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Is this the budget Victoria needed?

A VCOSS guide to the 2021 Victorian budget.

On Thursday 20 May, Treasurer Tim Pallas unveiled the second Victorian Budget in just six months. It tallied some of the expenses incurred keeping the community safe from COVID over the past year, but also revealed the Government’s approach to our post-COVID recovery.

It was also the first budget since the completion of the Mental Health Royal Commission. The Government has previously committed to accepting and fully funding all of the Commission’s recommendations.

VCOSS policy analysts are assessing the budget papers and sharing initial discoveries and insights on this page, with further and more detailed updates over the coming days.

A wellbeing state

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • Mental Health and Wellbeing
    $3.8 billion to begin implementation of the Mental Health Royal Commission recommendations. The package is vast, and includes: 

    • $144.4m in 2021-22 ($954m/4 yrs) to establish 22 adult and older person’s areas mental health services, with greater capacity to treat, care and support adults, and 24/7 operating model.  
    • $5.9m in 2021-22 ($264m/4 yrs) to establish the first 20 (of 50–60) local mental health and wellbeing services, where people can access community-based mental health treatment, care and wellbeing supports delivered by a multidisciplinary team. 
    • $173m for suicide prevention and response, including continuation of funding for 13 Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal Engagement sites 
    • $22.9m in 2021-22 ($116m/4 yrs) to support the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Victorians, including funding for ACCOs.  
    • $22.5m in 2021-22 ($196m/4 yrs) for a new infant and children’s mental health and wellbeing system, and $266m/4 yrs for young people’s mental health.

    The package also includes funding for a new mental health emergency response, expansion of forensic services, integrated care for people living with mental illness and drug and alcohol addictions, and to create a pipeline of workers into the mental health sector. The package will be funded by a new payroll tax levy on businesses with payroll of more than $10m.  

  • Community health services
    $76.1m in 2021-22 ($91m/4 yrs) to address demand for community-based health services. The package includes public dental services, cancer services, maternal child health. It will also include three new residential AOD treatment facilities, additional community-based counselling and expanded forensic services. In addition, funding will be provided to women’s health services for gender responsive healthcare, family violence prevention services, women’s mental health and sexual and reproductive health services.  
  • Support for asylum seekers
    $3.9m in 2021-22 to continue existing mental health supports to people seeking asylum who are ineligible for Medicare and income support. Also includes nurse and GP care, homelessness assistance, case coordination and emergency relief like food, medication and utilities.     
  • Decriminalising public drunkenness
    $9.5m in 2021-22 to establish the health-based response to public drunkenness, including funding for trial sites, health outreach teams, transport and sobering up shelters.  

The State Budget matches the promise of the final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System with significant funding. Funding has been provided to improve people’s access to community-based treatment and support, and deliver services for the vast missing middle; those people who were missing out. 

The focus on children and young people’s mental health, and the investment in mental health in schools, will help Victoria’s children and young people recover from the impacts of the pandemic and provide early intervention if they develop mental ill-health.  

The focus on mental health and wellbeing in this budget is warmly welcomed and well overdue. VCOSS has long argued for Victoria to become a wellbeing economy, and adopt a wellbeing budgeting approach. We see positive signs in this budget that this formal shift might occur soon. 

While the significant investment in community health and women’s health services are very welcome, the bulk of the funding is for only one year. With demand on these services increasing, sustained investment is needed beyond 2021-22.  

A safe place to call home

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • Critical additional responses for people experiencing homelessness placed in hotels during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
    $11.5m in 2021-22 ($25.6m/3 yrs) for people who were placed in emergency hotel accommodation to remain there, with support to transition into longer-term housing arrangements. Funding is also provided for additional security at hotels. 

  • Homelessness services
    $46.7m in 2021-22 ($193.7m/4 yrs) to continue a range of programs supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness including the Private Rental Access Program, with additional outreach and expansion of the Aboriginal Private Rental Access Program, on-site delivery of health and addiction services at three congregate crisis accommodation facilities, and support for people exiting prison and young people leaving care.

  • Tackling rough sleeping
    $5.9m in 2021-22 ($26.2m/4 yrs), including funding to continue the Journey to Social Inclusion program, delivered by Sacred Heart Mission, and to establish a linked dataset to integrate data from departmental and agency systems to build a microsimulation model to plan service delivery for people sleeping rough.

