Analysis quick links:
💚 A wellbeing state
- Victoria’s Early Intervention Investment Framework
$504m in 2022-23 for 16 initiatives that aim to reduce usage of acute services.
- Whole of Government Data – meeting the demand for data and insights
$4.4m in 2022-23 to monitor public health trends and track the progress of key economic recovery initiatives.
This Budget invests $504m in 16 initiatives linked to the Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF) and builds on last year’s funding of $324m for 10 initiatives.
The EIIF focuses on participant outcomes and provides a pool of funding for programs that meet specific goals. These aspects of the EIIF are similar to elements of wellbeing approaches adopted around the world.
The EIIF includes extra investment in data collection. This means that government will be able to track how initiatives progress and can monitor their impact on people’s wellbeing, thus leading to further investment and taking successful programs to scale.
The EIIF is a solid start but the framework and priorities should be further developed through deep consultation with the community, in line with a wellbeing approach. This will lead to new and more innovative programs being identified and rolled out.
VCOSS is calling for the Victorian Government to commit to a wellbeing approach and provide funding for wellbeing initiatives that have been identified by communities as a priority for them.
A wellbeing approach would also include indicators and priorities that Victorians care about – such as loneliness, digital access, financial security, and housing.
🙂 A healthy Victoria
Investments in cohort-specific and place-based health interventions
- Improving health access and outcomes for refugees and asylum seekers
$5.7m in 2022-23 to continue and expand culturally-appropriate healthcare to newly- arrived and at-risk refugees.
- LGBTIQ+ Strategy implementation
This package spans several portfolios and contains $1.4m/2 yrs for two identified Department of Health initiatives: the Trans and Gender Diverse in Community Health Program and a trial of Safe Spaces for LGBTIQ+ youth in Western Victoria (which includes referral services and greater access to targeted medical and emotional supports).
- Investing in a thriving North Richmond
$4.2m in 2022-23 ($4.4m/3 yrs) to improve access to health and social support services, enhance public amenity and improve experiences and perceptions of safety and security in the North Richmond precinct.
- Public health and local place-based delivery
$72.3m in 2022-23 ($87m/4 yrs) for the continued operation of local public health units and additional public health capacity to support these services, including intelligence, community engagement, digital capability and the design and delivery of Aboriginal-specific initiatives.
- Maternal and Child Health and Early Parenting Centres
$3.9m in 2022-23 ($10.2m/4 yrs) is provided to:
* Continue support for maternal and child health services delivered by Aboriginal organisations, and the Aboriginal-led codesign of Aboriginal early years health services spanning antenatal, maternal and child health, and early parenting.
* Support four new Early Parenting Centres that will become operational in 2023.
- Major investment in infrastructure
The Budget commits to construction of a new Melton Hospital (total estimated investment of $0.9–$1.0bn) which will provide 24-hour emergency services, use new models of care (including increasing capacity for hospital in the home programs) and be designed as an all-electric hospital to remove the need for gas. Another highlight is the $300m investment in the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund.
- Better at Home
$172.6m ($698.1m/4 yrs) to continue to deliver healthcare in the home through home-based and virtual care models. Part of this package includes funding to expand a pilot model between health services providing transitional care in home-like settings while patients await NDIS packages.
- Supporting the community and health system through the COVID-19 pandemic
This multi-faceted package includes a $110m commitment to continue the COVID Positive Pathways program for patients in recovery from COVID-19. (Other substantial elements of this package include investments to secure a larger critical care and paramedic workforce, funding to grow Urgent Care Centres and General Practitioner Respiratory Clinics, and provision of PPE to health services.)
- Responding to community-based healthcare demand and delivering enhanced service responses
$6.5m in 2022-23 ($7.3m/2 yrs) to strengthen community-based healthcare, by increasing the delivery of services for people who have deferred care, and supporting the integration of general practitioners into 20 registered community health services. In addition, funding will support the design of a new community-based model of care for people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, providing early intervention and care via community health services.
- Future provision of public sector residential aged care
$29.9m in 2022-23 to public sector residential aged care services to continue to provide high-quality care to vulnerable aged persons, including those with mental health issues, and assist in meeting nurse to patient ratios in public sector residential aged care.
- The investment in public health and local place-based delivery includes $19.4m over two years for women’s health services, including new funding for Women with Disabilities Victoria (the first time WDV has been funded as part of this program). There is also $3.5m for the establishment of sexual and reproductive health services. These significant investments come off the back of strong, sustained advocacy by leaders in women’s health and gender equity. The investment in women’s health services, alone, represents a doubling of their previous budget.
- Continuing support for Aboriginal maternal and child health as well as the Early Parenting Centres will assist in the early resolution of parenting problems and help boost healthy child development, parental wellbeing and positive family functioning.
- The funding for North Richmond includes: maintaining a homeless outreach worker at the Richmond Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR) to assist clients in accessing housing; maintaining the operations of the Richmond Youth Hub; continuing the Supporting Tenancy at Yarra (STAY) program in partnership with St Vincent’s; supporting the operation of the Victoria Street Community space; upgrading entrances to the MSIR and North Richmond Community Health; improving the perception of safety around the North Richmond housing estate; and continuing to support community leadership and voice. Enhanced outreach in the Melbourne CBD will also be continued, to reduce drug-related harm in the area.
- The Victorian Government will continue to provide vital assistance to newly-arrived and at-risk refugees who are not adequately supported by the Commonwealth Government. Thanks to Victoria’s leadership, people seeking asylum will be able to access primary healthcare, mental health support, case coordination, and assistance for basic needs, homelessness and utilities.
- The COVID Positive Pathways program enables Victorians diagnosed with COVID-19 to receive clinical care and support at home. Community health services will continue to play an important role in delivering this program, which also connects people to other important services they may need while sick (for example, emergency accommodation, food relief and services such as alcohol and other drug support, mental health and family violence support).
- The Budget invests substantially in health workforce initiatives – some commentary around this is provided in the VCOSS analysis on ‘Valuing the community sector’.
VCOSS’ 2022 Victorian Budget submission called on the Government to strengthen the frontline of our health system: community health. Community health services are a pivotal part of Victoria’s health system; however, they are struggling with adequacy and security of funding, as well as ageing infrastructure. While this Budget includes some welcome extensions of funding that will assist community health services to meet local demand (including pent-up demand and new and emerging demand) and provide targeted support to vulnerable and at-risk cohorts and communities, there’s much more Government can do. VCOSS will continue to advocate for an increase in core funding to the community health sector for ‘business as usual’ activities, as well as longer-term funding contracts.
While the Budget includes some investment to increase the capacity of ‘Smile Squad’ (additional specialist dental treatment), it does not deliver on the more ambitious agenda set out in VCOSS’ budget submission. There is an urgent need for the Victorian Government to address major backlogs and gaps in the provision of public dental health.
The Budget papers do not specifically identify funding to extend the High-risk Accommodation Response (HRAR) program. We eagerly await confirmation of funding for this vital place-based public health initiative.
