe and secure place to call home for some of our community’s most vulnerable people,” he said. Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird said “Not only do these homes offer stable accommodation, they are also designed to assist residents to remain connected and supported in our community. “Stephen and I are particularly proud to be part of a Government committed to giving vulnerable Australians a place to call their own,” Ms Bird said. Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Robert McClelland said, “as of 1 January, over 17,000 new homes have been delivered to vulnerable Australians right across the country with 478 of these new homes now in the electorates of Cunningham, Throsby and Gilmore.” Continue reading

Free hearing services for young people

21 December 2011 The Commonwealth Government is extending free hearing services to young people from 1 January 2012, the Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, said today. “Young people aged 21 to 26 years of age living in the Illawarra will be eligible for a range of free hearing services. Previously a young person became ineligible when they turned 21 years of age. “Young people will be eligible for rehabilitation and hearing devices, including hearing aids and cochlear implant speech processor upgrades from Hearing Australia. “The inability to access appropriate hearing services can have a serious effect on a young person’s ability to earn a living and participate socially. “The extension of free hearing services to young people up to 26 years of age ensures they can have any hearing problems addressed quickly and early, while undertaking their studies, or establishing themselves in their chosen careers”, Ms Bird said. The Government has invested an additional $47 million over four years to expand the Community Service Obligations (CSO) component of the Hearing Services Program (HSP). To be eligible to access hearing services as part of these changes, young adults must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident, have not yet turned 26 years of age, and have a confirmed hearing loss.

Nurse practitioner funding awarded to IRT

18 December 2011 The Illawarra Retirement trust (IRT) has been awarded $690,000 over three years for a nurse practitioner to help deliver quality health care to older Australians in the Illawarra, Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, announced today. The IRT funding is one of 32 projects across Australia to expand the role of the nurse practitioner in residential and community based care. “Nurse practitioners play an important role in the delivery of health care to older Australians. “They can assess and manage clients, prescribe medication, order diagnostic investigations and refer clients to other health care professionals. “Wollongong’s population is ageing and this demographic trend increases the number of people requiring complex support and care. “This funding will enable the IRT nurse practitioner to assist clients across the Illawarra region, including in Shellharbour and Kiama. “I am delighted that the IRT has been recognised to participate in this national pilot program”, Ms Bird said. The funding has been made available under Commonwealth Government’s Nurse Practitioner – Aged Care Models of Practice Program.

Commonwealth continues support for high speed broadband in Illawarra region with $1.25 million in funding

15 December 2011 The Federal Illawarra Labor MPs, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, today welcomed the announcement of Kiama Council’s success in funding under the first round of programs to enable local communities to take advantage of the National Broadband Network (NBN). The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, has announced that Kiama Council has been successful in the first round of funding under the Commonwealth Government’s Digital Hub and Digital Local Government Program. Kiama Community College has been successful in funding under the Digital Enterprise programs. The Commonwealth Government’s funding of the three projects combined is up to $1.25 million. “This is good news for the Illawarra and shows the Commonwealth’s consistent, strong support for the roll-out of high-speed broadband in this region. “Unfortunately, the position of the Liberal-National Party is to continue to oppose the NBN”, Ms Bird said. Mr Jones said, “The investment that this region has made in putting the case that the NBN should be rolled-out among the first mainland sites has paid off. “We will see the NBN roll-out in Wollongong and Dapto next year as was announced by the Prime Minister in October.”

University of Wollongong to benefit from new CRC funding

23 November 2011 The University of Wollongong’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) will play a leading role in major research projects to develop low cost, high powered batteries for use in electric vehicles and photovoltaic solar cells, the Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, said this afternoon. The Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, announced $148 million in funding for new Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) with $26 million awarded to the Automotive Australia 2020 CRC and $14.5 million awarded to the CRC for Polymers. “These two new CRCs, the research projects they are involved in, and the leading role to be played by the University of Wollongong’s AIIM, are about powering the future in a low carbon constrained economy. “I am delighted that AIIM, which was awarded $43.8 million in Commonwealth Government funding, will be able to play a leading role in research and industry collaboration to develop low cost, high powered batteries for electric vehicles and organic photovoltaic solar cells”, Ms Bird said.