    $47m is also provided to continue the assertive outreach and supportive housing teams established under the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Plan (in the Homelessness Services package).  

  • Aboriginal family violence refuge for Wimmera South West area 
    $3.2m in 2021-22 ($4.8m/2 yrs) to construct and operate a new refuge in Horsham, with six independent residential units in a secure setting for Aboriginal victim survivors of family violence, building on the existing statewide family violence refuge redevelopment program.  

  • Following the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build package in the 2020-21 Budget, which will deliver 9,000 new social housing homes, this Budget commits funding to maintain a range of supports that are proven to be effective in helping people hang onto their housing and prevent homelessness. This includes maintaining funding to support people currently housed in emergency hotel accommodation (pending their transition to longer-term housing) and for the assertive outreach and supportive housing teams. These initiatives are effective examples of ‘Housing First’, a best practice model for people who have experienced chronic or recurring homelessness or who have complex needs.

  • We welcome the investment to expand support to people leaving prison and young people leaving care, both important steps towards ensuring no exits into homelessness from state institutions.

  • A new Aboriginal family violence refuge and an expansion of the Aboriginal Private Rental Access programs are welcome investments to ensure cultural safety in the homelessness and family violence service systems.

  • Given than many Victorians are still struggling with unemployment and reduced hours, funding to continue the Private Rental Access Program, with outreach, is a critical initiative to support renters and prevent evictions. Additional funding for community legal centres and for the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal are welcome measures to make sure that renting issues can be addressed early and resolved quickly.

The Big Housing Build package was a historic investment into new social housing. It will be life-changing for those Victorians who get access to the 9,000 new social housing homes.  

However, with 100,000 people currently waiting for housing on the Victorian Housing Register, we eagerly await the Government’s Ten Year Strategy for Social and Affordable Housing later this year.   

VCOSS will be looking to this Strategy, and future budgets, to build on the four-year Big Housing Build, and establish and sustain a steady long-term pipeline of new public and community housing stock. This should be coupled with investment in best practice supports across prevention, early intervention and ongoing flexible support models.  

Affording the basics

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • Maintaining essential energy functions
    $16.9m in 2021-22 ($62.9m/4 yrs) to continue funding for a range of programs to maintain a safe, secure and reliable energy system and continue protections for consumers, including the Energy Fairness Plan. 

  • Good Money 
    $3.8m in 2021-22 ($14.6/4 yrs) to expand financial services through four shop fronts in Collingwood, Geelong, Dandenong and Morwell. Good Money delivers no interest and low interest loans, low-cost insurance and financial advice to individuals and households facing financial stress. The funding will also enable the development of telephone and digital services and a continuation of financial wellbeing services in bushfire affected communities.

  • Rural Financial Counselling Service
    $1.9m in 2021-22 ($5.8m/3 yrs) for the State’s contribution to the Rural Financial Counselling Service so it can continue to offer free and impartial advice to farming and related small businesses suffering financial hardship.

  • Tackling the digital skills divide to get Victorians into jobs 
    $3.1m in 2021-22 ($6.2m/2 yrs) to increase places in pre-accredited digital literacy and employability skills training courses delivered by Learn Local providers to enhance the employment prospects of educationally disadvantaged Victorians. 

  • Low-income households entered the pandemic with wafer-thin financial buffers. The COVID-19 pandemic, and its economic fallout, have stretched household budgets to breaking pointContinued funding for the Energy Fairness Plan will help make sure people can pay their bills, are protected from dodgy retail practices, and get support if they are experiencing bill stress or financial hardship. 

  • The financial impacts of the pandemic continue to hit low income Victorians. Energy concessions help households make ends meet and utility relief grants can be vital in starting the recovery process from a debt spiral. But there are significant gaps in the concessions system. The case is building for a systemic review of the adequacy and effectiveness of the State’s concessions system, to close gaps and make sure no one is missing out.
  • As people continue to struggle to afford the basics, demand for emergency relief, food relief and financial counselling remains high. The Budget contains little new funding to reduce pressure on services. Further investment is also required in planning and coordination for the emergency relief sector.

  • Access to the internet is an essential service. The funding to build people’s digital literacy through Learn Local providers is welcome. But it won’t resolve the bigger issues of affordability and access to devices and data, or extend hardship protections to telecommunications consumers.