- Promoting good mental health and wellbeing in all communities
$10.5m in 2022-23 ($30.5m/4 yrs) to:
* Establish 10 new social inclusion action groups in local government areas, to foster connection and reduce social isolation in vulnerable groups.
* Deliver mental health training for Auslan and deaf interpreters to increase the availability of credentialed interpreters.
* Create targeted suicide prevention and response programs.
- Strengthening community-based services
$42.9m in 2022-23 ($115.6m/4 yrs) for a range of initiatives to deliver a mental health and wellbeing system that is reoriented towards community-based treatment, care and support.
- Develop and expand high-quality and therapeutic bed-based services
$29.3m in 2022-23 ($218.4m/4 yrs) to:
* Operationalise 82 new beds in Victoria’s mental health system to improve access to acute care for those experiencing mental illness.
* Increase bed-based support for people experiencing eating disorders.
* Support the operation of five emergency department mental health and alcohol and other drug hubs.
* Continue existing support for consultation and liaison services.
- The enhanced integrated specialist model for eating disorders will be established in four regional health services. This will support clinical mental health services to provide multidisciplinary support for the increased presentations of patients with eating disorders in regional Victoria. These new services will be established at Grampians Health, Barwon Health, Bendigo Health and Latrobe Regional Hospital.
- The initiative to promote good mental health and wellbeing in all communities includes: design of new LGBTIQ+ suicide aftercare services; culturally appropriate prevention and bereavement programs for Aboriginal Victorians; an 18-month pilot for a peer call-back service for families, carers and supporters caring for people experiencing suicidal behaviour; and the delivery of place-based mental health programs through mental health and wellbeing services Youth Live4Life (and Left and Right Counselling).
- The investment in strengthening community-based services includes:
* Funding to establish integrated treatment, care and support for people with a co-occurring mental illness and substance use or addiction in all Adult and Youth Area Mental Health and Wellbeing Services, as well as expansion of addiction services. Funding for this initiative forms part of the Early Intervention Investment Framework.
* Extension of the TelePROMPT program, connecting paramedics at the scene of a mental health crisis with a mental health clinician to provide care for people experiencing mental health emergencies.
* In-person group-based parenting sessions to be delivered in regional Infant, Child and Youth Area Mental Health and Wellbeing Services.
* The development of a new statewide eating disorder strategy. Eating Disorders Victoria and the Centre of Excellence in Eating Disorders will also be supported to provide a range of services for families, carers and patients and to provide workforce support for health services.
- The Budget invests substantially in mental health workforce initiatives – some commentary around this is provided in the VCOSS analysis on ‘Valuing the community sector’.
Alcohol and other drugs
- Mental health and alcohol and other drugs residential rehabilitation facility – Mildura
$10m in 2022-23 ($36m/3 yrs) is provided to construct a 30-bed alcohol and other drugs residential rehabilitation facility including a withdrawal unit in Mildura servicing the Loddon Mallee region.
- Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs Facilities Renewal Fund
An additional $10m is invested in the Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs Facilities Renewal Fund in 2022-23. The purpose of this Fund is to improve the quality and amenity of state-owned infrastructure that assists people with mental health, alcohol, and other drug issues. Works funded through the Facilities Renewal Fund will enable enhanced access and improved models of care through targeted improvements to ageing and poor-quality facilities.
- Mental health and alcohol and other drugs emergency department hubs in regional Victoria
$3.5m in 2022-23 to construct a new emergency department mental health and alcohol and other drug crisis hub at the Latrobe Regional Hospital. The hub will provide specialist care to people requiring urgent treatment for mental health, alcohol and drug issues. It will also relieve pressure on the emergency department to treat other patients. This measure also includes planning funding for future hubs in Ballarat, Bendigo and Shepparton.
While there are a number of positive initiatives (for example, those noted by VCOSS above), VCOSS member, the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA), has identified an overall cut of $39m in service funding to 2021-22 revised budget figures for alcohol and other drug treatment and prevention. The sector is concerned this will negatively impact treatment and prevention services which support people experiencing substance dependence.
Additionally, VCOSS notes that VACCHO has been calling for the establishment of Aboriginal community controlled residential AOD detox and rehabilitation facilities. This investment is needed, as an adjunct to the decriminalisation of public drunkenness.
👩🏾 Valuing the community sector
- Supporting community sector jobs
$26.7m in 2022-23 ($90.6m/4 yrs) to help community service organisations cover the impacts of minimum wage and consumer price index increases.
- Strengthening the community services workforce
$3.5m in 2022-23 ($7m/2 yrs) for a recruitment campaign that raises the profile of the community services workforce and for scholarships to promote pathways into the sector.
- Strengthening and supporting the mental health and wellbeing workforce
$65.3m in 2022-23 ($371.5m/4 yrs) to continue to build the pipeline of workers required to deliver Victoria’s mental health reform agenda.
- Establishing the Social Services Regulator
$0.3m to support the transition and implementation of the new Social Services Regulation Act.
VCOSS welcomes any ongoing investment in supporting community sector organisations to meet the rising cost of wages and inflation.
A recruitment campaign will help attract workers to the community sector and show that the workforce is skilled and makes a tangible impact on people’s lives.
The scholarships will also improve employment pathways for people with lived experience of using social services and will grow the pipeline of diverse graduates in the sector.
The record investment in the mental health workforce is welcome – supply and capability are fundamental to delivering the Royal Commission reform agenda. These jobs will span all parts of the mental health service system, including mental health and wellbeing services delivered by community sector organisations.
VCOSS notes that $90.6 million over the next four years is not sufficient to fully cover the increasing financial pressures facing the community sector. The Victorian Government must be fully transparent on the indexation formula to factor in the full costs of service delivery such as superannuation and portable long service leave. Indexation at 2.5% effectively means a cut for community service organisations leading to job losses and service reductions.
Volunteers are also fundamental to the operation of the community services sector and sustain a wide range of community and social service organisations. There is some welcome funding to support volunteers in emergency services including Life Saving Victoria and the SES but the budget does not adequately provide for this vital volunteer workforce.
COVID-19 has decimated Victoria’s volunteer workforce, directly impacting organisations’ ability to deliver services. Funding is urgently needed to reinvigorate volunteering, including to support place-based volunteering services, help Volunteering Victoria build the capacity and capability of volunteer organisations, and to deliver a communications campaign to boost the volunteering sector.
The local labour market has never been tighter. Finding a workforce to enable the mental health system’s expansion is going to be a significant challenge. There is a risk that the mental health system’s expansion may exacerbate workforce shortages in intersecting sectors, such as alcohol and other drugs, disability support, homelessness, family violence, child and family services, and aged care. An overarching strategy is needed to grow, sustain and skill all parts of the community services industry. This must include action to address the key structural barriers to workforce attraction and retention: insecure work and low and unequal pay.
The Budget makes a mammoth investment in health infrastructure, particularly hospitals. There is a need for equitable investment in community services infrastructure. Too many community services are operating out of ageing facilities that are no longer fit-for-purpose.
