Lifelong learning

 Rural and regional Australia


Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world, with over two-thirds of the population living in major cities. The population in regional Australia is growing and is predicted to continue to grow. However, this growth is inconsistent across the country, with population decline in many remote inland areas and rapid growth in satellite cities and coastal areas.

Rural and regional disadvantage

18 of the 20 electorates in Australia with the lowest household incomes are outside the capital cities. Further, regional and rural communities have particular features that can leave people stuck in a cycle of poverty and disadvantage. These include reduced access to employment and health services, transport difficulties, inadequate local infrastructure, and vulnerability to natural hazards.

A significant proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in regional and rural Australia and, in many very remote communities, they make up the majority of the population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples generally have poorer health, education and life expectancy than the rest of the population.

Education in rural and regional Australia

School students in regional and rural Australia are almost two years behind their metropolitan peers in mathematical and reading literacy and almost a year and half behind their peers in scientific literacy.

Young people and adults outside the major cities are less likely to finish high school or to attend university but they are more likely to complete a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification.

ACE in rural and regional Australia

Of the 938 Adult and Community Education centres registered with ALA, half are in rural and regional Australia. These centres vary in size from large Community Colleges, which offer entry level VET and pre-accredited programs through to small volunteer-run community education programs.

Not for profit ACE organizations are significant contributors to the economies of regional and rural communities. They exist in towns whose populations couldn’t justify the existence of a fully operational TAFE or University campus and they education market is too small to attract private for profit operators. They supplement the work of TAFE and University in other communities.

ACE Organisations in rural and regional communities tend to offer a broad range of programs and services alone or in partnership with other agencies of which access to lifelong learning is just one. Services commonly include childcare, job services, emergency relief and community interest groups. An increasing number operate social enterprises such as coffee shops, recycling services and second hand clothing stores.

Find out more

The role of adult and community education in regional and rural Australia

Fact sheet: ACE in rural and regional Australia


Adult Learning Australia