Inclusive communities

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • Support for Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ community 
    $45.4m in 2021-22 to celebrate and support the LGBTIQ+ community, including $21.3m for mental health and wellbeing services for trans and gender diverse young people, $2.4m for Victoria’s Healthy Equal Youth project, $8.8m for wellbeing services and $9m to support community organisations and peak bodies to help LGBTIQ+ Victorians navigate vital services. 

  • Increased funding for disability advocacy support 
    Funding for the Office for Disability has been increased by 16.7% to $15.6m for 2021-22, which will support the development of the State Disability Plan and deliver a $1.7m boost to disability advocacy services. 

  • Support to build inclusive and safe communities for Victorians with disability 
    As part of a $9.2m package over 4 years, funding is provided for communications, preparedness and response to emergencies and disasters and Disability Liaison Officers in health services. $9.1m in 2021-22 ($29.3m/4 yrs) is also provided to support Working with Children Check and National Disability Insurance Scheme worker screening. 

  • Building better connected communities 
    $1.8m in 2021-22 ($3m/4 yrs) funding is provided to continue the Australian Red Cross hotline to support people feeling disconnected or lonely to engage with their local communities, to deliver a reimagined Seniors Festival, and to continue the Justice Connect not-for-profit law program. 

  • Public transport infrastructure, accessibility and amenity upgrades 
    In addition to an investment of $986m in 2021-22 to build a fleet of 25 more accessible, reliable and energy efficient trains and related infrastructure, and $368m in 2021-22 to deliver enabling infrastructure for Next Generation Trams, the Budget commits $7.3m in 2021-22 ($9.9m/2 yrs) to improve public transport accessibility through a new strategy and a range of design and access improvements, including level-access upgrades to seven tram stop pairs aligned to the Metro Tunnel network. 

  • Bicultural workers 
    $4.4m in 2021-22 ($4.5m/2 yrs) to support the development of a bicultural worker strategy and to build, upgrade and renovate community facilities 

  • Multicultural communities were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated economic downturn. We welcome the continued and new funding to support multicultural Victorians. The Budget includes a focus on newly-arrived people with funding to improve settlement outcomes for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and continuation of mental health support for asylum seekers not eligible for income support. There is also funding to address racism, vilification and hate and to support community engagement with CALD Victorians, including residents of the North Melbourne and Flemington public housing towers. 

  • The Budget makes commitments to improve the quality of life, safety and wellbeing of older Victorians and address the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care through an additional $28.8m in 2021-22 funding to meet nurse-to-patient ratios in public sector residential aged care, and a further $1m in 2021-22 to continue the work of Elder Abuse Prevention Networks and strengthen elder abuse identification and response in public health services. 

  • Investments in making public and community spaces accessible and inclusive for people with disability, older people and people with mobility or health conditions. Infrastructure Victoria’s Draft 30-year Strategy recommended the immediate establishment of an accessibility upgrade fund for priority public building upgrades. Investing in accessibility upgrades for public places would be a win-win for Victorians, businesses and the building sector alike. 

  • More resources for aids and equipment programs that support the independence and mobility of older people and people with disability who are ineligible for the NDIS. 

An equitable response to climate change

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • Reducing bushfire risk in a rapidly changing climate
    $78.6m in 2021-22 ($384.2m/4 yrs) to reduce the impact of bushfires on Victorian communities.

  • Initiatives to fast-track Victoria’s recovery from the 2019-20 Victorian bushfires
    $60.5m in 2021-22 ($104.4m/4 yrs) to assist communities affected by the Black Summer bushfires. This includes mental health support, legal aid, and financial counselling.

  • Zero and low emission vehicles: accelerating adoption
    $11.0m in 2021-22 ($46.1m/3 yrs) to introduce a $3,000 subsidy for zero emission vehicles for households and businesses. 
  • More trees for a cooler, greener west
    $5.0m in 2021-22 to plant new trees in western Melbourne. 

  • Communities affected by the Black Summer bushfires are still struggling to recover and rebuild. Investment in mental health, legal assistance and financial counselling will assist communities in their recovery journey. 

  • Half a million trees in western Melbourne will help address the impact of urban heat and air pollution in these communities. 

  • Implementation of the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy to incorporate the expertise of Aboriginal cultural burning in bushfire preparedness. 

  • Installing rooftop solar panels on public housing properties would help residents afford their energy bills and contribute to Victoria’s path to net zero emissions by 2050.

  • Funding for community service organisations to build their resilience and prepare staff members for natural disasters.

  • A network of climate-resilient refuges for people to shelter from extreme heat and bushfire smoke. 