🌈 Inclusive communities
- LGBTIQ+ Strategy implementation
$4.3m in 2022-23 ($11.6m/4 yrs)
This funding supports the delivery of Victoria’s first whole-of government LGBTIQ+ Strategy. Initiatives include:
* Continuation of the LGBTIQ+ Grants Program
* The Pride Events and Festivals Fund
* Melbourne Pride
* Specialist LGBTIQ+ legal services at the Victorian Pride Centre
* The Trans and Gender Diverse in Community Health Program
* A trial of Safe Spaces for LGBTIQ+ youth in Western Victoria, including referral services and greater access to targeted medical and emotional supports.
- The commitment to establish specialist LGBTIQ+ legal services at the Victorian Pride Centre will help to improve the lives of LGBTIQ+ people in Victoria by providing safe and inclusive legal services. It will also make an important contribution to addressing systemic inequality. The importance of this investment cannot be over-stated: across almost every measure of health and wellbeing, LGBTIQ+ people fare significantly worse than non-LGBTIQ+ people. This is not because of their LGBTIQ+ status, but because of the stigma and discrimination they encounter. To deliver on the promise of this investment, it will be vital to ensure the service is governed and operated by and for LGBTIQ+ communities.
- The Trans and Gender Diverse in Community Health Program is an important measure to help ensure that trans and gender diverse people – and their families – have access to the appropriate healthcare and support they need, when they need it.
- The Victorian Government has been a strong champion for LGBTIQ+ equality. To take the next step, and further enhance LGBTIQ+ Victorians’ wellbeing, we are keen to see seed funding for an LGBTIQ+ community-controlled sector Social Delivery Fund. This Fund would provide organisations that are initiated, governed and operated by and for LGBTIQ+ communities with access to dedicated funding to deliver programs and services that address the evolving needs of their communities. This would complement funding for mainstream services and education providers to ensure robust, LGBTIQ+ inclusive practice.
Victorians with disabilities
- Strengthening Victoria’s interface with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
$16.5m in 2022-23 ($35.9/2 yrs) funding is provided to services and programs to support Victorians with disability who are not eligible for the NDIS, including non-permanent residents. It includes funding for a Home and Community Care Program for Younger People, youth justice specialist disability advisers, the Office of the Public Advocate’s guardianship, investigation and support services, and aids and equipment support.
- Supporting the Victorian State Disability Plan
$14.6m in 2022-23 ($15.1/2 yrs) will be invested to deliver several DFFH (Office for Disability) initiatives identified in the new plan.
- Better transitional care at home
$172.6m ($698.1m/4 yrs) to continue the Better at Home initiative, which delivers healthcare in the home through home-based and virtual care models. Part of this package includes funding to expand a pilot model between health services providing transitional care in home-like settings while patients await NDIS packages.
- Working with Children Check and National Disability Insurance Scheme worker screening
$3.8m in 2022-23 funding is provided to support Working with Children Check Victoria to deliver efficient, effective, and sustainable worker screening for child‐related work and the NDIS.
- In education and training, this budget provides:
* $4m in 2022-23 ($16.9m /4 yrs) to continue funding for Kindergarten Inclusion Support for children in three- and four-year-old kindergarten.
* $2.9m in 2022-23 ($11.9m/3 yrs) for grants to upgrade buildings and playgrounds and to purchase equipment to increase the accessibility of early learning facilities.
* $0.4m in 2022-23 ($0.8m/2 yrs) to conduct an audit on all TAFE campuses to identify areas across the TAFE network where access to training and skills for people with disability can be improved.
* $1m in 2022-23 ($4m/4 yrs) to add the Diploma of Auslan and Advanced Diploma of Interpreting (Auslan) to Free TAFE.
- Public transport accessibility
A train station accessibility and amenity package ($40.5m/3 yrs), Bus Plan ($79.5m/4 yrs) and Tram Plan ($7.2m/4 yrs) include a range of measures that will support the state to progressively meet requirements associated with the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport.
- VCOSS welcomes the additional resources to speed up worker screening checks. In our budget submission, VCOSS highlighted delays of up to three months to screen and approve prospective NDIS workers, leaving many Victorians without vital support despite having NDIS packages.
- VCOSS is pleased to see funding identified for specific DFFH initiatives featured in the new State Disability Plan:
* Further funding to build new fully-accessible public toilet facilities, as part of the Changing Places initiative which assists people to participate in social, recreational and cultural activities. (The exact number and location of sites is not identified in the Budget papers – VCOSS will update this information when it is available.)
* $1.8m for one year for the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program – this Budget line is an extension of past increases on existing base funding.
* Some continuation of funding for the Disability Liaison Officer (DLO) roles which were established as part of the COVID-19 emergency measures. The DLOs play a vital role in identifying and addressing barriers to health services for people with a disability. The quantum of funding has been reduced, providing 10 fewer positions. While we would prefer funding be maintained at the 2021/22 level, we acknowledge the program was stood up during the pandemic. It is positive that the Government has recognised the need to continue the program in some form in this Budget.
* A public education campaign to promote better attitudes and behaviours towards people with autism ($1m/2 yrs).
* Accessible infrastructure grants to improve access at community facilities (Universal Design Grants program).
- The State Disability Plan is a whole-of-government plan. While it is good to see identified DFFH commitments in this Budget, and measures from education and transport, it is not clear what resources other parts of government will direct to this important work. To ensure all commitments are met, and support visibility across the Plan, VCOSS continues to advocate for a rolling action plan with dedicated funding.
- While the Budget assures a 12-month continuation of existing funding for VDAP-funded disability advocacy organisations, the sector needs even greater funding to meet demand. Additionally, VCOSS is concerned that with no details of future funding over the outyears, VDAP organisations don’t have the certainty they need to retain and attract staff and plan for the future.
- Funding for accessibility upgrades to our transport network is welcome but more investment and resources are needed to meet the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport.
- Addressing family violence for older Victorians
$2.9m in 2022-23 to continue investment in the Elder Abuse Prevention Networks, which raise awareness of elder abuse and deliver primary prevention activities
- Ageing Well in Victoria
$3m in 2022-23 for a range of initiatives including a review into digital connectedness for senior Victorians and to continue the Career Pathways into Employment for Unpaid Carers program to deliver tailored employment support for carers and create pathways into employment within the disability, community services and aged care sectors.
- Future provision of public sector residential aged care
$29.9m in 2022-23 to continue to provide high-quality care to vulnerable aged persons, including those with mental health issues, and assist in meeting nurse to patient ratios in public sector residential aged care.
- Prisoner supervision and support for ageing people
$2.5m in 2022-23 funding is provided for services to support ageing people in the prison system, ensuring they receive necessary assistance, such as personal care and daily living needs, as well as specialist transition and reintegration assistance.
VCOSS understands the funding for public sector residential aged care supports upgrades to three facilities in regional Victoria – a positive investment that will ensure these premises are dementia-friendly and incorporate other contemporary design elements that support healthy ageing. Victoria’s public sector residential aged care services have been exemplary in maintaining the highest standards of care for residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Victorians
- More COVID-19 support and recovery for multicultural communities
$3.7m in 2022-23 to extend the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Communities Taskforce. This includes extending providing place-based support for COVID-19 preparedness and response, and social and economic recovery support for CALD communities.
