Australian PM Proposes Obama-styled Youth Corps


Ben Packham
Herald and Weekly Times
January 27, 2009

PM Kevin Rudd wants to recruit an army of young volunteers to help the elderly, feed the homeless, and clean up the environment.

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In exchange for giving up their time, members of the new Community Corps would get discounts on their university HECS debts. The proposal could attract tens of thousands of volunteers from the 1.3 million Australians with a higher education debt.

The average ex-student has a $12,000 HECS debt, which typically takes more than seven years to pay off.

The scheme could wipe out students’ debts as they accumulate hours of community service.

The plan, backed by top business minds and embraced by community and welfare groups, emerged from the Prime Minister’s 2020 summit.

The Government is expected to adopt it within days when it releases its final 2020 summit report.

Mr Rudd, who has pleaded for Australians to pull together to beat the rapidly worsening economic downturn, has described the idea as “a very practical trade”.

Corps members could deliver meals on wheels, youth and Aboriginal services, become volunteer firefighters, or assist the disabled and elderly. Landcare and water projects could also benefit.

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