Women living safe and respected

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • Responding to community-based healthcare demand
    $78.3m in 2021-22 ($96.5m/4 yrs)
    Funding is provided to 12 women’s health services to meet growing demand for gender responsive healthcare, including prevention of family violence support services, women’s mental health and sexual and reproductive health services.

    Three new women’s sexual and reproductive health hubs will be established and the operating hours and scope of services at the eight existing hubs will be expanded. This initiative also supports community-based health care including catch-up care for dental services, cancer services, and maternal child health services to ensure clients who were unable to engage over the past 12 months receive the care they need.

    Increase in demand for alcohol and other drugs programs will be met by three new residential AOD treatment facilities, additional community-based counselling services and expanded forensic services.

  • Support for victim survivors of family violence and sexual assault
    $14.1m in 2021-22 ($41.8m/4 yrs)
    Funding is provided to continue case management responses for victim survivors of family violence in emergency accommodation and for victim survivors of sexual assault, to extend family violence supports and services including sexual assault services, for state-wide 24/7 crisis services, flexible support packages, culturally safe responses for Aboriginal survivors, and case management and brokerage for women on temporary visas.
  • Improving outcomes for women in Victoria: strengthening Victoria’s economic recovery through women’s participation
    $2.1m in 2021-22 ($4.2m/2 yrs)
    Funding is provided to establish a Gender Responsive Budgeting Unit within the Department of Treasury and Finance, working closely with the Office for Women to ensure outcomes for women are measured and considered as part of budget decision-making processes. This will embed gender impact analysis and understanding in the allocation of resources. The initiative will also deliver targeted economic security programs to support migrant and refugee women into employment.
  • Specialist family violence integrated court response
    $10.1m in 2021-22 ($42.6m/4 yrs)
    Funding is provided to establish specialist family violence courts at the remaining Magistrates’ Courts, further acquitting the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

The 2021-22 Budget invests $354 million to support victim survivors and address family violence. Funding will continue support for the operation of the Central Information Point, and support Phase 2 organisations to meet their obligations under the MARAM framework and Child and Family Violence Information Sharing Schemes. Funding has also been allocated to enable family violence specialists to deliver perpetrator interventions and Men’s Behaviour Change programs, which will contribute to an increasing evidence base about what works to change behaviour and prevent violence.

VCOSS is particularly pleased to see the establishment of a Gender Responsive Budgeting Unit within the Department of Treasury and Finance. This unit will help overcome the inequalities experienced by women by further embracing gender impact assessments, gender budgeting and gender auditing. 

VCOSS welcomes the commitment to build three additional sexual and reproductive health hubs and the commitment to provide additional support for Victoria’s 12 women’s health services. We know that COVID had a disproportionate impact on women’s mental and physical health, as well as sexual and reproductive health, and these commitments will help ensure more women can access the tailored, gendered health information they need to effectively navigate Victoria’s health system. 

While this Budget does provide some investment in prevention of family violence – including $44 million to develop tools and resources to address the drivers of sexual violence in young people, and the delivery of youth-focused programs that promote healthy relationships and community understanding of family violence – we know that more funding is needed if we are to stop violence before it starts. 

Respect Victoria has identified that currently only 3% of the family violence budget is spent on primary prevention. Victoria must commit to boost overall spending on family violence prevention to at least 10% to help change behaviour within families and the community, so that we can all live free from violence. 

Thriving children and families

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • A focus on early intervention programs
    $15.6m in 2021-22 ($70.3m/4 yrs) is provided for early intervention programs to divert more families from involvement in the children and families system and statutory interventions. The package includes a trial to embed family services in universal settings such as schools, early years services and community health hubs, continued funding to support 400 Aboriginal families each year to access Koorie Supported Playgroups, and In-Home Parent Coaching to support the home learning environments of young Aboriginal children.
  • Trials of a new whole-of-family support model
    $5.3m in 2021-22 ($17.8m/3 yrs) is provided to trial the Putting Families First model in Brimbank-Melton and Goulburn. Putting Families First is a new, whole-of-family support model where interdisciplinary teams led by a family practitioner work with vulnerable families with multiple and complex needs to provide practical, personalised and targeted support.
  • Child and family services
    $265.4m in 2021-22 ($1bn/4 yrs) to maintain the foundations of the children and families system. This funding will continue the expansion of the child protection workforce, increase out-of-home care placements for children who are unable to live safely with their families and support a range of initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for vulnerable families and enhancing the quality and safety of the support system.
  • Reforming care services
    $53.4m in 2021-22 ($101.7m/4 yrs) to increase and strengthen support for valued kinship, foster and permanent carers through the Reforming Care Services package. The package includes expansions of respite placements for kinship carers, of the Carer KaFE training and support program, and of the Better Futures and HomeStretch programs. 
  • A thriving Central Goldfields Shire
    $1.0m in 2021-22 to renew the Go Goldfields Every Child, Every Chance initiative. The program brings together community, business, government and not-for-profit partners to ensure every child in Central Goldfields Shire has the opportunity to grow up healthy, safe and confident. 