- Multicultural community infrastructure
$6.4m in 2022-23 to build and upgrade community infrastructure to enhance community cohesion and cultural celebration as well as improve access to critical services and supports.
- Support for priority newly arrived migrant communities
$3.3m in 2022-23 ($6.7/2 yrs) to provide legal support, case management and information for migrant communities. Funding will also increase the capacity of Regional Community Hubs across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.
- Improving health access and outcomes for refugees and asylum seekers
$5.7m in 2022-23 to continue and expand health services to asylum seekers in Victoria, including primary health care, mental health support, case coordination, and assistance for basic needs, homelessness and utilities. Funding will also boost refugee nurse and bicultural health worker capacity.
- Victorian African Communities Action Plan
$4.4m in 2022-23 to support Homework Clubs and school community liaison officers to provide educational and social support to students and parents of African heritage, and an Employment Brokers program in community organisations to facilitate access to specialised training and pathways to employment.
The Government has continued its support of migrant and refugee communities, which shouldered a heavy burden through COVID. Importantly, the government has committed to extending the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Taskforce as well as a range of ongoing initiatives for COVID communication and support, and social and economic recovery, for multicultural communities.
An investment in community infrastructure will see better access to services for multicultural communities and provide places for cultural celebration and cohesion.
The Government has also provided additional support for newly arrived migrants with funding for a range of legal advice and case management. There is also strong investment in health, mental health, housing and other services for refugees and asylum seekers. Regional Community Hubs that support migrant and refugee communities have also seen a boost in funding.
The Government has also provided important education, social, training and employment pathway funding to support African Victorians.
The Government can continue to meet the needs of Victoria’s multicultural communities by ensuring they are a priority in all new mainstream Government assistance programs, particularly those relating to employment and mental health. It can also support multicultural communities right across Victoria by renewing funding for the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria’s (ECCV’s) eight regional councils to prioritise issues, coordinate resources and lead local initiatives.
The Government can also commit to a sustained strategy to end racism by funding the implementation of the soon-to-be-released statewide Anti-Racism Strategy.
ECCV’s response to the budget is here.
- The Budget includes $85.5m for more digital channels to Services Victoria and, as noted earlier, there is some funding for a review into digital connectedness for senior Victorians as part of the Ageing Well in Victoria budget measure.
While digital inclusion across all Victorian communities is a stated priority in the Government’s five year Digital Strategy for a future-ready Victoria, this Budget lacks major new initiatives to support digital inclusion. VCOSS’s budget submission called for the Government to install free NBN across all public housing; subsidise NBN services for low-income households; give dongles and devices to more students, particularly those in large families forced to share a device; and expand current ‘digital skills’ training programs to reach more Victorians, including seniors, culturally and linguistically diverse Victorians, young people and carers.
🔌 Affordable living
- $250 Power Saving Bonus
$250m in 2022-23 to provide one-off $250 payments to any Victorian household that uses the Victorian Energy Compare website to search for the cheapest electricity deal.
- Cheaper electricity for Victorians
$4.5m in 2022-24 ($9m/2 yrs) to maintain the Victorian Energy Compare website and fund the Energy Assistance Program to support energy customers experiencing vulnerability to navigate the energy market.
- Driving down gas bills for businesses and households
$1.2m in 2022-23 to support gas reliability and affordability while reducing carbon emissions through regulatory reform and the promotion of electrification and renewable gases.
- Emerging from COVID with stronger communities
$10.1m in 2022-23 ($16.3m/2 yrs) for a range of food relief initiatives.
- This additional round of the Power Saving Bonus provides welcome direct support to struggling household budgets. Additional details in the pre-budget announcement confirm that households who have received a payment in past will be eligible again in 2022-23.
- VCOSS had called on the Government to fund a suite of ongoing independent energy advice services. We will seek further clarification on the budget commitments to enable households without internet access to apply for the Power Saving Bonus with support from community outreach partners, and new two-year funding for the Energy Assistance Program.
- The ongoing challenge of food security has been both highlighted and exacerbated during COVID-19. VCOSS is pleased to see funding for the Food Relief Taskforce, pop-up food relief markets across metropolitan Melbourne and operational funding for six regional food hubs (Albury-Wodonga, Bendigo, Geelong, Mildura, Shepparton and Warrnambool).
- Every dollar counts in a low-income household and so a further $250 Power Saving Bonus – along with any ongoing bill savings from checking the price comparison website, particularly ahead of looming price rises – will of course be welcome. However, for households carrying significant COVID-era utility debts, greater assistance is needed. VCOSS will continue to advocate for a flexible, cross-cutting and one-off “Utility Debt Demolition” payment of up to $2,000 for households that require additional targeted support.
👩🏼🍳 Victorians in work
- Sick Pay Guarantee ($132.8m in 2022-2023) ($245.7m/3 yrs) funding is provided to implement the two-year trial of the Sick Pay Guarantee, which is anticipated to provide five days of paid sick/carers leave to more than 150,000 workers.
- Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund ($29.0m in 2022-2023) ($30m/2 yrs) will continue supporting economic growth and development in rural and regional Victoria. This investment will continue to create and retain jobs, leverage private sector investment, grow and diversify the regional economy, and improve economic and social outcomes for regional Victorians.
- Victorian African Communities Action Plan ($4.4m in 2022-2023) will support continued delivery of education and employment initiatives to improve social and economic outcomes for Victoria’s African communities.
- Ageing Well in Victoria – Social recovery for older Victorians and carers ($3.0m in 2022-2023). This funding comprises a diverse range of initiatives, one of which is employment-specific: continued investment in the Career Pathways into Employment for Unpaid Carers program to deliver tailored employment support for carers and create pathways into employment within the targeted disability, community services and aged care sectors.
- Regional economic transition – Latrobe Valley Authority ($7.5m in 2022-2023). Funding is provided to continue the Latrobe Valley Authority’s (LVA) operations, support the management of economic transition, identify future opportunities through a transition plan and facilitate business concierge services specific to the Latrobe Valley. Funding is provided for the Ladder Step-Up program to provide employment support for young people in the Latrobe Valley and for delivery of the Inclusive Employment Program by the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council.
- VCOSS notes that Victoria’s employment growth is strong, with unemployment at 4% and regional unemployment at 3.2%. We are pleased to see that up to mid-April 2022, of all the people helped into employment by the Jobs Victoria Fund, 63% were women. The Fund’s initial target was to pay 60% of wage subsidies to women, so it is a positive development that this investment has led to greater gender equity in employment.
- VCOSS advocated in our State Budget Submission for further investment in the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund and we are pleased to see that this will receive funding for a further year.
- While VCOSS is pleased to see that nearly $250m has been allocated for the two-year pilot of the Sick Pay Guarantee, which will support over 150,000 workers in highly casualised and insecure positions, we would like to see this expanded from only aged care and disability care workers to support more workers in the community services sector who also experience high rates of casualisation.
