Ahn Tuyet and her step Dad Peter Burns just want to be able to afford to go to school.
Ahn Tuyet and her step Dad Peter Burns just want to be able to afford to go to school. Jessica Lamb

Family desperate to get daughter an education

THE fight to allow a 16-year-old girl into high school in this country has gone all the way to Queensland Parliament.

All Ahn Tuyet wants is an education.

The teenager was ready to start at Proserpine State High School with uniforms organised and the paperwork done.

But her family has been left devastated after learning Ahn, a Vietnamese national, was classified by Education Queensland as an international student despite having a bridging visa and a Medicare card.

It means she would have to pay about $14,000 a year to attend the public school.

It's money the family just doesn't have, especially since stepdad Peter Burns can't work due to a shoulder reconstruction.

Seeking alternatives, the trio went to Whitsunday Christian College, a private school, whose offered fees were less than that of the public school as an international student, however still out of reach of the family's means.

Mr Burns said they had nowhere else to turn to give Ahn the education she wanted.

"The immigration department said that she could go to school, we did everything they asked," he said.

"We are so disappointed because we put so much effort into this.

"But we went to the school three times and they said she was a international student so had to pay."

Ahn has completed Year 10 in Vietnam as well as achieving a Cambridge-certified level of English so when her mother married Mr Burns in September, the family could not imagine the trouble they would have enrolling Ahn in a Whitsunday high school.

Mr Burns said the family had run out of options, so they approached Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan for help.

"I was thinking I need a bit of help here. She is 16 years old and education is important at that age," Mr Burns said.

"She just want to improve and get a better education. They are not going away, they want to be in Australia."

Mr Costigan talked about the family's dire situation during a session in parliament debating a bill about overseas students in Queensland.

"Mr Burns cannot afford ($14,000 a year in fees)," Mr Costigan said.

"He is concerned and I am concerned that his stepdaughter is falling behind.

"I will be writing to the relevant ministers. There is some impasse between the federal and state governments that needs to be resolved, because Ahn Tuyet is an international student who is in a situation where she is going to fall behind."

While Mr Burns said they had been repeatedly told Ahn was an international student and she had to pay a fee, an inquiry from The Whitsunday Coast Guardian to Education Queensland revealed there were fee waivers available for people on some visas.

An Education Queensland spokesperson said for children who are not Australian permanent residents, access to state education in Queensland depends on the visa held by their adult family members.

"In some cases temporary visa holders may be eligible for a fee exemption," the spokesperson said.

"Due to confidentiality reasons, the department is unable to provide further information regarding individual cases."

Mr Burns said the family would apply for the exemption, but until then Ahn would continue working her few shifts a week at the local supermarket, until a solution is found to get her into high school.

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