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Stronger early childhood education and schools

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • Ready for school: Kinder for every three-year-old 
    $21.3m in 2021-22 ($167.2/4 yrs) will provide additional funding to continue the Australia-leading initiative of universal access to three-year-old kindergarten. Funding will also expand workforce attraction and retention activities and will support the continued expansion of kindergarten infrastructure. This investment builds on the $346.4 million over four years allocated in the 2020-21 Victorian Budget. 

  • Mental health reform in education: setting up children and young people to thrive 
    $9.5m in 2021/22 ($217.8m/4 yrs). Funding is provided to establish a School Mental Health Fund, enabling schools to select and implement mental health and wellbeing initiatives that best suit their students’ needs from an evidence-based menu. The initiative will be rolled out to regional and rural government schools from Term 3 2022, before roll-out to all government schools by 2024.  

    This initiative also includes the expansion of the Mental Health in Primary Schools pilot to include 90 government schools and 10 non-government schools in 2022, up from 26 schools. 

  • Doctors in Secondary Schools 
    $5.9m in 2021-22 ($43.4m/4 yrs) for students in participating secondary schools to have access to primary health care in schools through the continuation of funding for the Doctors in Secondary Schools program. This doesn’t look to be an expansion of the program to enable more secondary school students to access doctors in school. 

  • Supporting students with disabilities 
    Initiatives include: 
    • $4.8m in 2021-22 ($19.6m/3 yrs) to support students with disabilities and additional needs through continued funding for a pilot in outside-school-hours care and school holiday programs across six government school sites. 
    • $10m in 2021-22 ($15m/2 yrs) for the Accessible Building Program.
    • $1m in 2021-22 ($10m/2 yrs) to deliver Round Six of the Inclusive Schools Fund. 

  • Additional support for early years management 
    $7m in 2021-22 ($31.2m/4 yrs) to increase support for early years management services. Community-based kindergartens are a vital part of the early learning eco-system. Additional funding will support management of community-based kindergartens, improve service viability, access and quality, and meet projected demand for kindergarten services to access these arrangements. 

  • VCOSS welcomes the investment to establish a School Mental Health Fund to address a recommendation from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System report. It takes time to develop a suite of evidence-based initiatives, which is why the funds won’t start hitting schools until July 2022. Government could quicken the roll-out to ensure all government schools have access to improved mental health support sooner than 2024.

    Additional investment in the Mental Health in Primary Schools pilot is also welcome and a good first step in what we hope is an expansion of this program, making a difference for all government primary school students in the future. 
  • Other positive initiatives include additional funding to increase participation of vulnerable and disadvantaged children in early childhood education and care, and funding to improve outcomes for disadvantaged learners through the student health and wellbeing initiative that supports the implementation of the school-wide positive behaviour support framework.  

  • Schools and families need additional support to cover the full costs of education. The ‘addressing the cost of delivering education’ initiative will help address school cost concerns, but does not go far enough. If Victoria is to meet its goal of being the Education State we should fully fund public schools to cover the costs of delivering the standard curriculum, including through closing the digital divide and ensuring all students have access to the internet and a device. Government could also help children get to school by providing free public transport to those who need it.

  • In addition to the welcome investment in mental health programs in schools, government can provide additional support to students after the difficulties of COVID-19 through investing in school lawyer programs, youth workers and mental health peer support training.

  • The 2020-21 Victorian Budget’s Disability Inclusion Package provided almost $1.6 billion to improve outcomes for students with disability by implementing a new funding model and strengths-based functional needs assessment model. The catch is that it will take five years to fully roll out. Government should speed up the roll-out so no student with disability misses out on the support they need to get a high quality education.