- While significant progress has been made in reducing Victoria’s unemployment rate and regional unemployment rate, youth unemployment is currently double the general population at around 9.6%. VCOSS would like to see the State Government commit to a Youth Guarantee, ensuring that all young Victorian’s under 24 years old receive an offer of employment, education or an apprenticeship / traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.
🎒 Stronger early childhood education, schools and skills
- Continuing early intervention for vulnerable children
$4.5m in 2022-23 ($18.6m/4 yrs) to continue early childhood intervention programs, including Early Childhood LOOKOUT to support children in-out-of-home care access kindergarten, and Access to Early Learning.
- Continuing universal access to two years of kindergarten, including:
* Delivering 15 hours of four-year-old kindergarten – $12.7m in 2022-23 ($55.2m/4 yrs) supplements funding made by the Commonwealth Government under the Preschool Reform Agreement.
* Maintaining universal access to four-year-old kindergarten – $10.6m in 2022-23 ($76m/4 yrs) provides funding to support delivery of kindergarten across Victoria.
* Kinder Kits for three-year-old kinder – $7.1m in 2022-23 ($14.7m/2 yrs) for every child enrolled in a funded three-year-old kinder program to receive a kinder kit to support early literacy and families to engage in children’s learning.
- Expanding the Kindergarten Fee Subsidy
$0.3m in 2022-23 ($2.1m/4 yrs) to enable children known to child protection and children from a refugee or asylum seeker background to access free or low-cost kindergarten in a sessional service.
- Improving outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) children
$1m in 2022-23 ($4m/3 yrs) will extend targeted outreach support to children and families from CALD backgrounds to increase access and engagement in kindergarten, including in public housing communities.
- Supporting children with disability, including:
* Improving outcomes for children with disability – $4m in 2022-23 ($16.9m/4 yrs) continues funding for Kindergarten Inclusion Support for children in three- and four-year-old kindergarten.
* Building inclusive kindergartens – $2.9m in 2022-23 ($11.9m/3 yrs) provides funding grants to upgrade buildings and playgrounds and to purchase equipment to increase the accessibility of early learning facilities.
* Strengthening Victoria’s interface with the National Disability Insurance Scheme – $2.3m 2022-23 ($5.2m/2 yrs) will support non-permanent residents to access Early Childhood Intervention Services.
- Students with disability
* Students with Disabilities Transport Program – $30.7m in 2022-23 to support eligible students to attend their designated government specialist education setting.
* Accessible Buildings program – $5m in 2022-23 ($10m/2 yrs) helps schools improve access to school facilities for students with disabilities.
* Special school upgrades – $7.7m in 2022-23 ($326m/4 yrs) will provide funding to upgrade 36 specialist schools.
* $23m from the ‘sustaining student mental health services for schools’ initiative will continue the mental health practitioners in secondary schools initiative in specialist schools.
- Preparing the education system for self-determination
$3.8m in 2022-23 ($5.8m/2 yrs) provides funding for a state-wide consultation and co-design process to progress Aboriginal self-determination in education, an extension of the Speaking out Against Racism program, as well as funding to improve education outcomes and experiences for Aboriginal Victorians.
- Enhanced Navigator Program
$6.7m in 2022-23 ($36.9m/4 yrs) will continue the Government’s flagship program aimed at reengaging students in school. Funding includes a pilot to extend the program to young people aged 10-11 years.
- Student health and wellbeing – school nursing and student support services
$9m in 2022-23 ($11.4m/4 yrs) provides funding to continue health and wellbeing services in schools, including through support for additional school nurses and allied health services, as well as maintaining the Victorian student health and wellbeing survey.
- Sustaining student mental health services for schools
$9m in 2022-23 ($41.4m/4 yrs) will continue supports such as LOOKOUT centres and continue the Headspace initiative.
- Senior Secondary Reforms
A suite of announcements to support the implementation of senior secondary reforms following the review into vocational and applied learning pathways (Firth Review), including:
* Excellence in vocational and applied learning – $18.5m in 2022-23 ($87.9m/4 yrs) to support the vocational and applied learning workforce, and funding for jobs, skills and pathways coordination.
* Head Start apprenticeships and traineeships for all Victorian government school students – $10.9m in 2022-23 ($69.3m/4 yrs) will see the Head Start program expanded to all Victorian government secondary schools.
* Improved vocational and applied learning pathways – $15.8m in 2022-23 ($34m/4 yrs) to introduce the two new senior secondary certificates – the Victorian Certificate of Education Vocational Major and the Victorian Pathways Certificate.
Universal access to high-quality VET for government school students – $9.8m in 2022-23 ($86.1m/4 yrs) to improve access to a core offering of VET delivered to secondary schools.
- Lifting student literacy and numeracy outcomes
$27.1m in 2022-23 ($131.1m/4 yrs) will give students in the middle years individual support in literacy and numeracy if they are not meeting minimum standards. This investment will be underpinned by a Middle Years Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. It also provides funding for the rollout of the Teaching Excellence Program (an advanced professional learning program for highly skilled teachers) and to continue the Koorie English professional development program.
- Pre-paid public transport tickets for school students in crisis
$0.3m in 2022-23 (0.9m/3 yrs) to provide free public transport via a 30-day travel pass for students experiencing crisis like family violence or sudden financial hardship.
- International Student Travel Pass
$1.1m in 2022-23 ($2m/2 yrs) will fund the International Student Travel Pass to support transport accessibility and support the recovery and growth of Victoria’s international education sector.
- Apprenticeship Support Officers
$5.9m in 2022-23 ($12m/2 yrs) continues funding to provide targeted support to apprentices to finish their training.
- A coordinated and efficient TAFE system
$39.5m in 2022-23 ($83.2m/4 yrs including additional funding in the 2021-22 financial year) to support a coordinated and efficient TAFE system that includes $66.6m for a new funding model for TAFE and enhances collaboration across the TAFE network.
- TAFE inclusion
$0.4m in 2022-23 ($0.8m/2 yrs) to conduct an audit on all TAFE campuses to identify areas across the TAFE network where access to training and skills for people with disability can be improved.
- Adding Auslan courses to the Free TAFE course list
$1m in 2022-23 ($4m/4 yrs) to add the Diploma of Auslan and Advanced Diploma of Interpreting (Auslan) to Free TAFE.
- Targeted investment to improve educational outcomes in youth justice
$5.6m in 2022-23 ($30.3m/4 yrs) to deliver education and additional supports to improve the educational outcomes of young people involved in, or at risk of involvement with, the youth justice system.
- This Budget includes funding to continue existing programs that are designed to support or increase access to kindergarten for children experiencing vulnerability or marginalisation. It also sustains investment in universal access to four-year-old kindergarten.
- Student disengagement has been a long-standing concern, and has been heightened by the pandemic. While some students thrived during periods of remote and flexible learning, attendance was lower for some secondary schools and for some at-risk or vulnerable groups. VCOSS has long advocated for expansion of the high-value Navigator program, including changes to eligibility criteria so more students can get support earlier. This Budget delivers on both fronts, providing funding to increase the number of 12- to 17-year-olds who can be supported by Navigator and funding to pilot a Navigator response for disengaging students as young as 10 or 11 via intensive case management.
