Eligibility for Assistance for Isolated Children

Eligibility is based on residence requirements, the child's age, approved studies, geographical isolation, special needs or circumstances and living arrangements during the school year.


You may be eligible if the child meets the following requirements.

Minimum age

  • the minimum primary school entry age for the state or territory where they go to school, or
  • be 3 years and 6 months or older and have a health condition or disability where they need to live away from home

Maximum age

  • be under 19 years of age on 1 January in the study year and are a primary or secondary student
  • be under 20 years of age on 1 January and have had serious disruption to their education, for example, because of illness or language difficulties
  • be under 21 years of age, on Disability Support Pension or Parenting Payment single and study at primary or ungraded level, or
  • be a tertiary student and under the maximum age their state or territory requires them to study or train


  • students need to be in full time, ungraded primary or secondary studies at an approved institution, or
  • school aged and enrolled in approved full time tertiary vocational education and training, such as a TAFE course because they don’t have access to a state secondary school

Living arrangements

The child must be in one of the following living arrangements during the school year:

  • boarding away from home at a school, hostel, or privately 
  • living in the family’s second home so they can go to school daily, or
  • living at home and doing distance education, approved home schooling or attending a Northern Territory Homeland Learning Centre 

Can’t go to a state school

The child can’t go to a state school because of:

  • geographical isolation
  • special needs or disability
  • special circumstances

Geographic isolation rules

Your family home must be isolated from a state school providing tuition at the grade or year your child is qualified to enrol in.

To be eligible, a child must meet one of the geographic isolation requirements.

A child is eligible under the 16 km rule if:

  • the nearest appropriate government school is at least 16 km away, and
  • there’s no school pick up point within 4.5 km of the home, or
  • there’s no available transport service to the school

A child is eligible under the 56 km rule if:

  • the distance from home to the nearest appropriate government school is at least 56 km using the shortest route, or
  • there’s a school transport service within 4.5 km of the home, and
  • the distance the child travels from the family home to the transport pick up point and then to the school via the transport service must be at least 56 km

How we measure distance

We measure the distance from the family home to the school using the transport service.

The distance from the home to the school is the distance from home to:

  • any transport pick up point plus
  • the distance from the pick up point to the school using the transport route

If there’s no transport service, we measure the distance by the shortest route.

If bus routes vary, we use the average distance. You need to tell us if:

  • there’s more than one pick up point on the transport route
  • the distance to the nearest suitable government school differs

You may be eligible when the route of the morning and afternoon transport services are different in length and the average of the 2 meets either the 16 km or the 56 km rule.

Example: Living away from home to attend school

Bethany lives with her parents on a property. Her family’s home is 1 km from the nearest public transport that services the nearest appropriate government school. The distance from her home to the school is 30 km.

She’s not eligible because there’s a school pick up point less than 4.5 km from her home and the school is less than 56 km from her home.

Ben goes to the same school as Bethany. His main home is 6 km away from the nearest public transport service to the school. The distance from his home to the school is 36 km. Ben is eligible because the school pick up point is further than 4.5 km and the nearest government school is at least 16 km from his home.

The nearest transport service is the closest pick up point for any scheduled public transport or private carrier of school services. This includes a pick up point that would be available if you asked for transport to the school.

Principal family home

The principal family home is:

  • where one parent or guardian lives for at least half the time you’re claiming the scheme
  • where the child usually lives and spends school holidays in Australia or in an external territory such as Christmas, Norfolk or the Cocos (Keeling) island

Nearest appropriate government school

We consider the nearest appropriate government school that offers tuition at the grade or year the child is able to enrol in. There are exceptions.

Sometimes the state or territory education authority identifies the nearest government school to the child’s home as a selective or specialist school. These schools are only for children doing a special program, such as:

  • gifted and talented
  • agriculture

A government school that caters for mainstream students but has a special program is not a selective or specialist school. In this case, the child is eligible if the specialist school is also the nearest appropriate government school. The family home must also be geographically isolated from that school. 

Other exceptions

Child’s circumstances

Nearest appropriate government school

Disability, health condition or special education need

One providing a suitable program and facilities

Tertiary student under minimum age for education required by home state or territory

One offering the grade or year level for the student if they stayed in secondary school instead of doing tertiary course

Lives within 56 km of multiple schools

One with transport pick up closest to home

Reasonable access rules

You may be eligible if the child doesn’t have reasonable access to an appropriate government school for at least 20 school days in the year because:

  • the time for the return journey to school by school transport service is at least 3 hours
  • the route or pick up point varies daily, weekly or monthly but the distance or travel time rules are met on at least 20 school days a year - where the distance of the morning and afternoon transport services differ, the average of the 2 must meet either the 16 km rule or the 56 km rule, or
  • there are special weather conditions, impassable roads or other circumstances beyond your control

Special need rules

A child may be eligible if the local government school can’t meet their special need, and:

  • they need to study from home for health related reasons or pregnancy, or
  • the family home is geographically isolated from the nearest government school that provides suitable programs, facilities or an environment needed by the student because:
    • of physical or intellectual disability
    • of psychological, emotional or behavioural difficulties
    • of a severe medical condition
    • of learning difficulty requiring diagnostic testing or remedial tuition
    • it would seriously disadvantage the student by attending the nearest appropriate government school

Special circumstance rules

In some cases, a child may still be eligible without meeting the distance and travel rules, if:

  • the child has disability or a health related condition that makes it necessary to live full time in a special institution or requires them to study from home
  • the child’s circumstance changes during the school year and it makes them no longer eligible under the geographic isolation rules. We may still pay you until the end of the year. The child must still live away from the principal family home or study by distance education, and go to the same school
  • a child is in Year 11 and circumstances change but they continue to meet the conditions above, we can pay until the end of Year 12
  • the child starts boarding, enrols in distance education studies or begins to live in a second home because of the change of circumstance - the child is eligible for the earlier and later part of the year
  • you maintain a second family home so that up to two geographically isolated sibling students can go to an appropriate school. They must meet student eligibility criteria and live in the second home. You must lodge a separate claim for each child you’re claiming for
  • your work requires frequent moves. The child may be eligible if:
    • the parent or guardian’s livelihood has an itinerant lifestyle, such as shearers or fruit pickers
    • if school aged children travelling with the parent miss at least 100 school days in a year at a local government school
    • the parent or guardian needs work onsite and they don’t operate out of a base
    • the work needs the family to relocate, and
    • the parent or guardian relocate at least 5 times a year for work 

Page last updated: 27 August 2017