Many communities across the Latrobe Valley, and Morwell in particular, have suffered from severe social and health disadvantage for many years. These were highlighted following the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire, with the Board of Inquiry stating that the fire had ‘added further insult to the already vulnerable community.’
VCOSS applauds the government for its commitment to improving people’s health in the Latrobe Valley, and in particular its announcement of a Health Innovation Zone to co-design preventative health programs and early interventions.
VCOSS is delighted the government has recognised the importance of local leadership and decision-making in initiatives such as the Health Innovation Zone as it can engender ownership, utilise local knowledge and insight, and build on existing relationships.
The 2016 Victorian Budget provides a range of other investments for the Latrobe Valley across jobs, training and the arts. The budget announcements present a unique opportunity to take a new approach that acknowledges the Latrobe Valley’s past contributions to Victoria, recognises its strengths and challenges, and provides an innovative and collaborative way forward.
Initiatives at a glance
- $39.9m over four years for the Latrobe Valley Transition Program. Funding to diversify the local economy through the new Morwell Hi Tech precinct, Skills for Future training and investment attraction grants.
- $27.4m over five years to improving people’s health in the Latrobe Valley. For a range of initiatives in health, focusing on mental health, family violence, chronic disease and Aboriginal health. This will include a Health Innovation Zone to co-design preventative health programs and early intervention and screening activities.
- $13.8m over four years for a regional rehabilitation strategy. To develop an integrated regional-scale rehabilitation strategy for the three major mines and land use transition in the Latrobe Valley.
- $10m for a new creative precinct. For a new performing arts building and refurbishment of the Latrobe Performing Arts Centre.
- $3.8m over four years for the Latrobe Valley community air monitoring and Citizen Science Program. To establish permanent air quality monitoring stations to allow for public recording and reporting of air quality. The Citizen Science Program will allow citizens to monitor local air and water quality.
- $3.5m over four years for predictive models, plume modelling and smoke detection. To develop an integrated hazard prediction tool, implement a model to monitor toxic atmospheric releases and purchase portable smoke detection units.
- Other state-wide budget announcements include:
- The implementation of all recommendations from the Family Violence Royal Commission.
- Investments in rural and regional health services.
- Increases in funding for real-time prescription monitoring, youth mental health and suicide prevention, and;
- Increased support for asylum seekers, refugees and LGBTI community members.
Future policy directions
- VCOSS stresses the importance of working closely with people in the community as one of the best ways to design services and programs that will help them overcome the forms of disadvantage they face. The VCOSS Walk alongside: Co-designing social initiativeswith people experiencing vulnerabilities report outlines co-design principles and practices to help bring people, community workers and the government together to best design the social programs, services and support people need.
- Keeping young people in education and training must be a priority to ensure the future success of the Latrobe Valley. The government can reduce unemployment by increasing investment in Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs) which link schools with other education providers, community services, and industry. LLENs is proven to help lift school reengagement rates and connect marginalised young people to training and jobs.
- Vocational Education and Training (VET) provides people with the skills needed to gain and sustain meaningful employment, playing a key role in supporting disadvantaged learners and tackling a range of barriers to workforce participation, including long-term unemployment, early school leaving, low literacy or numeracy skills. VCOSS welcomed the recommendations of the VET Funding Review in late 2015 and looks forward to working with the government to finalise the funding model and the implementation plan in the near future.
Thumbnail and banner image: “Transmission” by Stephen Edmonds (Flickr).