Victorians in work

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • A new Victoria Skills Authority
    $17.7m in 2021-22 ($85.9m/5 yrs)
    Bringing together industry, providers and other stakeholders, the new Victoria Skills Authority will produce insights on priority training areas and inform an annual Victorian Skills Plan to better guide training delivery where it’s needed most.
  • Getting Victorians back to work: our plan to minimise the risk and costs of greater inequality
    $7.6m in 2021-22 ($21.7m/4 yrs)
    Funding is provided to support community revitalisation and microenterprise development programs, support Victoria’s social enterprise sector and ongoing resourcing to monitor the Social Procurement Framework. This initiative also supports employment pathways for people with an intellectual disability through Impact 21 and establishing the Local Transition Response Service to support workers facing retrenchment.
  • Tackling the digital skills divide to get Victorians into jobs
    $3.1m in 2021-22 ($6.2m/2 yrs)
    Funding is provided to increase places in pre-accredited digital literacy and employability skills training courses delivered by Learn Local providers to enhance the employment prospects of educationally disadvantaged Victorians.
  • Recovery together: jobs and stimulus initiatives for Victoria’s multicultural communities
    $4.4m in 2021-22 ($4.5m/2 yrs)
    Funding is provided to develop a cross-government bicultural worker strategy aimed at recruiting and supporting bicultural workers to assist CALD communities to navigate government services.
  • More training places for the TAFE and training system
    $84.5m in 2021-22 ($88.8m/4 yrs)
    Funding is provided to continue support for eligible students to enhance their skills and employment opportunities by providing subsidised vocational education and training.

Since the pandemic, employment in Victoria has rebounded with more than 200,000 jobs being created. Many of these jobs have been taken up by women and young people – two groups of workers who were among the hardest hit by job losses last year, during the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Even so, some jobseekers will require targeted support to participate in the State’s economic recovery. VCOSS welcomes funding in this Budget for community organisations to deliver economic security programs to support migrant and refugee women into employment, and investment in community-led initiatives that will provide increased education and employment opportunities for young people from African and Pasifika backgrounds.   

Key investments in mental health, early childhood and teaching will support thousands of new jobs across the community services sector.   

VCOSS welcomes the trial of Frontline Victoria, which will create a fast-tracked path for degree-qualified people to change careers and move into a role within child and family services.   

We know that a sustained focus on building the community services workforce will be needed over the next decade to deliver on the Government’s significant investment across the sector. 

VCOSS has long advocated for place-based responses to job creation. We’re pleased to see the Government making investments that will help bring to life initiatives such as the Portland Economic Diversification Plan and the Hilldene Employment Precinct in Seymour, and activate the Food Manufacturing Precinct in Morwell as part of the Latrobe Valley’s transition and transformation. 

While the employment of young people has improved, we know that youth unemployment remains stubbornly high in Victoria. The state desperately needs a youth employment strategy that helps support young people into secure work. Designed in partnership with young people, this strategy should focus on increasing participation in education, training and employment, with a view to keeping young people in good jobs. 

Even with access to Free TAFE, the cost of vocational education and training can still be prohibitive for many students. We need to better support vulnerable learners at TAFE through providing bursaries and scholarships and ensuring that TAFEs can deliver more mentoring, pathways, literacy and numeracy support, assessment adjustments, counselling and employer partnership development to facilitate workplace training. 

Valuing the community sector

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Summary table:

❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • A new Victorian Skills Authority
    $17.7m in 2021-22 ($85.9m/5 yrs)
    The Victorian Government has identified the care economy as a priority industry for job creation. A strong partnership between the new Authority and our industry will help ensure that our sector can depend on the post-secondary education and training system to deliver the skills we need. 
  • Enabling the mental health and wellbeing workforce to deliver a reformed system
    $55.1m in 2021-22 ($206.3m/4 yrs) to commence building the pipeline of workers required to deliver the mental health reforms. The package includes expansion of the mental health nursing workforce, new allied health graduate positions, and initiatives to support and increase the lived experience workforce.  
  • Recovery together: jobs for Victoria’s multicultural communities 
    $4.4m in 2021-22 ($4.5m/2 yrs)
    The package includes funding to develop a cross-government bicultural worker strategy aimed at recruiting and supporting bicultural workers to assist CALD communities to navigate government services. 
  • Embedding early intervention in government service delivery 
    $4.1 million in 2021-22 ($15.5m/4 yrs)
    Funding is provided to lead and implement an early intervention framework across government to support reforms that invest early for better and fairer outcomes.  
  • Partnerships Addressing Disadvantage 
    $6.3m in 2021-22 ($25.7m/4 yrs)
    Funding is provided to expand the Partnerships Addressing Disadvantage initiative to a fifth program that will be focused on solutions to address homelessness.  
  • Frontline Victoria
    Funding is provided to pilot a new employment program, Frontline Victoria, which will fast-track degree qualified career changers into a career in the children and families sector. This program will provide participants with financial support to complete graduate-level qualifications and paid placements with child and family services providers to develop their practical skills. 
  • Building better connected communities
    $1.8m in 2021-22 ($3m/4 yrs)
    The package includes funding for Justice Connect Not-for-profit Law to continue providing free and low-cost legal advice and support for community service organisations to understand the law and achieve good governance. 
  • Family Violence Graduate Program 
    $0.5 million in 2021-22 ($1.2m/2 yrs)
    Funding is provided to support up to 80 new graduates to receive training and other development support while working to become specialists in a range of family violence services. 

Over the next five years, the social assistance sector is predicted to be one of the fastest growing industries in Australia. Major investments, including in early learning and in reforming the mental health system, will supercharge the demand for skilled and qualified workers.  

Several budget initiatives show the Victorian Government is thinking about the future workforce needs of the community services industry. The mental health package places workforce development at the centre of reform planning. Frontline Victoria and the family violence graduate program will also support a pipeline of workers into the industry.   

VCOSS also welcomes the commitment to early intervention that has been demonstrated across this budget, including through the development of an early intervention framework.  

The community sector, like many other industries, is facing new challenges and disruptions because of COVID-19. Demand is growing at the same time as organisations have lost fundraising income and volunteer capacity.  

Low indexation rates in recent years, short-term funding extensions and a significant widening of the scope of the portable long service leave scheme have left organisations struggling to make ends meet. In the next budget, the Government can help make sure community need is met by providing community organisations with a fair indexation formula incorporating wage rises, the superannuation guarantee and portable long service leave, and dedicated funding to meet growth in demand. 

With demand for social assistance high, the workforce needs of the sector are growing. Student placements are part of the solution. They provide students with practical on-the-job training and create a pipeline of new workers for employers. Many community organisations want to take on students but can’t because they don’t have the resources for placement administration, student supervision or training. Additional support is needed to build the capability of community service organisations to provide supported student placements.  

Aboriginal Treaty and self-determination

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❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • $18.6m in 2021-22 ($58m/3 yrs) to establish the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission and First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.

  • $8m in 2021-22 ($17m/2 yrs) to continue to advance Treaty and self-determination

  • $6.4m in 2021-22 ($20.9m/4 yrs) to build on whole-of-government self-determination reform and Closing the Gap.

  • $10.9m in 2021-22 ($31.2m/4 yrs) to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the Victorian justice system and to prevent Aboriginal deaths in custody.

  • $22.9m in 2021-22 ($116.2m/4 yrs) to support the mental health of Aboriginal Victorians including ACCOs. 

VCOSS welcomes the commitment to the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission. Aboriginal Victorians have been calling for a truth-telling process for generations. Truth-telling will be an important part of Treaty-making.  

The Budget also provides significant funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations across a range of areas including health and mental health, legal assistance, child and family services. 

The funding dedicated to addressing Aboriginal over-representation in the justice system and to preventing Aboriginal deaths in custody will not be enough. Demand for legal assistance is high, and Aboriginal legal services are unable to meet demand. Additional funding is needed in future budgets to fund place-based delivery of Aboriginal legal services, and to address the harms arising from over-incarceration of Aboriginal people.  

We also urge the Victorian Government to follow the lead of the ACT and raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years.  

Fair and equal justice

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❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • Implementing the Legislated Spent Convictions Scheme
    $1.2m in 2020-21 ($5.3m/4 yrs) funding is provided to establish the Spent Convictions Scheme, which will be administered by Victoria Police and provide a framework for controlled disclosure of certain criminal records after periods without serious reoffending.

  • Legal assistance and critical early intervention support services
    $10.1m in 2020-21 ($31.1m/4 yrs) to maintain critical and specialist legal services, including grant payments to community legal centres, additional Victoria Legal Aid lawyers and support services, continuing the Mabels family violence service and the WEstjustice Mortgage Stress Service, and specialist legal services for the LGBTIQ+ community.