- Part of the suite of reforms to senior secondary education includes funding to cover out-of-pocket costs for essential learning materials for VET studies. This is a welcome announcement that will remove barriers for students and help them in accessing their pathway of choice.
- While the Victorian Government hasn’t extended the tutoring initiative announced as part of the catch-up after remote and flexible learning, we are pleased to see investment in individual literacy and numeracy support for students in the middle years who are falling behind.
- This Budget makes a welcome investment in four new Early Intervention Officers to support children 10-13 years coming into contact with police, as part of the $30.3m targeted investment to improve educational outcomes in youth justice.
Covering the costs of education
- Cost has been identified as one of the biggest barriers to accessing and participating in early learning. Government can increase the number of children across Victoria engaging in two years of high-quality early learning by making kindergarten free.
- There are other hidden costs to education that we want to see removed. In schools, the cost of digital devices and school uniforms are key barriers to education participation. Another is transport. While Government has made a good start to addressing transport disadvantage for students in crisis, with a 30-day travel pass initiative funded in this Budget to ensure these students can travel to school and support services, VCOSS is seeking further information on the program’s design and implementation. We are keen to ensure that students can access the program easily and get the right level of support across the school year. Looking ahead, we are also keen to explore opportunities to provide pre-paid public transport for other groups of students experiencing financial hardship.
- Free TAFE has saved Victorian learners significant amounts of money by covering course fees; however, some students still face barriers to accessing and completing TAFE qualifications. Government can build on its investment in Free TAFE, including the inclusion of the Diploma of Auslan and Advanced Diploma of Interpreting (Auslan) to Free TAFE, by providing scholarships and bursaries to learners on low incomes, and investing in additional wrap-around support to boost completion rates.
Learners with disability
- The Disability Inclusion Package announced in the 2020-21 Budget to improve outcomes for students with disability will be life-changing for students accessing new supports. To ensure no student is left behind, Government can speed up the roll-out, which is currently phased over five years.
- Auditing all TAFEs to understand and improve areas of accessibility for learners with disability is a great start to improving the inclusivity and accessibility of Victoria’s public training system. The next step is to fully fund and implement the recommendations made by the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into access to TAFE for learners with disability.
🌏 A healthy climate supporting resilient communities
- Solar Homes boost
$26.3m in 2022-23 to expand the Solar Homes program, which provides rebates for solar panels and batteries with an interest-free loan.
- Victorian Social Recovery Support program
$0.7m in 2022-23 to extend recovery support services to communities affected by the June 2021 flood and storm event.
- Critical emergency management reforms
$1.2m in 2022-23 ($2.2m/2 yrs) to support the reform of emergency management arrangements.
- Environment protection and air quality
$5.9m in 2022-23 ($7.7m/2 yrs) to create two air quality precincts and reduce local air pollution.
Expanding the Solar Homes program will allow households to access rebates for both solar panels and an efficient hot water system for the first time, in addition to a $1,400 interest-free loan.
Victoria is also home to three of Australia’s air pollution hot spots so it is positive that two air quality precincts will be established, although VCOSS has not confirmed their location yet.
The government has extended support for people and communities affected by last year’s storms, including financial counselling as well as case support to assist people to access housing, health and wellbeing and legal services.
Funding is also provided for Emergency Management Victoria’s strategic planning, assurance and reform capability to deliver on key reviews and government responses to inquiries, including the Inspector-General for Emergency Management and the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.
New programs that would help Victorians experiencing disadvantage to benefit from the transition to a zero emissions economy are missing – for example, installing solar panels on public housing properties and providing $5,000 to low-income households to upgrade their home’s energy efficiency.
It is also disappointing that the total budget spend on climate change next financial year is $27.6m. This is down from the $46.0m spent in 2021-22, representing a 40% decrease.
In terms of emergency management, the 2019-20 bushfires and COVID-19 have tested the resilience of Victoria’s people, communities and community organisations. To better prepare for future emergencies and challenges, including the climate emergency, the Government can help build the community sector’s capacity in emergencies and support place-based community resilience.
The Government can also ensure that no one is left behind before, during or after an emergency by supporting diverse and inclusive approaches to emergency management. In this year’s Budget, VCOSS had hoped to see targeted investment in the emergency management capacity of Regional Ethnic Communities Councils, women’s health services and disability advocacy organisations.
🏠 A safe place to call home
- Investing to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring
$8.3 in 2022-23 ($51.3/3 yrs) for Victoria’s specialist homelessness service system to:
* Undertake service delivery reform that focuses on prevention, early intervention and sustainable housing
* Deliver intensive flexible case management for people who are sleeping rough
* Improve case management and data collection tools.
This funding forms part of the Early Intervention Investment Framework.
- Sustained support and improved housing outcomes
$4.6 in 2022-23 ($9.4/2 yrs) to expand specialist homelessness sector programs:
* Salvation Army’s Homelessness After-Hours Service
* Launch Housing’s Holmesglen Education First Youth Foyer.
- Refuge and crisis accommodation
$17.6 in 2022-23 ($42.2/4 yrs) to expand the family violence refuge and crisis responses for victim survivors of family violence, including:
* Two Aboriginal community-controlled refuges
* Two new core and cluster family violence refuges
* Six new Crisis Accommodation Program (CAP) properties to support family violence victim survivors with complex needs.
- Helping Courts respond to the impacts of the pandemic
$12.8 in 2022-23 ($42.2/4 yrs) to improve service delivery of Victoria’s courts. This includes $21m for Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) members to address delays to access VCAT for residential tenancy matters.
- Unlocking the potential of loans and guarantees to support more housing
$1.3m in 2022-23 ($2.3/2 yrs) to make low interest loans and government guarantees available to community housing agencies to delivery social and affordable housing.
- This Budget includes funding for initiatives that provide essential supports to people experiencing homelessness. As part of the Victorian Government’s Early Intervention Investment Framework, introduced in the 2021-22 Budget, this funding provides for reform to prioritise prevention and early intervention supports.
- Family violence is a key driver of homelessness in Victoria – we welcome the expansion of refuge and crisis accommodation to provide critical responses to victim survivors of family violence.
- Access to VCAT is an important part of delivering fairer, safer housing for Victorian renters – yet renters face massive backlogs due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and demand for hearings. Funding for additional VCAT members is welcome, building on funding to make technological improvements to VCAT in the 2021-22 Budget.
- While this Budget provides some funding for service delivery reform, as well as continuing funding for existing programs, it is disappointing that the Victorian Government has cut funding for the Homelessness to a Home (H2H) program. Programs that use Housing First approaches are critical to ending chronic homelessness. H2H is a highly successful program supporting people sleeping rough or experiencing chronic homelessness. VCOSS eagerly awaits the Victorian Government’s Ten-Year Social and Affordable Housing Strategy and the response to the Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria to tell us what’s next for Housing First. The Strategy is also needed to provide the strategic direction and investment framework to deliver best practice prevention, early intervention and ongoing flexible supports.
- The Big Housing Build is continuing at pace. As we embark on year three of this nation-leading investment, we are awaiting the release of the Victorian Government’s Ten-Year Strategy for Social and Affordable Housing. With 100,000 Victorians currently waiting for housing on the Victorian Housing Register, it’s vital that Victoria has a long-term strategy for sustained growth of public and community housing.
👧🏻 A Victorian where people can thrive and live free from violence
- Supporting victims of sexual violence and harm
$13.4m in 2022-23 ($37.6m/4 yrs) to improve services in line with the recent Victorian Law Reform Commission recommendations to improve the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences. The headline investments include: supporting specialist sexual assault services to deliver therapeutic support to adults, children and young people; supporting the after-hours Sexual Assault Crisis Line to respond to increased demand; expanded crisis brokerage for victim survivors; and continuing support for Sexually Abusive Behaviour Treatment services for children and young people demonstrating harmful sexual behaviours.
- Public health and local place-based delivery
$72.3m in 2022-23 ($87m/4 yrs) focused on supporting the operation of local public health units, supporting public health prevention, regulation and response programs, including the establishment of sexual and reproductive health services and increased funding for women’s health services ($19.4m/2 yrs).
- Investing in Victoria’s new gender equality strategy
$5.4m in 2022-23 ($8.4m/3 yrs) will focus on implementing the Gender Equality Act 2020, including training, education and resources to support gender impact assessments, upgrade the Gender Equality Act reporting platform, and developing a new dispute resolution case management system. This includes embedding gender responsive budgeting in Victorian legislation ($1.1m) which will ensure that an equality lens is applied to future budget processes.
- Addressing family violence for older Victorians
$2.9m in 2022-23 to address family violence for older Victorians through continuing investment in the Elder Abuse Prevention Networks, which raise awareness of elder abuse and deliver primary prevention activities.
- Investing in Respect Victoria to prevent family and gendered violence
$6.2m in 2022-23 ($19m/3 yrs).
- Implementing a sustainable Central Information Point
$15.0m in 2022-23 ($28.4/2yrs) to expand the impact of the statewide Central Information Point (CIP) , a multiagency service that collates and shares relevant information about the risk of harm posed by perpetrators of family violence to inform family violence risk assessment and management.
- Perpetrator responses
$17.0m in 2022-2023 ($30.1/3yrs) directs funding towards enabling family violence specialists to continue delivering perpetrator interventions and helps build an increasing evidence base about what works to change behaviour and prevent violence.
- Sustaining family violence reforms
$19.5m in 2022-2023 ($43.4m/3 yrs), outlines funding support to help support crisis case management and therapeutic support for victim survivors of family violence, specialised therapeutic interventions for children and young people who are victims of family violence, financial supports to assist victims of family violence to establish safety and security, support for the state-wide 24/7 crisis service and women on temporary visas.
- Refuge and crisis accommodation
$26.4 in 2022-23 ($69m/4 yrs) to expand the family violence refuge and crisis responses for victim survivors of family violence, including:
* Two Aboriginal community-controlled refuges
* Two new core and cluster family violence refuges
* Six new Crisis Accommodation Program (CAP) properties to support family violence victim survivors with complex needs.
Funding is also provided to partner with three refuge agencies to upgrade and operate agency owned properties and infrastructure, including:
* The McAuley Community Services for Women – to refurbish and operate a facility with an additional seven family suites and seven single units of core and cluster crisis accommodation, with additional staff to assist an enhanced model of support
* The Good Samaritan Inn – to develop and operate a 10-unit property of transitional accommodation, with additional staffing to assist an enhanced model of support for residents
* Berry Street – to assist with operating a five-unit residential facility and three-bedroom property by providing additional staffing, therapeutic supports and brokerage for family needs.
- Improving the capacity and mix of care services
$77.9m in 2022-23 ($84.6m/2 yrs). This funding supports services to respond to existing demand for residential care and continues to support the trial of the Care Hub program, which brings together multidisciplinary teams to provide children and young people entering out-of-home care with specialist services and immediate care placement options. It includes an uplift in base funding for 150 residential care placements. It also provides a continuation of funding for the CareLife app to enable up to 1,500 children in out-of-home care to store photos and other digital documentation important to their identity.
- Responding to demand for child protection and family services
$16.4m in 2022-23 ($57.6m/3 yrs). Funding is provided to meet increasing demand for targeted and specialised family services and support for up to 1,000 additional vulnerable families. Child protection responses will also be strengthened by increasing support staff capacity and enhancing recruitment programs to attract and retain child protection practitioners.
- Funding for statutory bodies and reforms
$4.9m in 2022-23 ($9.8m/2yrs) to set up information sharing systems and compliance and enforcement frameworks, to implement recent reforms to the Child Wellbeing and Safety legislation.
- VCOSS welcomes the increase in funding to support 12 women’s health services across Victoria. This funding will enable more Victorian women to access the medical and health services they need. It also addresses increased gender inequity across the Victorian health care system, helps restore historic funding cuts, and aligns with VCOSS’ budget ask.
- VCOSS was pleased to see that the Gender Equality Budget Statement demonstrated progress in implementing gender responsive budgeting, including conducting gender impact assessments across different policy programs (e.g., Head Start and Events Recovery and Support) to refine the programs, with a focus on improving gender equality.
We were also pleased to see that gender responsive budgeting will be embedded in Victorian legislation to ensure that an equality lens is applied to future budget processes. This Budget affirms the intention that, over time, gender analysis will be applied to every stage of the policy making process – from identifying budget priorities, through to policy design, decision making, implementation and evaluation.
- The Budget recognises the increased pressure on child and family services and provides funding to bolster capacity in key parts of the system.
- The child and family services funding includes the introduction of a carer help-desk dedicated to assisting carers.
- There is a need for a greater focus on prevention, including strong investment in Respect Victoria. VCOSS has long advocated for an increase in family violence prevention from 3% to at least 10% of the total family violence budget, as we believe that this will produce long lasting benefits for the Victorian community in helping stop violence before it begins.
🔎 Fair and equal justice
- Supporting community legal centres
$7m in 2022-23 to community legal centres to support Victorians to access justice. This funding is provided under the Early Intervention Investment Framework.
- Reducing future justice system demand and keeping the community safe
$22.7 in 2022-23 ($50.9/4 yrs) for a range of initiatives to improve outcomes for a range of overrepresented groups, including:
* Continued operation of the Maribyrnong Community Residential Facility that provides housing and transition support to men leaving prison
* Expanding the family visits support program
* Enhanced rehabilitation and reintegration support services
* Bolstering the Women and Mentoring Program
* Improved oversight of high-risk offenders on Community Corrections Orders.
- Helping courts respond to the impacts of the pandemic
$9.1m in 2022-23 ($11m/2 yrs) to improve court demand, including:
* To establish an integrated Magistrate’s Court of Victoria Service centre that will improve user experience and customer service
* To continue operating the Supreme Court’s eCourt program
* For the County Court of Victoria Active Case Management Program
* For additional Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal members.
- Justice system costs associated with the extension of court programs
$20.2m in 2022-23 ($58.9/4 yrs) to provide additional resources across the justice system to meet increased demand and ensure Victorians can benefit from improvements to Victoria’s court network.
- Preventing youth crime through early intervention
$4.5m in 2022-23 to deliver programs that engage young people in the community and address key drivers of crime.
- This Budget provides funding for courts that addresses COVID-19 specific demand pressures and expands best-practice therapeutic courts, including the multi-jurisdictional Bendigo Law Courts, the Assessment and Referral Courts and the Drug Courts.
- A range of initiatives are funded under the Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF), including to prevent youth crime, as well as modest funding for community legal centres and Victoria Legal Aid, indicating a welcome recognition of the importance of legal assistance in early intervention.
- While the Early Intervention Investment Framework provides funding for a number of sensible initiatives to improve justice system responses, this Budget misses the opportunity to adopt a justice reinvestment strategy. A justice reinvestment strategy would strengthen this strategic early intervention framework by incorporating a community-led approach to identifying priorities and implementing solutions to address the issues that place people at risk of becoming involved with the justice system.
- The recent Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System provides the Victorian Government with an opportunity in future budgets to invest in reforms that prevent people – in particular, overrepresented groups such as women, people with disability and Aboriginal Victorians – from becoming criminalised in the first place, as well as ensuring people leave the justice system for good. VCOSS looks forward to the Victorian Government’s response and future investment in criminal justice reform.
✊🏿 Aboriginal treaty and self-determination
- Progressing Victoria’s historic treaty process with First Peoples
$55.7m in 2022-23 ($151.4m/4 yrs) to progress key obligations as part of Victoria’s ongoing Treaty Process with First Peoples, as required under the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018. Live negotiations continue between the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and the state.
- Stolen Generations Reparations Package
$42.5m in 2022-23 ($115m/4 yrs) is provided for a Stolen Generations Reparations Package in partnership with Aboriginal communities and organisations. The reparations package includes financial reparations, access to trauma-informed counselling and healing programs, an opportunity to record and share an applicant’s story and experience, and options to access records held by the state.
- Improving capacity for Traditional Owner Corporations to negotiate Recognition and Settlement Agreements with the state
$5.2m/3 yrs (including $2.6m carried from 2021-22) is provided to support Traditional Owner corporations when negotiating a Recognition and Settlement Agreement package with the state. This will ensure corporations are resourced to prepare for, and participate in, negotiations under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010.
- Boosting capacity and addressing demand in the Aboriginal cultural heritage system
$19.6m in 2022-23 ($25.7m/2 yrs) to support Registered Aboriginal Parties to fulfil their statutory obligations and respond to increased demand, improve the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Registry and promote protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage.
- Preparing the education system for self-determination
$3.8m in 2022-23 ($5.8m/2 yrs) to improve educational outcomes and experiences for Aboriginal Victorians and to prepare for the forthcoming self-determination in education reforms.
- Supporting Aboriginal youth engagement
$300,000 in 2022-23 ($600,000/2 yrs) to strengthen the Koorie Youth Council partnership with Government in the design and delivery of initiatives affecting Aboriginal young people, consistent with Victoria’s commitment to Aboriginal self-determination.
- Victorian Aboriginal and Local Government Strategy 2021-2026
$400,000 is provided in 2022-23 to support implementation of the Victorian Aboriginal and Local Government Strategy 2021-2026. This will strengthen engagement between Aboriginal organisations and local councils and support pathways to self-determination for Aboriginal Victorians.
Victoria continues its commitment to formal Treaty discussions with Aboriginal Victorians with ongoing funding for the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, and funding to prepare for the self-determination education reforms. There is also significant funding in this year’s Budget to promote Aboriginal cultural heritage and respond to increased demand on the cultural heritage system.
There is continued investment in initiatives that respond to the devastating impacts of colonisation on First Nations peoples – for example, continued funding to progress the two co-design healing centres that will support and promote the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal Victorians, and an expansion of tailored early intervention and prevention programs delivered by Djirra, enabling more young Aboriginal women to receive an appropriate intervention that targets family violence.
The Budget continues funding for programs that celebrate Victoria’s rich Aboriginal cultures through community events.
These long-term systemic and structural reform measures need to be accompanied by an increase in core funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to meet rising demand for services, including in the growth corridors of Ballarat, Ararat and the Surf Coast, and to address the sustainability of the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector more broadly.
The long-tail effects of colonisation are seen in our criminal justice system, with First Nations children, young people and adults over-represented in prisons. This Budget does not deliver the necessary funding to support full access to justice – we are particularly concerned that there is not sufficient investment in the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. The Budget also misses the opportunity to adopt a justice reinvestment strategy. VCOSS looks forward to the Victorian Government’s response to the Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System and future investment in criminal justice reform that prevents people from becoming criminalised in the first place, as well as ensuring people leave the justice system for good.
💰 A fair and sustainable revenue base
Revenue and expenditure trends
Following a $17.6b operating deficit in 2021-22, the budget projects a return to year-on-year surplus in 2025-26. These outcomes depend both on reduced government spending and medium-term assumptions on economic growth, employment, inflation and interest rates. State taxation will have a limited role, with the overall tax revenue to increase by only 1.4 per cent in 2022-23 and grow by an average of 4.7 per cent per year over the next four years. forward estimates. While COVID-era spending has pushed the headline levels of State debt to levels not seen since the early 1990s, better-than-expected growth and long-term Government borrowing suggest that this net debt position is sustainable.
Revenue from stamp duty is expected to increase to $10.2 billion in 2021-22, then decline to $8.2 billion in 2022-23. This “land transfer” revenue is a huge part of the budget – but it is hostage to the fluctuating property market and so contributes to overall budget uncertainty. VCOSS continues to recommend switching to a broad-based land tax (with appropriate concessions, exemptions and deferrals).
Total revenue from gambling taxes is forecast to increase to $2.4 billion in 2022-23, following the reopening of gaming venues and continued increases in racing and sports betting. Problem gambling has significant financial ramifications for all households, and gamblers living in low-income households spend a much greater proportion of their household’s total disposable income on gambling than high-income households. The return of this revenue stream sadly suggests that an opportunity has been lost, as restrictions eased, to place additional restrictions on gaming venues to help people manage their gambling and limit losses.
Victorian Future Fund
The Victorian Government is establishing a public-private partnership to deliver VicRoads licensing and registration functions. Proceeds will be used to establish a $1bn fund to manage the fiscal impact of the pandemic. It will also take in future proceeds from designated government land sales. This long-touted ‘modernisation’ of VicRoads must not be allowed to lead to a reduction in services.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Levy
2022-23 will be the first full financial year for the Mental Health and Wellbeing Levy, raising a predicted $819m to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
- In early 2022, the Victorian Government shelved plans for a new revenue mechanism to fund social housing. This was, in part, due to fierce public opposition from developers and investor lobbyists. The challenge to identify and implement a sustainable revenue stream for future social housing projects remains unaddressed.
VCOSS acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country. We pay respect to Elders both past and present, and to emerging leaders. Our offices are located on the sovereign, unceded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.