Building local communities and strength in diversity
VCOSS welcomes the substantial funding in the 2015-16 State Budget aimed at building local communities and promoting social inclusion. Inequality and geographic disadvantage factors are strongly linked with poorer outcomes for children and young people, increased social isolation and a range of other health and wellbeing concerns for whole communities. The 2015-16 Victorian State Budget invests in growth area infrastructure and local jobs. It also contains several important measures to help build local communities and strength in diversity through improving social cohesion and community harmony, Aboriginal leadership and self-determination, and equality for the LGBTI community. VCOSS welcomes these initiatives as positive steps in tackling poverty and inequality in Victoria.
Initiatives at a glance
- $50m in 2015-16 for an Interface Council Infrastructure Fund – which recognises the significant pressure faced by growth areas in meeting community needs for services and supports.
- $10.6m for Melbourne’s North Innovation and Investment fund – to help create employment opportunities in communities affected by manufacturing closures.
- $500m for the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund – to improve job prospects in regional communities.
- $7.2m over four years for the continuation of Good Money community finance hubs – in Collingwood, Dandenong and Geelong, to provide safe microfinance services for low-income Victorians who would be otherwise excluded from mainstream financial services.
- $21m over four years for a Victorian Aboriginal cultural heritage strategy – providing additional support to registered Aboriginal parties and supporting Aboriginal Victorians in preserving their connection to land and culture.
- $3.5m over four years for an Aboriginal Leadership and Self-Determination Program – to strengthen Aboriginal organisations, build Aboriginal inclusion and support reconciliation.
- $4.5m over four years for a Victorian Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy – to establish the Victorian Aboriginal Economic Board and facilitate industry agreements and projects.
- $20.7m over four years for promoting social cohesion and community harmony initiatives – promoting intercultural exchange and understanding.
- $25.2m over four years for a whole-of-government social cohesion and community resilience initiative – to empower local communities to address economic and social disengagement and to counter violent extremism and foster social inclusion.
- $3.2m over four years to establish the equality portfolio – within the Department of Premier and Cabinet to tackle discrimination faced by the LGBTI community.
Future policy directions
- Growth areas face significant hurdles to building infrastructure and having sufficient support services and community capacity building initiatives in place to prevent disadvantage. The Victorian government can help prevent and overcome entrenched geographic disadvantage by developing a plan to meet infrastructure and community service needs for Victorian communities in the future.
- The Victorian government can achieve increased social inclusion and community capacity in future years by investing in new and existing neighbourhood houses aligned to areas of greatest need.
- VCOSS welcomes the community building and strength in diversity initiatives contained in the 2015-16 State Budget and looks forward to working with the government to build on these important aspects of Victorian communities further.