  • Preventing Aboriginal deaths in custody 
    $10.9m in 2021-22 ($31.2/4 yrs) to reduce over-representation of Aboriginal people in the justice system and prevent Aboriginal deaths in custody, including after-hours family violence support, regional legal assistance, family violence and specialist family services, women’s and men’s diversion programs, and health, art and healing programs in prison.

  • Specialist family violence integrated court response
    $10.1m in 2021-22 ($42.6m/4 yrs) to establish specialist family violence courts at remaining Magistrates Court headquarters, including improvements to ensure user safety and accessibility, continuing the remote hearing service and expanding the Court Mandated Counselling Order Program.

  • Online Magistrates Court and digital upgrades to VCAT 
    $7.8m in 2021-22 ($30.7m/4 yrs) to expand Online Magistrates Court program to hear more matters remotely, and $10.5m in 2021-22 ($27.8m/4 yrs) to upgrade digital services infrastructure, such as case management and process automation, in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.  

  • We welcome funding for community legal centres to ensure that Victorians can access affordable and timely legal assistance. Demand for legal help with tenancy, employment, family violence, consumer, fines and financial issues has significantly increased since the pandemic.

  • The Magistrates Court and VCAT continue to face backlogs, with court users experiencing delays in having their matters heard. System improvements will ensure more timely access to justice. The Government should monitor the impact of the system changes – such as digital service delivery – on different users to ensure that low-income and vulnerable Victorians are benefiting from improved access.

  • Providing legal services in the Orange Door network, continuing funding for Mabels and establishing new Specialist Family Violence Courts are smart investments to support victim survivors of family violence with integrated legal and specialist family violence responses.

  • Funding has been provided for community-based diversionary services for young people. VCOSS looks forward to working with the Government to ensure this initiative keeps kids safely away from the youth justice system and contributes to ongoing reform under the Youth Justice Strategic Plan.

  • VCOSS has long advocated to establish a Spent Convictions Scheme, and we welcome the funding committed in this Budget to make this Scheme a reality.  

  • While we welcome the range of interventions funded under the ‘Preventing Aboriginal deaths in custody’ package, this investment will not be enough to address Aboriginal over-representation in the justice system. In particular, Aboriginal community controlled legal assistance is critical to preventing Aboriginal people from becoming involved in the justice system, but funding in this budget is not enough to meet demand.

  • The housing assistance package includes additional support for people leaving prison, but we hope to see more holistic investment in wraparound supports to both ensure no exits into homelessness and prevent further criminalisation and recidivism.

  • Future budgets should also include initiatives that actively prevent people from becoming criminalised in the first place, including more place-based initiatives to tackle disadvantage and therapeutic and restorative approaches to respond to people at risk of justice involvement.  

A fair and sustainable revenue base

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❱ Significant initiatives❱ What's good❱ What's missing

  • Mental Health and Wellbeing Levy 
    $2.9b/4 years revenue from the Mental Health and Wellbeing Levy. Beginning in July 2022, there will be a payroll tax surcharge of 0.5% for businesses with payroll over $10 million and 1% for businesses with payroll over $100 million. 

  • Increased land tax and stamp duty on high-value properties 
    The Budget increases the land tax rate by 0.25% on eligible properties valued at over $1.8m and 0.3% on properties valued at over $3m. It also introduces a new premium stamp duty rate for high-value properties above $2m.  
  • 50% increase in revenue from gambling compared to 2020-21 

The Government needs additional revenue to fund services properly. The Mental Health and Wellbeing Levy, if designed properly and applied fairly, will raise the money required to fix our broken mental health system. 

The increased land tax and stamp duty on high-value properties will generate additional income, while making the taxation system more progressive.  

Other states, including the ACT and NSW, are considering replacing stamp duty with a broad-based, progressive land tax that would better protect state revenue from deep downturns in the residential property market. Although the Budget has made the taxation system more progressive, it could have gone further and considered even fairer options, like land tax.  

The Budget was also a lost opportunity to tackle problem gambling in Victoria. Gambling revenue decreased significantly in 2020-21 with gaming venues closed. There was a window of opportunity, as restrictions eased, to place additional restrictions on gaming venues to help people manage their gambling and limit losses. Instead, the revenue from gambling is forecast to bounce back 50% from 2020-21 levels, with most of this coming out of the pockets of problem gamblers. 

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