ABSTUDY third-party scholarship programs

What is a third-party scholarship program?

For the purpose of ABSTUDY, a third-party scholarship program is a program that offers scholarships, including accommodation support, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary school students. The program is independent of a student’s school and family.

Organisations funded by the Australian Government through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy’s Children and Schooling Programme to establish an Indigenous scholarship program may be automatically eligible for ABSTUDY approval under section 35.2 of the ABSTUDY Policy Manual.

Students offered a scholarship from a third-party program specifically approved for ABSTUDY may be automatically approved for ABSTUDY Away From Home benefits (subject to eligibility for means-tested payments). This includes funding for interstate travel if the scholarship school is not located in the student’s home state.

Students who receive a third-party scholarship not specifically approved may still be eligible for ABSTUDY Away From Home benefits based on other factors such as living in a remote area. If a student is eligible, ABSTUDY will provide support, including for travel within the student’s home state. Generally, interstate travel is not funded for secondary school students.

Third party scholarship program assessment process

The department assesses third-party Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholarship programs for secondary school students under section 35.2 of the ABSTUDY Policy Manual.

The department uses 8 selection criteria to assess if a third party scholarship program can be approved for ABSTUDY. ‘Required’ criteria are mandatory and must be met before approval for ABSTUDY can be granted. Selection sub-criteria are then graded as ‘highly suitable’; ‘suitable’; or ‘not suitable’.

The department will not approve scholarship programs that receive a ‘not suitable’ grading in any of the following sub-criterion.

In addition to the responses provided against the selection criteria, applications are also assessed using information from a range of sources including:

  • other information provided by the scholarship program or the partner school(s)
  • the school’s website
  • the Australian Government MySchool website
  • the relevant state or territory education department.

If the department is considering a rating of ‘not suitable,’ the applicant will be given an opportunity to provide additional information to support their application.

If your scholarship program is not approved, you can request a review of the decision. An independent officer in the department will review the decision and seek additional information from you as needed.

Selection criteria

Criterion 1 - Program objectives


The scholarship must be available to support students through to Year 12 completion. 

Selection sub-criteria: 

The scholarship may be offered at any point in the student’s secondary education.

The scholarship program’s main purpose must be to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary school students to access educational opportunities not otherwise available to them. 

The educational program must be academically and culturally appropriate.

Criterion 2 - Program partner schools


The program offers a scholarship that can be taken up by at least two partner secondary schools, or a school system, such as a group of affiliated schools.

The program has written partnership agreements in place with the schools, school systems, or education departments.

Selection sub-criterion:

The partner secondary schools are well-resourced and high performing, taking into account:

  • the level of support provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, including financial, academic, and social and emotional wellbeing
  • the school’s financial information available from the school’s website or the MySchool website 
  • any specialist programs the school offers, for example sports, drama, or languages
  • the school’s academic results.  

Criterion 3 - Student selection


The selection panel includes male and female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.

Selection sub-criterion:

The program has a clear and transparent student selection process. 

Criterion 4 - Supporting student choice

Selection sub-criterion:

The program supports students and their families to make informed decisions about their education, including selecting a school that aligns with the student’s personal and academic interests (a selective or specialist public school for example).

Criterion 5 - Student travel and placement


The program representative understands their obligations to develop individual Safe Travel Plans for students who require one (see Safe Travel Plan Guidelines Appendix to ABSTUDY Policy Manual). This will include the provision of appropriate supervision during travel, where required. 

The program representative will develop Safe Travel Plans in consultation with the student, the student’s family or community and the school. 

Selection sub-criteria: 

The program provides information and guidance for students and their families about living away from home and the supports available to them, including links with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support networks at their study location.

The program encourages and facilitates family visits to the school.

Criterion 6 - Student accommodation 


The scholarship program includes accommodation arrangements for students.

Selection sub-criteria:

The scholarship program includes accommodation at either:

  • a boarding facility provided by the partner school that is culturally appropriate, supervised and supported, or
  • other culturally appropriate, supervised and supported accommodation arrangements organised by the scholarship program. 

Accommodation staff are appropriately screened and qualified. The accommodation may include access to medical services or other supports for students.

Criterion 7 - Student Support

Selection sub-criteria:

The program provides individual student support for orientation, personal development, academic and homework support, and extracurricular activities.

The program provides regular and ongoing engagement with the student’s family and community about academic and social progress.

Criterion 8 - Financial support

Selection sub-criterion:

There is no minimum scholarship value or amount required for the program to be approved for ABSTUDY. The department will consider value for money, including:

  • whether the scholarship value is substantial relative to the tuition and boarding costs, and will not leave parents significantly out of pocket
  • the total cost to the Government, scholarship program and family for the child’s education.

Applying for a third-party scholarship program for ABSTUDY assessment

Provide your criteria responses in the ABSTUDY Scholarship program assessment template. 

Lodge your submission by 30 June of the preceding year to ensure your approval is in place before the start of the school year.

In addition to your completed assessment criteria, your submission should include: 

  • information about your organisation and its structure
  • any additional information about the scholarship program and how the program meets the assessment criteria
  • any relevant published material about the scholarship program such as brochures or flyers (or links to online material)
  • contact details (name, email and telephone) of someone who will be available to respond to questions about the program.

Email your completed submission to ABSTUDY@dss.gov.au or post to:
Branch Manager
Carer, Disability and Student Payments Branch
Department of Social Services
GPO Box 9820
Canberra  ACT  2601

Last updated: