A deep dive on the 2024 Victorian Budget

Images from the 2024 VCOSS Treasurer’s Lunch.

Click to enlarge an image, or jump to budget analysis.

VCOSS CEO Juanita Pope addressing the media after the release of the 2024 Victorian Budget. Read our budget day media release here.

Housing and homelessness

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • Breaking the cycle of homelessness
    $42.3m in 2024-25 ($196.9m/4 yrs) to deliver programs that support people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness. This package continues funding for a range of initiatives that were at risk of lapsing, expands the Journey to Social Inclusion program, and establishes a new four-year competitive grants process from 2025-26 for homelessness services working to ensure homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring.
  • Rental Stress Support Package
    $1.2m in 2023-24 ($8m/3 yrs) to organisations delivering support for renters in the private market so that Victorian households facing rental stress can gain access to information and advice, advocacy and legal assistance.

What’s good

  • The homelessness package includes:
    • Re-investment in a range of homelessness support programs that were facing lapsing funding, including Pride in Place, the Homelessness After Hours Services, and Better Health and Housing. Each of these initiatives is an important part of Victoria’s homelessness response – and we’re pleased this Budget provides some reprieve. But, looking ahead, it’s imperative that the Victorian Government locks in long-term funding. At this stage, some of the continuing funding is only for 12 months.
      The continued funding for Pride in Place will preserve access to specialised initial assessment and planning, case management and coordination, peer navigation and service navigation to connect LGBTIQ+ people with the services they need, when they need them. LGBTIQ+ Victorians are twice as likely to be at risk of, or experience, homelessness compared to other Victorians, and research shows they also experience more complex pathways and barriers within the homelessness system. So – while it’s imperative that mainstream programs and services are safe and inclusive for LGBTIQ+ people – it’s also vital that people have access to tailored services like Pride in Place.
    • Ten per cent of the homelessness package ($11.5m) has been allocated to support the implementation of Victoria’s Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework, Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort. The importance of strong, sustained investment to deliver Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort – literally “Every Aboriginal person has a home” – cannot be overstated. The housing crisis disproportionately impacts Victoria’s First Peoples. More than one-in-six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians have experienced homelessness, compared to one-in-76 non-Indigenous Victorians. This vast overrepresentation is a direct and ongoing consequence of colonisation and we must continue to reckon with this and support self-determined approaches to achieving housing justice.
    • Journey to Social Inclusion is one of Victoria’s earliest Housing First initiatives. The ‘Breaking the cycle of homelessness’ package includes funding to expand this model through the Early Intervention Investment Framework. The Budget papers project that a five-year investment of $45.5m will yield between $75m and $80m in estimated avoided costs over 10 years and estimates between $20m and $40m in economic benefits. The package also includes $16.7 million for the Homes for Families program to provide a Housing First response for families experiencing or at risk of homelessness. These are excellent investments, but VCOSS continues to call for the Victorian Government to fully embrace a Housing First approach. We stand alongside the Council to Homeless Persons in advocating for Housing First to be implemented at scale across Victoria. VCOSS also wants to see the benefits of a Housing First approach extended to other groups with multiple and complex needs, such as people experiencing poor physical or mental health, people with a disability, and people involved in the justice system.
    • We welcome funding for services that provide vital support and accommodation to women experiencing homelessness. We note that family violence is a major driver of homelessness for women, and that the Victorian Government has foreshadowed there will be further family violence funding announcements in coming weeks. VCOSS hopes to see additional investments in housing as part of this package.
  • The Rental Stress Support Package was one of eight rental fairness initiatives announced in the Victorian Government’s Housing Statement, released in September 2023. This boost to information, advice, advocacy and legal assistance is timely, necessary and welcome. VCOSS’s recent Renting in Victoria research found the hardship currently facing renters is staggering. Community sector workers told us the renters they support are feeling powerless, confused and insecure. They identified an urgent need to bolster resources for services that support renters to understand and assert their rights, sustain tenancies and prevent homelessness.

What’s missing

  • In the 2020 State Budget, the Victorian Government announced the nation-leading $5.3b Big Housing Build – a historic investment into social housing growth. The Big Housing Build has catalysed a scale of investment in social housing in Victoria not seen for decades, but that money has now been fully allocated.
    In our pre-Budget submissions, VCOSS and other Victorian Housing Peaks reiterated our long-standing call for at least 60,000 new social housing homes (public housing and community housing) to be built over the next 10 years. To achieve this, we need the Victorian Government to specify this as their growth target in all relevant policy instruments and, crucially, to establish a long-term investment pipeline that supports Victoria to achieve that growth target.
    This Budget does not create the necessary conditions for strong and sustained growth in the construction of new social housing at the necessary scale.
  • VCOSS’s pre-Budget submission called for the Victorian Government to invest in key enablers of social housing growth, such as the introduction of mandatory inclusionary zoning. While the Victorian Government’s Housing Statement notes developers have an important role to play in addressing our housing crisis – and includes measures that encourage developers to make big new residential developments feature 10 per cent affordable housing – we’d like to see a legislated measure that requires 10 per cent of new, large-scale housing developments to be public or community housing.
  • While the homelessness package includes some funding for youth services, and this is welcome, the Budget doesn’t deliver funding for a Youth Homelessness Strategy that can coordinate action and investment to prevent youth homelessness from happening in the first place (and ensure that, when it does occur, it is brief and non-recurring).

Cost of living

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • School Saving Bonus
    $281.6m in 2024-25 ($287m/3 yrs) to assist families with the cost of living. A feature of this Budget line is a one-off $400 allowance for all government school students, and eligible students in non-government schools, to help cover the costs of uniforms and activities such as school camps, excursions and sporting events. This initiative is in addition to the Camps, Schools and Excursions Fund announced in 2023-24 ($168.7m/4 yrs) – which is means tested and only available to students experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage – and the application-based Affordable School Uniform program delivered through State Schools’ Relief.
  • Free Breakfast for all Government School Students
    $21.1m in 2024-25 to expand the School Breakfast Club Program to every government school. The expansion will see 150 additional schools invited to join the program in early 2025, before rolling out to remaining schools from June 2025. 
  • Glasses for Kids program expansion 
    $6.8m in 2024-25 to expand the Glasses for Kids program to an additional 74,000 Prep to Grade 3 students across 473 government schools.
  • Energy affordability and protecting consumers
    $3.9m in 2024-25 ($12.1m/4 yrs) to continue the Energy Assistance Program to support vulnerable energy customers navigating retail energy costs and energy debt. The Victorian Energy Compare website, which assists consumers in searching for cheaper electricity and gas offers, will also be maintained.
  • Improving Victorian Energy Upgrades
    $2.9m in 2024-25 ($5.9m/2 yrs) for a strategic review to update the Victorian Energy Upgrades (VEU) program to ensure continued alignment with key Victorian Government objectives including electrification, energy affordability, emissions reduction targets, and reliability.
  • Energy efficient hot water rebates
    $29.7m in 2024-25 ($37.7m/2 yrs) for more Solar Victoria rebates to eligible households to install energy efficient electric heat pump and solar hot water systems.
  • Zero interest loans for solar home batteries
    $6.1m in 2024-25 for Solar Victoria to continue to provide interest-free loans to eligible households to install solar battery storage systems in their homes.
  • Financial counselling support for victim survivors of family violence
    $1.7m in 2024-25 ($6.8m/4 yrs) to continue delivering financial counselling services to family violence victim survivors facing financial stress.
  • Rural Financial Counselling Service
    $2.0m in 2024-24 ($4.1m/2 yrs) is provided to support the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS), enabling the RFCS to continue to provide free financial counselling to Victorians experiencing or at risk of financial hardship in rural and regional areas. VCOSS understands that additional co-funding will be provided by the Commonwealth Government.
  • Strengthening food security across Victoria
    $3.5m in 2024-25 for food security initiatives including grant programs to enable efficient food distribution and support for community-led programs through organisations such as Neighbourhood Houses. There is also funding to sustain the six Regional Food Relief Hubs for one more year.
  • Social housing community support
    $1.1m in 2023-24 to deliver food relief to social housing residents, including in the high-rise towers.

What’s good

  • VCOSS welcomes the $400 school saving bonus, which will provide some short-term financial relief for parents and carers of school-aged children in government schools and for eligible concession card holders from non-government schools. Currently, many families must make difficult choices between school costs and necessities like groceries. The funds will help to ensure all students have what they need to learn and participate fully in their education and school community.
  • Expanding the School Breakfast Clubs Program will mean that all students in government schools have access to a nutritious breakfast so that they start the day ready to learn. VCOSS supports the universal delivery of this program, as this approach will help to reduce financial pressure for families across the board and optimise take-up amongst students who need it most. If the program was targeted or means-tested, some students would not access it, despite being eligible, because of potential stigma.
  • Re-funding the Energy Assistance Program (EAP) will provide Victorians with much-needed support to navigate a complex and unaffordable energy market. This initiative, which is delivered by community sector organisations embedded in local communities, has already supported thousands of Victorians to access energy concessions and Utility Relief Grants, to find cheaper energy offers, and deal with crippling energy debts. Securing further investment in the EAP was a focus of VCOSS’s pre-Budget advocacy and we’re pleased to see the Budget deliver an extension of funding. Looking ahead, we’d like to see this program recurrently funded.
  • In our pre-Budget submission, VCOSS called for a strategic review of the Victorian Energy Upgrades program to investigate how to reinvigorate and expand the scheme in the context of Victoria’s transition to all-electric, energy-efficient homes. In this Budget, we’re pleased to see the Government back it in. While the VEU is an important tool for improving the energy efficiency of Victorian homes and reducing emissions, it is currently a difficult market for consumers to navigate and the available savings are not enough to create affordability for low-income households. We look forward to supporting the community sector to participate in this review process, to strengthen the program and optimise its accessibility for low-income households. The community sector will continue to play an important role in ensuring the transition to a clean energy future is just.
  • Funding to continue financial counselling services for victim survivors of family violence and for people experiencing, or at risk of, financial hardship in rural Victoria is welcome news – although we would like to see a longer-term solution to address current and anticipated demand (refer to ‘What’s Missing’ analysis below). Many Victorians are on the brink of financial distress, just one piece of bad news away from a crisis. Financial counsellors are a fundamental safeguard against that.
  • The investment in food relief will enable community organisations, such as Neighbourhood Houses, to continue their essential work supporting vulnerable community members.

What’s missing

  • Australian research shows growing economic inequality in Australia, and this is borne out in VCOSS’s poverty maps. While the Budget provides immediate cost-of-living relief in education and ensures continued access to food relief, energy assistance and financial counselling, there is a need to address systemic issues that underlie these cost-of-living flashpoints. VCOSS continues to advocate for the Victorian Government to establish a Cost of Living Commissioner with statutory powers to examine cross-cutting issues and drive systemic reform. This Commissioner would lead collaborative work addressing challenges that sit across multiple areas of government, such as concessions, food security, telecommunications affordability and accessibility, and housing.
  • The Victorian Government has been highly attuned to issues of energy hardship. For example, previous budgets have featured welcome initiatives such as the Power Saving Bonus. This Budget doesn’t include any new initiatives to tackle high energy bills. Community service organisations on the front line see first-hand the impacts of high energy bills. The Victorian Energy Market Report for 2022-2023 noted that retailers provided tailored assistance to an average of 65,268 electricity customers in any given month, an increase on the previous financial year of 5 per cent for electricity customers and 13 per cent for gas. As energy is a non-negotiable expense for most, many low-income households resort to dangerously low levels of energy use or the rationing of other essentials such as food and healthcare to afford bills. In VCOSS’s pre-budget submission, we urged the Victorian Government to:
    • Fund initiatives to improve access to energy concessions,
    • Increase the rate of the Utility Relief Grant to make it fit for purpose,
    • Establish a Victorian Default Offer for gas to ensure low-income households and renters aren’t left behind while Victoria transitions to a low-carbon future,
    • Establish a maximum arrears cap on energy debt, and
    • Fund another round of the $250 Power Saving Bonus.
  • The continuation of Solar Victoria initiatives and the strategic review of the VEU are both welcome but we would have liked to have seen additional measures to support the transition to energy-efficient, all-electric homes. ACOSS analysis indicates that low-income Victorian households stand to save on average $2,104 for houses and $808 for apartments a year by going all-electric and installing energy efficiency upgrades. Households would also reduce their greenhouse gas emissions impact by getting off fossil gas. VCOSS’s pre-Budget submission highlighted opportunities for the Government to electrify the State’s public housing stock, to enact pilot programs that get whole neighbourhoods off gas, and advocated for the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades program to be re-established (without the co-payment component). See also: Climate.
  • While continued funding for specialist financial counselling is welcome, especially for victim survivors of family violence, the entire sector needs adequate core funding to ensure more Victorians can access assistance. Currently, Victoria has a financial counsellor shortage, and existing counsellors often aren’t where they’re needed most. The Victorian financial counselling sector urgently needs increased funding and long-term planning to build capacity to support people at risk of financial crisis.

Wellbeing

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • Over $1b in initiatives through the Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF)
    This Budget provides the largest investment in early intervention and prevention initiatives through the EIIF so far. Over the coming years, just over $1b will fund the delivery of 28 initiatives, designed to improve outcomes for Victorians and reduce or prevent acute service usage. Treasury estimates that these initiatives will collectively lead to avoided costs of $655m to $770m over the next 10 years and enable a further $360m to $560m in broader economic benefits. A further $106m will be spent on components that enable and enhance service delivery such as data systems, workforce development and maintaining critical systems.
    Significant initiatives funded through the EIIF include:
    • $42.3m in 2024-25 ($196.9m/4 yrs) on initiatives including Journey to Social Inclusion and Housing First models designed to break the cycle of homelessness (see the Housing and Homelessness analysis for further detail).
    • ~$63.6m in 2024-25 ($175.8/4 yrs) across five initiatives focused on reducing family violence and supporting victim survivors. This includes funding for both service delivery and enabler funding (see the Gender Equity and Family Violence analysis for further detail).

What’s good

  • VCOSS welcomes the growth of investment in early intervention and better outcomes for Victorians through the EIIF. The 28 initiatives across the education, health, justice, family violence, child protection and homelessness sectors are vitally important to supporting the wellbeing of all Victorians, especially those who are experiencing disadvantage. It is positive that funding for existing and lapsing programs has been retained and in some cases grown at a time when these services are most needed.
  • The investment of funding into components that support the delivery of initiatives such as workforce development, data and measurement systems is also positive. These aspects are critical in supporting practice and model development and building the evidence base for what works for whom in improving wellbeing.
  • VCOSS welcomes the publication of avoided costs and of economic benefits in this year’s Budget. Greater transparency and investment in measuring avoided costs and outcomes is a critical part of developing the evidence base and business case for expanding successful initiatives.

What’s missing

  • Ensuring Victorians have access to the services they need is crucial to wellbeing. Alongside support services, our collective wellbeing is built on a foundation of equitable access to opportunities and resources – things like housing, a clean environment, well-functioning health system and social connection. To build these foundations, investment in deep, system wide reforms are needed. We note that this Budget slows flagship reforms such as the Best Start, Best Life rollout and the establishment of Mental Health and Wellbeing Locals because of workforce shortages.
  • There was some discussion of intergenerational equity in this Budget, but it falls short on taking action on issues that undermine the wellbeing of future generations such as growing wealth inequality, unaffordable housing and climate change. Structural change is needed to ensure the wellbeing of future generations is considered in decision-making. VCOSS continues to call for a Commissioner for the Wellbeing of Future Generations to oversee the expansion of wellbeing approaches across government and ensure the needs of our children and grandchildren are fairly considered in budget and policy decisions across government.

Health

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • Drug services – harm reduction initiatives
    $9.7m in 2024-25 ($58.7m/4 yrs) for a Statewide Action Plan to address alcohol and other drug related harms across Victoria. This includes the establishment of the Community Health Hub in the City of Melbourne, which will provide primary health and wrap around services, an enhanced outreach program, care coordination model, and hydromorphone trial. Funding also supports a statewide overdose prevention and response helpline, naloxone dispensing units, and provides funding to the community health sector to improve access to pharmacotherapy services.
  • New Youth Prevention and Recovery Care (YPARC) beds
    $5.2m in 2025-26 ($16m/3 yrs) to open 20 newly-constructed Youth Prevention and Recovery Care (YPARC) beds in Heidelberg and Traralgon, providing treatment, care and support to young people aged 16–25 experiencing mental health challenges and psychological distress. These facilities are part of a $141 million capital investment to deliver new and refurbished YPARC beds across the state. This initiative contributes to the Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System final report. 
  • Support and treatment for eating disorders
    $8.1m in 2024-25 ($25.6m/3 yrs)to support a coordinated and stepped approach to eating disorders care. This includes better integrated community-based services, home-based care to prevent the need for hospitalisation, and an intensive day program designed to achieve similar outcomes to inpatient care while allowing people to remain at home. Funding is also provided to Eating Disorders Victoria to continue work supporting consumers and their families and carers.
  • Progressing the mental health and wellbeing reform program
    $4.6m in 2024-25 ($6.1m/2 yrs) to support delivery of the system transformation set out in the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
  • Supporting GPs through a co-designed grant program 
    $10m in 2024-25 for a grants program to support provision of primary healthcare by general practitioners.
  • Tailored care for refugees and asylum seekers
    $4.4m in 2024-25 to deliver healthcare to refugees and asylum seekers who are not eligible for Medicare and other supports.
  • Trans and gender-diverse healthcare 
    $0.5m in 2024-25 ($2m/4 yrs) to continue to deliver access to trans and gender diverse health services including therapy, trans and gender-diverse peer navigators, and medical treatment where appropriate in Melbourne and regional Victoria and operate two multidisciplinary gender affirming care clinics.
  • Preventative health support for Victorian Women
    $9.1m in 2024-25 ($18.3.m/2 yrs) to support 12 organisations across Victoria to provide preventative health promotion to Victorian women focusing on sexual and reproductive health, cervical cancer screening, chronic illness, family violence and other health promotion initiatives.
  • Implementation of marra ngarrgoo, marra goorri: the Victorian Aboriginal Health, Medical and Wellbeing Research Accord
    $1.1m in 2024-2025 ($4.4m/4 yrs) to support the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation’s (VACCHO) delivery of marra ngarrgoo, marra goorri: the Victorian Aboriginal Health, Medical and Wellbeing Research Accord (the Accord). The Accord aims to improve the ethical standards of health, medical and wellbeing research for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and self-determination.
  • Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands: Strengthening cultural safety and supporting culture and kinship
    $2.6m in 2024-2025 ($10.8m/4 yrs) is provided to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to deliver an expanded Culture and Kinship program, reconnecting young Aboriginal Victorians to their culture, identity, history and spirituality, to improve physical and mental health.
  • Strengthening public sector residential aged care
    $31.2m in 2024-25 to continue to provide high-quality care and service delivery in public sector residential aged care.

What’s good

  • The Budget puts an additional $9.7m in 2024-25 ($52.3m/4 yrs) into drug services harm reduction initiatives through the Statewide Action Plan. This Budget line includes the establishment of a Community Health Hub in the City of Melbourne that will provide primary health and wrap around services, an enhanced outreach program, care coordination model, and a hydromorphone trial. This is excellent – we welcome this much-needed investment in harm reduction in the CBD. However, we remain concerned that the Victorian Government has ruled out the establishment of a CBD-based Overdose Prevention Centre (a ‘Medically Supervised Injecting Room’) given high levels of community need in the city and the strong evidence from the North Richmond facility about the positive health and wellbeing impacts of this model of care. This is a big miss in the Statewide Action Plan and in the 2024-25 Budget.
    VCOSS notes the Statewide Action Plan also supports a statewide overdose prevention and response helpline and naloxone dispensing units, and provides funding to the community health sector to improve access to pharmacotherapy services. Investment in these initiatives is also welcome, and will make a material difference in the lives of Victorians using drugs. However, Victoria’s Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) treatment services, which assist more than 40,000 people a year, need additional investment to deal with their growing waitlists and meet the increasingly complex needs of clients. Community sector providers of AOD services are struggling with the adequacy and security of baseline funding and with workforce shortages. These issues need urgent policy and Budget attention – to this end, VCOSS welcomes the Victorian Government’s commitment to progress an Alcohol and Other Drugs Strategy for Victoria, through the Statewide Action Plan. Running alongside this, the state will also need an Integrated Mental Health and AOD Strategy and we hope to see future investments in this space.
  • VCOSS is pleased to see an investment of $18.3m over two years to further support Victoria’s 12 women’s health services to provide preventative health promotion and education to Victorian women.
    Gender inequity produces unequal access to healthcare and poor health and wellbeing outcomes. These women’s health services not only deliver tailored sexual and reproductive health advice, information and testing to their communities, but – crucially – increase awareness of gendered health needs and drive improvement across the broader health system, alongside LGBTIQ+ health services.
    We note that the 2022 funding boost to women’s health resulted in 22,000 fewer women experiencing family violence and 500 fewer teen pregnancies. This investment in preventative health will reduce demand and cost pressure across the health system as well as reducing gender inequity in women’s health.
    Looking ahead, we urge the Victorian Government to lock in boost funding as the new baseline level for the 12 women’s health services and introduce long-term contracts to improve economic security for the women’s health workforce.
  • Funding for tailored community care for refugees and asylum seekers is a welcome addition to the Budget. This initiative will help to tackle systemic discrimination and make Victoria more inclusive for under-served communities.
  • We are pleased to see some funding allocated to implement marra ngarrgoo, marra goorri: The Victorian Aboriginal Health, Medical and Wellbeing Research Accord. This funding will begin to support researchers and organisations to improve their research practices, enabling ethical and self-determined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research in Victoria. However, we note it falls short of the three-year commitment sought by VACCHO in their pre-Budget submission to the Victorian Government. As VACCHO has previously noted, since colonisation, First Nations people have been subjected to culturally inappropriate and unsafe health and medical research, some of which fails to translate into meaningful benefits for them. VCOSS calls for more substantial investment to implement The Accord in the next 2025-26 Budget, building on the foundations of the positive investment in this Budget.
  • The investment to continue the successful Culture and Kinship, Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal hands is a welcome addition and will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to the strengths-based prevention initiatives.
  • The additional funding to support and treat people with eating disorders will make a significant contribution to the mental health and wellbeing of Victorians. Eating Disorders Victoria reports that eating disorder presentations to our public health services are on track to be at their highest in 2024, above the explosion in cases seen during the pandemic. This funding is vital in giving services a chance to keep up with demand and diversify their reach.
    Victoria’s network of public sector residential aged care services (PSRACs) deliver high-quality care and services for older people with more complex care needs, as well as specialist aged persons’ mental health residential services and specialist support for older Victorians that have experienced or are at risk of homelessness. VCOSS welcomes the investments in these vital services – which are the only care option for many older Victorians on low incomes, and those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to services because they live in under-served areas (‘thin markets’) in rural and regional Victoria.  

What’s missing

  • The Government’s recent budgets have made landmark investments in mental health and wellbeing, following the Mental Health Royal Commission. These investments have spanned system transformation and service delivery, and are unparalleled in Australia. The Government continues to invest in mental health and wellbeing services in this Budget – but the headline message is that progress will be slowed down. The Government has cited acute workforce shortages as the reason for the change in pace.
    This means the rollout of the next tranche of Local Mental Health and Wellbeing Services will be delayed. There is also no funding in this Budget to establish the Consumer Leadership Agency recommended by the Royal Commission, which VCOSS advocated for in allyship with the consumer peak body VMIAC. We also share concerns expressed by Mental Health Victoria that the Budget does not provide clarity on the status of the supported dwellings for Victorians living with mental illness – another key Royal Commission recommendation.
    VCOSS acknowledges the extent and depth of workforce shortages. We note workforce shortages are also impacting the delivery of the early childhood reforms, and constrain all other parts of community services delivery. To this end, while VCOSS welcomes the new funding in this Budget to deliver a pipeline of clinical and wellbeing graduates to each newly-established Mental Health and Wellbeing Local, we believe the mental health workforce challenges need to be located in a broader healthcare and social care workforce context. Victoria needs a strategic, holistic and funded workforce plan to solve these broader challenges.
  • We continue to be concerned about the level of investment in public dental health programs. It’s recommended people receive dental treatment between once every six months and two years, depending on need. Currently, funding only allows for dental visits every seven years (on average) and up to 1.5 million people are missing out on adequate care. This puts people at increased risk of health disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. This is out of step with best-practice early intervention and cost avoidance approaches. 
    Our pre-Budget submission called for:
    • Increased investment in prevention of future oral diseases
    • Funding to build the capacity of the oral health workforce to meet current and future needs
    • Improved access to dental care for priority groups, including rural and regional Victorians
  • We are pleased that the Victorian Government has preserved existing investment in the core Community Health program. Victoria’s independent registered community health services are the jewel in the crown of the state’s health system. Their work has a strong focus on the prevention of illness through health promotion, disease prevention and early intervention, and includes action on the social determinants of health. They also provide assessment, treatment, health maintenance and continuing care services. They are exceptional at reaching people who are disadvantaged, have complex needs or don’t have a GP. A blindspot of this Budget is that it is not leveraging these strengths to help the Victorian Government solve some of Victoria’s biggest health challenges, including delayed diagnosis of health conditions and a rise in chronic disease – all of which are leading to unsustainable demand for hospital care. VCOSS acknowledges that the Victorian Government is investing billions of dollars into the health system in this Budget – in 2025-26, we urge the Government to redirect some of the hospital investment into the community health system. This would strategically align with the Government’s commitment to early intervention investment.
  • VCOSS is disappointed that there is no funding for two key prevention and early intervention asks that featured in our pre-Budget submission.
    The first of these is CP@Clinic, a regional and rural Victorian adaptation of the internationally celebrated Canadian Community Paramedic model. CP@Clinic is a chronic disease screening, education and referral service supported by a purpose-built database and credentialled training. Paramedics offer weekly drop-in clinics in accessible locations to support people to manage their health outside of a hospital emergency department. Wider social needs are also addressed through non-clinical interventions, such as community meals, food relief and walking groups. Sunraysia Community Health Service and Primary Care Connect, in collaboration with McMaster University (Canada) and La Trobe University, have adapted and implemented this model across their regions. They’ve already demonstrated improved healthcare access and social connectedness. Their aim is to reduce use of emergency healthcare in the longer term. (In Canada, the model has shown a 19 to 25 per cent reduction in emergency callouts.)
    CP@Clinic aligns perfectly with the ambitions of the Victorian Government’s Early Intervention Investment Framework – it should feature in the 2025-26 Budget.
    VCOSS has been strongly advocating alongside the Alliance of Rural and Regional Community Health for an ongoing disaster resilience workforce, embedded in the community health sector, and is disappointed that the 2024-25 Budget did not deliver the necessary investment.  Refer to our analysis here.
  • Whilst it is promising to see funding allocated to improve cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culturally diverse people, we would have liked to see complementary investment to address the infrastructure needs of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs). VCOSS supports VACCHO’s call for fast tracked investment for the Dandenong & District Aborigines Co-Operatives Ltd to acquire land and fully develop plans for facilities to deliver holistic, culturally safe models of care.
  • It is promising to see some investment to deliver access to trans and gender diverse health services, but we note the high unmet need for gender affirming care in the community, set against a larger backdrop of unequal access to safe and inclusive healthcare for LGBTIQ+ community members more generally.  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 stigma and discrimination that many LGBTIQ+ people encounter – including in the health system. Future budgets must continue to make strong investments in health and wellbeing services for LGBTIQ+ Victorians, in community-controlled and user-led settings as well as delivering improved access to care in mainstream settings.

Work and skills

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • Boosting access to Free TAFE and training services
    $131.4m in 2024-25 ($394.3m/3 yrs) to meet expected demand for eligible students to undertake accredited vocational education and training to enhance their skills and employment opportunities, including through Free TAFE and expanded eligibility in priority areas.
  • More apprenticeships for workforce priorities
    $11.4m in 2024-25 to support apprentices, trainees and their employers to meet Victoria’s workforce priorities. This includes funding for Apprenticeships Victoria to provide apprenticeship system stewardship and expand opportunities for apprentices, trainees and employers in areas with skills shortages through a new Priority Apprenticeship Pathway model. Funding will continue to support apprentices and trainees most at risk of not completing their training with dedicated support through the Apprenticeship Support Officer program.
  • TAFE Services Fund
    $82.6m in 2024-25 ($112.7m/2 yrs) to continue to support the TAFE Network as Victoria’s trusted public provider of choice, including through the provision of student support services, student inclusion and wellbeing programs, training delivery in priority thin markets and regions, strong governance and a high-quality teaching workforce. The TAFE Network is critical in meeting Victoria’s current and future skills requirements and economic growth.
  • Regional economic transition
    $6.3m in 2024-25 ($6.8m/3 yrs) to support worker transition and youth employment pathways   in the Latrobe Valley, including for Latrobe Valley Authority operations.

What’s good

  • The Treasurer’s Budget speech noted that the Victorian economy has created more than 560,000 jobs since September 2020, the highest jobs growth in the nation – accounting for about one in three of all jobs created nationwide over this period, and one in seven of all people employed in Victoria. Victoria’s unemployment rate at 4 per cent is at a near-record low.
    This Budget continues to grow and sustain the skills pipeline. VCOSS welcomes the further investment of $555 million into the training system to enable more Victorians to upskill into new careers.
    Since it began in 2019, 170,500 students have benefited from Free TAFE, saving more than $460 million in tuition fees. VCOSS is pleased to see $394.3 million invested to boost access to Free TAFE, including expanded eligibility in priority areas. VCOSS also welcomes investment to support the TAFE network – in particular, we are pleased this Budget line specifically references the provision of student support services and student inclusion and wellbeing programs. In our pre-Budget submission, VCOSS called for more funding to deliver student support services, to help meet increased demand. It’s vital that students can access help to address issues that put their participation and course completion at risk.  
  • VCOSS is pleased to see new funding to support worker transition and youth employment pathways in the Latrobe Valley, including for Latrobe Valley Authority operations. As the Latrobe  Valley and Gippsland Transition Plan notes, the move to a low emissions future is having wide-ranging economic, employment, environmental and social impacts across Gippsland as traditional sectors evolve in response to climate change and the demands of the global economy. Regional transition requires collaboration between the community, industry and government, and this Budget commitment is an example of the Victorian Government’s enabling role.

What’s missing

  • While VCOSS celebrates Victoria’s low unemployment rate of 4 per cent, we know that some of the most vulnerable Victorians are invisible in ABS data – for example, early school leavers in low-skilled insecure jobs, people who are under-employed and struggling to make ends meet, and people who have given up on looking for work because of discrimination. We also note that statewide youth unemployment sits at 11.9 per cent.
    As Victoria grapples with workforce shortages, there is spare labour market capacity we could be leveraging. But it’s difficult to do so, since the cuts to Jobs Victoria in the 2023-24 Budget.
    While VCOSS appreciates the Victorian Government’s rationale for winding back the state’s provision of employment supports, given this is principally a Commonwealth Government responsibility, the reality is that Commonwealth programs are not yet filling that gap.
    We would like to see the Victorian Government strike a bilateral agreement to back in a demonstration project for the delivery of the Jobs Victoria program with the Commonwealth Government, as recommended by the House of Representatives Select Committee on Workforce Australia. This would see the reintroduction of the successful Advocate and Career Counsellor programs, alongside expanded access to the Mentor program.
    This would also contribute to outcomes set out in Victoria’s Youth Strategy 2022–2027. This strategy identified a suite of targeted supports that are needed to help young Victorians build work readiness and find a job. These are supports that young Victorians cannot currently access from Commonwealth employment programs or services.
  • VCOSS is disappointed to see the end of the Sick Pay Guarantee, which provided casual and contract workers in certain jobs with up to 38 hours a year of paid sick or carer’s leave. The last date for sick and carer’s pay is 31 May 2024.
  • VCOSS is also disappointed to see that there has been no new funding to support a strong and sustainable Adult Community and Further Education sector. Pre-accredited training supports learners with diverse needs and those who have experienced barriers to education to access high-quality training that can set them up for success in study, work and life. However, pre-accredited training is in decline, with the number of Learn Local providers reducing from 363 in 2006 to 274 in 2021. As a result, learners and communities are losing access to quality education and training. It is also disproportionately affecting rural providers, with 40 per cent of Neighbourhood House Learn Locals planning to reduce their delivery.

    In our pre-Budget submission, VCOSS called on the Victorian Government to:
    • Introduce a new, sustainable funding model for Learn Local providers, as proposed by the peak body for Adult and Community Education and supported by the sector. This new model should cover the full cost of course development, promotion, delivery, administration and student support.
    • Increase the Student Contact Hour funding rate from $9.10 to $9.83 to recover the erosion in funding over years due to wage and CPI increases. Regional and other existing loadings should continue.
    • Apply annual indexation to Adult Community and Further Education (ACFE) Board funding, using the agreed indexation formula between community sector organisations and the Victorian Government.

Children and young people

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • Meeting demand for Maternal and Child Health Services
    $7.8m in 2024-25 ($28.8m/3 yrs) to continue supporting every Victorian family with young children during the early years of development by ensuring access to Universal, Enhanced and Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health programs and associated services, including the Maternal and Child Health line after-hours, baby bundles, and the Nursery Equipment Program.
  • Supporting paediatric care through the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service
    $1.0m in 2024-25 ($4.1m/4 yrs) to continue the delivery of paediatric services by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service.
  • Support and treatment for eating disorders
    $8.1m in 2024-25 ($25.6m/3 yrs) to support a coordinated and stepped approach to eating disorders care, including better integrated community-based services, home-based care and an intensive day program. Funding is also provided to Eating Disorders Victoria to continue supporting consumers and their families and carers.
  • Supporting representation and participation of First Nations young people
    $0.4m in 2024-25 ($1.6m/4 yrs) to continue the work of the Koorie Youth Council to promote youth participation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and provide advice to government.
  • Self-determined justice diversion and family violence supports
    $5.3m in 2024-25 ($16.3m/3 yrs) under the Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF) to Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to deliver a range of programs to reduce interactions with the justice system and support Aboriginal women and families experiencing family violence, including youth diversion programs.
  • Strong Families, Safe Children
    $132.5m in 2024-25 ($197.6m/2 yrs) delivered through the Early Intervention Investment Framework to support family services to reduce the number of children and young people requiring more intensive or statutory services, including supporting children and young people to remain with their families or return home. Funding continues the Family Preservation and Reunification Response program, including enablers and the Outcomes, Practice and Evidence Network, and innovative service models such as Putting Families First, family group conferencing and Early Help family services.
  • Delivering child protection and care services
    $95.5m in 2024-25 ($128.1m/4 yrs) to deliver service provision within the statutory child protection and care services systems through a range of initiatives to bolster the capacity of the child protection workforce, to respond to the need for residential care placements, improve cross jurisdiction information sharing practice and to support evidence-based service models for Aboriginal-led statutory and non-statutory child and family services.
  • Improving outcomes for children and young people in home-based care
    $11.6m in 2024-25 ($58.6m/4 yrs) to improve outcomes for children in home-based care, including Care Support Help Desk teams, the Care Hub, kinship case contracting and the CaringLife app to support kinship and foster carers and children and young people in care.
  • Innovative support to re-engage young people
    $3.6m in 2024-25 through the Early Intervention Investment Framework to continue the innovative Living Learning (Partnerships Addressing Disadvantage) to provide another three years of educational and wraparound mental health, psychosocial and vocational support for young people in Victoria.
  • Youth Crime Prevention and Early Intervention Project
    $1.6m in 2024-25 ($6.6m/4 yrs) is provided to Victoria Police for the continuation and expansion of the Youth Crime Prevention and Early Intervention Project, which aims to reduce rates of reoffending among young people by providing for increased early intervention measures including early referrals to legal and social supports.

What’s good

  • VCOSS welcomes the Government’s investments in a range of initiatives that support self-determination and health and wellbeing for Aboriginal children, young people and their families. We are pleased to see the continued the delivery of paediatric services by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, and a range of investments designed to prevent and reduce the impacts of family violence on Aboriginal women and children, to divert Aboriginal young people away from the justice system, and to support evidence-based service models for Aboriginal-led statutory and non-statutory child and family services. Further, we celebrate the delivery of four years of funding for the Koorie Youth Council to facilitate youth participation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and provide advice to government.
  • Maternal and Child Health Services help children get the best start in life. But Victoria’s population growth has meant children in some Victorian Local Government Areas are currently missing out on the recommended dose of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) checks from birth through to age four. VCOSS is pleased that this Budget provides funding to help tackle high demand and workforce shortages that have resulted in some children not accessing the healthcare and developmental checks and interventions they need to be healthy and well. The new investments in MCH services are a positive step that will help to ensure that all children are well, on track to meet their developmental milestones, and thrive into adulthood.
  • This Budget contains significant cost-of-living measures to help families experiencing financial hardship. See VCOSS’s analysis of these initiatives here.
  • VCOSS welcomes the continuation of the Living Learning program delivered by Melbourne City Mission’s independent school, the Hester Hornbrook Academy, in partnership with the Government, the private sector and other partners through the Early Intervention Investment Framework. This vital program addresses barriers to personal and educational achievement for school leavers aged 15 to 24 who are experiencing mental health complexities and who are persistently not engaged in employment, education, or training. VCOSS is very happy to see this innovative program continue.
  • VCOSS welcomes the Government’s uplift in funding to protect at-risk children and young people. We particularly note funding to bolster prevention and early intervention efforts, build workforce capacity, reunify families and keep families together. We are pleased to see the focused investment on improving outcomes for children in home-based care, including funding for the Care Support Help Desk, which aligns with VCOSS’s 2024-25 Budget Submission ask. We continue to stand alongside the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare in advocating for adequate and secure funding for the essential child and family services sector, and concur with the Centre that Government must embed child and family services funding as long-term investment to combat the immense pressures on vulnerable families who might otherwise have contact with the Child Protection system.

What’s missing

  • While we welcome the Government’s $6.3 million investment to support the extension of the Yoorrook Justice Commission as the formal truth-telling process, and the substantial investments designed to promote self-determination and wellbeing for Aboriginal children, young people and families, it is essential going forward that the Government fully embraces Yoorrook’s recommendations relating to children and young people and develops a timeline and funding for implementation.
  • While this Budget does invest in meeting the current demand for maternal and child health (MCH) services, VCOSS continues to advocate for funding to scale and sustain provision of right@home across Victoria, so that it is accessible to all families who need it. The right@home program uses the existing MCH workforce to provide 25 structured home visits to vulnerable families. It’s a high-impact, evidence-informed initiative that has been shown to improve parent care and connection, and the model aligns with recommendations from the Mental Health Royal Commission, as well as ongoing family violence reforms. Currently, the program only operates in four areas of Victoria: Ballarat, Dandenong, Frankston and Whittlesea. This program should be recurrently funded as ‘business as usual’ across Victoria.  
  • Together with Victoria’s Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH), VCOSS has been advocating for a trial of new targeted investments in neighbourhoods that have the highest levels of childhood disadvantage. Looking ahead, we’d like to see the Government invest – through the Early Intervention Investment Framework – in a multi-sector, multi-partner trial of ‘Beyond the Silver Bullet’, informed by the CCCH’s ‘Restacking the Odds’ research.  We believe that this early intervention suite is a great way to harness the full benefits of existing services. It has the potential to end childhood inequity in Victoria in a decade and provide a global template for disrupting early childhood disadvantage. It would complement the Government’s landmark investment in boosting children’s participation in early learning through the Best Start, Best Life reforms. 
  • The Budget does include some welcome funding to promote youth health and wellbeing – including a focus on eating disorders, mental health and alcohol and other drug use – as well as initiatives such as Respectful Relationships and consent education, and funds to promote physical activity in schools and education engagement. The Office for Youth has been allocated $30.5 million in 2024-25 to coordinate whole-of-government policy advice and deliver initiatives for young people to gain skills and actively participate in their local communities. However, there are still a significant number of commitments outlined in Victoria’s Youth Strategy 2022-2027 that remain unfunded, or that lack a clear path to implementation. One example is employment support (priority 3 of the Strategy). Even though Victoria’s unemployment rate has dropped to a near record low of 4 per cent, the statewide youth unemployment rate sits at 11.9 per cent. The scarring effects of youth unemployment necessitate urgent progress on this part of the Youth Strategy – see VCOSS’s Work and Skills analysis for further detail. Looking ahead, it is crucial that the next two state budgets provide the necessary funding for the whole Strategy to be delivered in full by 2027.  
  • While there is a Budget line ‘Breaking the cycle of homelessness’ that includes some funding for youth services, and this is welcome, the Budget doesn’t deliver investment in a Youth Homelessness Strategy. As per our pre-Budget submission, VCOSS continues to advocate for the Victorian Government to fund the development of a Youth Homelessness Strategy co-designed with young people. A dedicated strategy would recognise the unique drivers of youth homelessness. This would enable better case management, more appropriate trauma-informed care, and person-centred approaches that recognise young people’s unique development stage and pathway. Crucially, it would enable better coordination between youth homelessness services and other support systems, to prevent young people from becoming homeless in the first place.
    We also continue to advocate for Homes Victoria to work with the community sector to establish a new funding model for youth housing. This new model will need to include higher subsidies for providers to enable access for young people.
  • We welcome the investment to continue and expand the Youth Crime Prevention and Early Intervention Project. But we are disappointed and concerned that the Budget funds a two-year pilot of electronic monitoring of young offenders as part of bail conditions ordered by a court. This trial could see children being subject to monitoring and surveillance without ever being found guilty, and does not address the root causes of children and young people’s justice system involvement. VCOSS believes a smarter Budget investment is to fund the implementation of the Smart Justice for Young People coalition’s Action Plan to End the Overrepresentation of Particular Groups of Young People in the Criminal Justice System, which identifies actions to keep young people healthy, housed, in education and training, and out of the prison system. This must be a priority for the 2025-26 Budget.

Better schools and early childhood education

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • School Saving Bonus
    $281.6m in 2024-25 ($287m/3 yrs) to assist families with the cost of living. A feature of this Budget line is a one-off $400 allowance for all government school students, and eligible students in non-government schools, to help cover the costs of uniforms and activities such as school camps, excursions and sporting events. This initiative is in addition to the Camps, Schools and Excursions Fund announced in 2023-24 ($168.7m/4 yrs) – which is means tested and only available to students experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage – and the application-based Affordable School Uniform program delivered through State Schools’ Relief.
  • Free Breakfast for all Government School Students
    $21.1m in 2024-25 to expand the School Breakfast Club Program to every government school. The expansion will see 150 additional schools invited to join the program in early 2025, before rolling out to remaining schools from June 2025. 
  • Glasses for Kids program expansion  
    $6.8m in 2024-25 to expand the Glasses for Kids program to an additional 74,000 Prep to Grade 3 students across 473 government schools.
  • Best Start Best Life and Three-Year-Old Kindergarten
    $128.6m in 2024-25 to continue the delivery of the Best Start, Best Life reforms. This includes Free Kinder and Pre-Prep, Three-Year-Old Kindergarten and Kinder Kits to all children enrolled in Three-Year-Old Kinder for the 2025 kinder year.
  • Supporting senior secondary completion in non-school settings
    $12.8m in 2024-25 ($70.9m/4 yrs) through the Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF) to improve and strengthen the delivery of senior secondary education in non-school settings. This will include the establishment of a central referral and exemption system to support school-aged young people who move between education settings including out of school, and support Year 12 completion pathways for disadvantaged and vulnerable early school leavers.
  • Education supports for students at risk
    $8.8m in 2024-25 ($36.7/4 yrs) through the Early Intervention Investment Framework to continue and expand educational support for children in out-of-home care and children involved in or at-risk of involvement in the youth justice system. This includes tailored education support, health and education coordinators funding for LOOKOUT learning advisors, and the Education Justice Initiative.
  • Senior Secondary Pathways Reform
    $17.2 in 2024-25 ($37.6m/3 yrs) to improve access to Vocational Education and Training delivered to school students through the Jobs, Skills, and Pathways Coordination program, which supports schools with administration support for delivery. Funding is also provided to enhance perception and access to vocational and applied learning and career education including challenging gender biases.
  • Family Services Specialist Disability Practitioners
    $24m in 2024-25 has been allocated to continue support for Victorians with disability, including the continuation of the Families Services Specialist Disability Practitioners program which assists families to navigate systems of disability support, including the NDIS, disability advocates, disability service providers and mainstream services.
  • Additional Support for Students with Disabilities: Accessible Buildings Program 
    $7.5m in 2024-25 ($15m/2 yrs) to improve access to school facilities for students with disability and additional needs. Facility modifications may include ramps and handrails, alterations toilet and shower facilities and adjustments for students with vision or hearing impairments.
  • Early childhood intervention services for non-permanent residents
    $2.9m in 2024-25 to deliver early childhood intervention services, such as inclusive education and therapy supports, to children with a disability or developmental delay who are not eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) due to their residency status.
  • Strengthening participation of CALD children in early childhood education
    $2.0m in 2024-25 ($9.4m/3 yrs) through the Early Intervention Investment Framework to continue and extend targeted outreach support for children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to access and engage in kindergarten.
  • English as an Additional Language
    $22.6m in 2024-25 ($45.5m/4 yrs) provided to increase the number of students supported by the English as an Additional Language program for the 2025 school year, in line with growth in enrolments. The program supports government school students who do not speak English as their first language at home to become proficient in English, including Australian-born students, newly-arrived migrants, and students from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.
  • Victorian African Communities Action Plan
    $3.4m in 2024-25 ($12m/4 yrs) to continue and expand the Victorian African Communities Action Plan education initiatives. This initiative will continue supporting educational engagement, participation, academic performance and inclusion.
  • Active Schools and Get Active Kids vouchers
    $20.9m in 2024-25 ($115.8m/4 yrs) to support schools to implement physical education and sports programs, including programs to improve students’ swimming and water safety competency.  In addition, $6m has been allocatedin 2024-25to extend the Get Active Kids program, providing vouchers worth up to $200 to help eligible families cover the cost of sports.
  • Respectful Relationships for children and youth
    $10.4m in 2024-25 ($39.1m/4 yrs) through the Early Intervention Investment Framework to continue the delivery of the Respectful Relationships program. Funding includes support for schools and early childhood educators to promote respectful and positive attitudes and behaviours, to deliver training to support schools to implement Respectful Relationships education as a core component of the Victorian curriculum, and for partnerships with Safe and Equal, Jesuit Social Services and the Pat Cronin Foundation to support delivery.

What’s good

  • The impacts of Victoria’s cost-of-living crisis are being felt across the state. Currently, many families must make difficult choices between school costs and necessities like groceries. VCOSS welcomes the $400 school saving bonus. This will provide some short-term financial relief for parents and carers of school-aged children in government schools and for concession card holders whose children attend non-government schools. We know that financial hardship is one of those ‘outside the school gate’ factors that impacts what happens in the classroom and in the playground. The funds will assist students’ participation in education and their school community.  
  • The School Breakfast Clubs Program has been a signature wellbeing initiative of the Victorian Government, and is strongly supported by VCOSS. We welcome the gradual expansion of the School Breakfast Clubs Program to all government schools throughout 2025. VCOSS members report that there are growing numbers of Victorian families who need emergency food relief. Expanding the School Breakfast Clubs Program will mean that all students in government schools have access to a nutritious breakfast so that they start the day ready to learn. VCOSS supports the universal delivery of this program, as this approach will help to reduce financial pressure for families across the board and avoid any potential stigma that students needing to access targeted or means-tested breakfast programs may face.
    At a time when Victoria is facing record rates of school refusal (also referred to as ‘school can’t’) and there is unprecedented demand for alternative models of education to keep kids at school, we are pleased by the Victorian Government’s commitment to improve and strengthen the delivery of senior secondary education in non-school settings.
    VCOSS has long called for the Department of Education to have increased visibility of, and accountability for, the learning and wellbeing of students who are disengaging from ‘mainstream’ education and moving into ‘second chance’ settings, such as special assistance schools or other forms of flexible learning. The Government has been very responsive to this advice and VCOSS welcomes the positive momentum in this Budget.
    The establishment of a central referral and exemption system to support school-aged young people who move between education settings is an important step in the right direction towards ensuring that no student is left behind or lost outside the education system. These investments will help assure that all students have the support they need to attain the highest level of education they can, wherever they learn, in line with their interests and aspirations.
  • Delivering inclusive education has been a major focus of the Victorian Government’s election commitments. VCOSS welcomes the suite of new investments in the current Budget to make schools and early learning more accessible for students with disabilities, to help families navigate the complex support system, and to provide support to families who are not eligible for NDIS due to their residency status.
    We note that the recent Disability Royal Commission and NDIS Review documented a litany of education inequities and barriers faced by children and young people with disabilities and their families across Australia. The root causes of these problems are systemic and have been entrenched over many years, sometimes decades. They include gaps in laws and policies that are intended to drive inclusion; system-wide practices that create barriers to information (about rights, options, procedures for funding and personal support) and otherwise limit enrolment choice (‘gatekeeping’); lack of effective coordination between systems (e.g. education, disability, health) and between settings (e.g. early childhood education and care and school); access to (and adequacy of) funding for individualised supports; and workforce capacity, capability and attitudes.
    The Commonwealth, state and territory governments are still working on formal responses to the Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review, and substantial work lies ahead in translating the findings and recommendations into implementation blueprints. It will be vital to centre the voices of children, young people and families through a co-design process, and for the reform agenda to be fully funded in future Budgets.
  • The Let Us Learn report recently published by the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) highlighted the education inequities faced by children and young people in the out-of-home care and youth justice systems. The additional investments provided in the Budget to continue and expand educational support for children in out-of-home care and children involved in or at-risk of involvement in the youth justice system are an important step towards ensuring that Victoria’s most at-risk students have access to the supports they need to access a high quality, equitable education.
    VCOSS also draws attention to the Smart Justice for Young People coalition’s Action Plan to End the Overrepresentation of Particular Groups of Young People in the Criminal Justice System, which identifies complementary actions to keep young people healthy, housed, in education and training, and out of the prison system. Future Budget investment to implement actions in the Smart Justice plan would augment the current, welcome commitment to urgently respond to the Let Us Learn recommendations.
  • Too many children and young people in Victoria are not doing enough physical activity, which has long-term impacts on their education and health outcomes. VCOSS is pleased by the new investments in the Active Schools initiative and the continuation of the Get Active Kids grants program, which will help to ensure that all children are getting the physical activity they need to be healthy and do well at school. Given that swimming is a life skill that everyone needs, and that lessons are financially out of reach for many families, we welcome the specific focus on swimming and water safety as part of the package.
  • VCOSS welcomes additional funding to continue and bolster the capacity of educators and teachers to deliver the Respectful Relationships programs across schools and early childhood settings, and to facilitate the important partnerships led by Safe and Equal, Jesuit Social Services and the Pat Cronin Foundation. We note that the Respectful Relationships investment is located in the Early Intervention Investment Framework. Whilst we appreciate the strategic prominence this affords to this vital initiative, and the opportunities it provides in terms of measuring and evaluating impact, we believe it is a program that should ultimately be treated as a recurrently funded program.
  • VCOSS welcome the suite of targeted investments to support migrant, refugee and Australian-born children and young people with English as an additional language to participate fully in school and early learning and to grow the community language schools sector. We also welcome the funding to continue the implementation of the education actions outlined in the Victorian African Communities Action Plan 2018-2028.

What’s missing

  • Whilst we commend the Government’s significant and reaffirmed investment in the ambitious Best Start, Best Life kindergarten reforms, we are disappointed that it will now take 15 years for all Victorian children and their families to reap the full benefits of the proposed 30 hours of Pre-prep. VCOSS and our members are poised to work across government departments to develop solutions to the current challenges delaying the roll out of reforms, including workforce and housing, so that there are no further delays to this ambitious and life-changing suite of reforms.
    VCOSS notes that the Government has also cited workforce shortages as the reason for slowing down the implementation of key mental health reforms in this Budget, and that workforce challenges are impeding other areas of system reform. Consequently, VCOSS believes it’s important that the workforce challenges in early childhood education and care are located in a broader healthcare and social care context. We are keen to see the Victorian Government work with the sector to develop a strategic, holistic and funded workforce plan to solve these broader challenges.
  • Whilst VCOSS welcomes the Government’s significant investments in cost-of-living initiatives for families, some of these measures are short-term, and we also note that the current cost-of-living crisis is a flashpoint in a much bigger story about growing economic inequality in Australia, borne out by VCOSS’s poverty maps. Refer to VCOSS analysis here.
    In our pre-Budget submission, VCOSS advocated for school costs such as digital devices, textbooks and stationery to be declared as a standard part of the curriculum, and for the School Breakfast Clubs Program to be expanded to include lunch for all students – bringing us in line with other developed nations.
    But we recognise that – ultimately – we would not need to advocate for these measures if public schools were adequately funded.
    VCOSS is aware that a new National Schools Reform Agreement is being struck and that this is a major focus of the Victorian Government’s advocacy. It is vital that Victoria’s negotiations with the Commonwealth Government lead to a new bilateral funding agreement that ensures Victorian public schools are fully funded (receive 100 per cent of the School Resourcing Standard).
  • Whilst we welcome the new investment in support for senior secondary completion in non-school settings, we would like to see future investment in younger students – including those still in primary school – who are unable to attend school because they are experiencing extreme school-related anxiety, for whom existing school-based supports are not intensive or tailored enough to meet their needs. VCOSS members are particularly concerned about children and young people who have been unable to stay connected to school and learning because of experiences of family violence and/or homelessness, and are eager to work with the Department of Education to find solutions to these needs.

Inclusive communities

Read a PDF version here.

Aboriginal Self Determination

Significant initiatives

Refer also to our Children and Families, Justice, Gender Equity and Family Violence, and Health Budget analyses.

  • Delivering a Victorian Truth and Justice Process
    $6.3m in 2024-25 ($6.8m/2 yrs) to support the extension of the Yoorrook Justice Commission as the formal truth-telling process with Aboriginal Victorians.
  • EPPC Yuma Yirramboi – Stage 1
    $2.9m in 2024-25 ($8.7m/3 yrs) to continue delivery of the Yuma Yirramboi Strategy, which aims to address economic disparity between Aboriginal communities and the broader community.
  • Implementation of marra ngarrgoo, marra goorri: the Victorian Aboriginal Health, Medical and Wellbeing Research Accord
    $1.1m in 2024-2025 ($4.4m/4 yrs) to support the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation’s (VACCHO) delivery of marra ngarrgoo, marra goorri: the Victorian Aboriginal Health, Medical and Wellbeing Research Accord (the Accord). The Accord aims to improve the ethical standards of health, medical and wellbeing research for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and self-determination.
  • Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands: Strengthening cultural safety and supporting culture and kinship
    $2.6m in 2024-2025 ($10.8m/4 yrs) is provided to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to deliver an expanded Culture and Kinship program, reconnecting young Aboriginal Victorians to their culture, identity, history and spirituality, to improve physical and mental health.
  • Supporting paediatric care through the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service
    $1.0m in 2024-25 ($4.1m/4 yrs) to continue the delivery of paediatric services by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service.
  • Breaking the cycle of homelessness
    $42.3m in 2024-25 ($196.9m/4 yrs) to deliver programs that support people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness. This includes $11.5m to support the implementation of Victoria’s Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework, Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort, which was launched in 2020, and developed by the community for the community.

What’s good

  • More than ever, it’s critical that Victoria continues to advance its own historic process for truth-telling, voice and Treaty. VCOSS is pleased to see further investment into the truth telling work of the Yoorrook Justice Commission through to June 2025, when it is due to conclude its historic inquiry. This is an important part of the pathway to Treaty. It’s vital that the Government fully embraces the recommendations made by Yoorrook and ensures funding for timely implementation.
  • VCOSS welcomes continued investment in the Yuma Yirramboi Strategy, which sets out a long-term, coordinated plan to achieve the economic opportunity, prosperity and parity aspirations and expectations of Aboriginal Victorians. Strong economic participation and development of people and their communities is one of the Closing the Gap outcome areas. This funding in the 2024-25 Budget will help Victoria advance towards the Closing the Gap target of increasing the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people aged 25 – 64 who are employed to 62 per cent by 2031. The Strategy also contributes to Treaty readiness.  

What’s missing

  • The Victorian Government has overlooked the need for urgent infrastructure funding for the Dandenong and District Aborigines Co-operative Ltd (DDACL). In allyship with VACCHO, this was a key health ask in VCOSS’s pre-Budget submission. The DDACL buildings are falling apart. VCOSS continues to stand with the community in calling for fast-tracked government investment in this vital hub for Aboriginal health and wellbeing services.

Victorians with Disabilities

Significant initiatives

Regulation and oversight

  • Disability and Social Services Regulation
    $21.6m in 2024-25 ($39.3m/4 yrs) to support the new independent Social Services Regulator overseeing the social services sector, ensuring services are delivered safely and consistently with the Social Service Standards.
    Funding is continued for the Victorian Disability Worker Commission to perform its statutory functions, including regulatory oversight of disability workers and addressing breaches of the Disability Worker Code of Conduct. Funding is also provided for the functions of the Disability Services Commissioner, which resolves complaints about non-NDIS disability service providers in Victoria.
  • Supporting and safeguarding vulnerable Victorians
    $5.2m in 2024-25 ($15.6m/3 yrs) to continue the Office of the Public Advocate’s (OPA) guardianship, investigation and Independent Third Person programs to support the OPA to promote and safeguard the human rights and interests of Victorians with disability.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, and Support Services

  • Continuing support for Victorians with disability
    $24.0m in 24-25 for a range of supports for people with disability including coordination of mainstream supports for people with complex disability needs:
  • Victorian Disability Advocacy program
    • Supporting Victorians with disability ineligible for the NDIS
    • Autism assessment grants
    • Family Services Specialist Disability Practitioner program
    • Steps to Confident Parenting program
    • Parenting Children with Complex Disability program
    • Supporting children with complex disability and their families to access mainstream supports.
  • Supports for people with disability outside of the NDIS
    $23.1m in 2024-25 for services for people with disability outside of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), including to support delivery of the Home and Community Care Program for Younger People, for people with disability who are not eligible for or who cannot have their needs fully met by the NDIS, and assessments for people seeking to have allied health supports included within their NDIS Plans.
  • Early Childhood Sector Supports and Regulation: Early childhood intervention services for non-permanent residents
    $2.9m in 2024-25 to deliver early childhood intervention services, such as inclusive education and therapy supports, to children with a disability or developmental delay who are not eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) due to their residency status.
  • Additional Support for Students with Disabilities: Students with Disabilities Transport Program
    $32.8m in 2024-25 to continue and expand transport assistance through the Students with Disabilities Transport Program, introducing up to six new services from 2025 to meet growth in demand, to support eligible students to travel to their government specialist school.
  • Additional Support for Students with Disabilities: Accessible Buildings Program
    $7.5m in 2024-25 ($15m/2 yrs) to improve access to school facilities for students with disability and additional needs. Facility modifications may include ramps and handrails, alterations to toilet and shower facilities and adjustments for students with vision or hearing impairments.

What’s good

  • The Victorian Government continues to invest in the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program, and the provision of a further 12 months of boost funding (on top of core funding) is a huge relief for disability advocacy organisations buckling under the weight of demand. This relief is tempered by the fact that it is a temporary reprieve – services are anxious that they will face an uncertain future again in one year’s time.
    VCOSS’s pre-Budget submission highlighted that the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program needs ongoing funding that reflects service demand, unmet need for advocacy in the community, and the true cost of delivering advocacy services to participants who are presenting with increasingly complex needs.
    The Disability Advocacy Resource Unit, auspiced by VCOSS, looks forward to the sector and the Office for Disability finalising a Disability Advocacy Outcomes Framework, as a critical piece of work to help strengthen future investment.
    Disability advocates make Victoria more inclusive, healthier, resilient and safe for people with disabilities and the final reports of the Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review have both highlighted the important role of state disability advocacy programs – of which VDAP is an exemplar. This is a program that the Victorian Government can take great pride in.
  • VCOSS welcomes a continuation of funding for the Family Service Specialist Disability Practitioners and Children with Complex Disability Support Needs Program. These programs play a critical role in supporting around 1,075 families (including 2,150 children) to navigate complex service systems, access the NDIS, and promote the sustainability of care that prevents families from breaking down. We note they are identified in the Budget papers as part of the Victorian Government’s Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF). The EIIF is intended to support the service system to help more Victorians get effective early help before problems escalate. Putting this initiative in the EIIF sends a positive signal about the level of priority that the Victorian Government has accorded to these programs.
  • There is continued funding to support people with disability outside of the NDIS. This remains vitally important in the current complex reform environment, where we are waiting on governments to formally respond to the Disability Royal Commission and NDIS Review recommendations, and determine how foundational supports will be funded and delivered. As both systemic inquiries have found, there is significant work to do to ensure people with disabilities outside of the NDIS don’t fall through the cracks of universal services and other service systems. Future budgets will need to make sufficient provision. Similarly, funding for autism assessments is welcomed, however this also needs to be backed up with ongoing funding for any therapies that may be required after a diagnosis for non-NDIS participants.
  • The Budget makes provision for specialised support for young people with diagnosed disabilities in the youth justice system. We know young people with disabilities are highly vulnerable in these settings, so we welcome this support. But ultimately the Victorian Government needs to address the factors that drive young people with disabilities into the justice system in the first place. Future budgets should invest in upstream wellbeing measures co-designed with the children, young people and their families (see Justice analysis also re justice reinvestment).

What’s missing

  • The Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review have made recommendations that will impact the way that states and territories fund and deliver services for people with disabilities outside the NDIS. We appreciate that Australian governments are grappling with significant complexity. However, the decision to delay formal responses to these systemic inquiries has led to increasing anxiety in the community about future access to support, especially in the context of stretched public and community services. The slowing down of the Mental Health and Best Start Best Life reforms in this Budget has compounded those concerns.
  • In our past two pre-Budget submissions, VCOSS has called for the creation of a Supported Decision Making Service to support decision-making capacity for individuals with cognitive disabilities and respond to referrals from government departments, statutory agencies, and universal services (for example, courts, police, hospitals, education providers and child protection). Without dedicated funding for such services, people with cognitive disabilities who can’t rely on friends or family to provide ‘informal support’ are left at risk of being unable to express their free will and unable to navigate complex systems like healthcare, justice and housing.  We encourage the Victorian Government to engage in a co-design process with potential beneficiaries of this model of support and fund it as an EIIF initiative in the 2025-26 Budget.

LGBTIQA+ Victorians

VCOSS will update this analysis as we undertake further engagement with LGBTIQ+ organisations and hear their perspectives.

Significant initiatives

  • LGBTIQA+ Equality Policy and Programs Equality for LGBTIQA+ communities
    $0.5m in 2024-25 ($3m/4 yrs) to deliver policies and programs directed to supporting equality and improving outcomes for LGBTIQA+ communities.
  • Housing Assistance: Breaking the cycle of homelessness
    $42.3m in 2024-25 ($196.9m/4 yrs) to deliver vital programs that support people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness, including Pride in Place, an innovative program partnering LGBTIQA+ and homelessness services to provide specialist support to LGBTIQA+ Victorians experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • Community Health Care: Trans and gender-diverse healthcare
    $0.5m in 2024-25 ($2m/4 yrs) to continue to deliver access to trans and gender diverse health services including therapy, trans and gender-diverse peer navigators, and medical treatment where appropriate in Melbourne and regional Victoria and operate two multidisciplinary gender affirming care clinics.

What’s good

  • VCOSS was pleased to see that, following on from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, there are a number of initiatives in mental health that support the LGBTIQA+ community, including investment in statewide community mental health programs that provide specialist support to cohorts experiencing mental ill health, including LGBTIQA+ people and their families across regional Victoria. There is continued funding for Drummond Street Services Q-Space LGBTIQA+ Family Counselling service (a portion of $2.8m in 2024-25) and suicide prevention initiatives to continue to provide responsive care for groups disproportionately impacted by suicide (a portion of $3.8m in 2024-25).

What’s missing

  • Across almost every measure of health and wellbeing, LGBTIQ+ people fare significantly worse than non-LGBTIQ+ people – not because of their LGBTIQ+ status but because of the stigma and discrimination that many LGBTIQ+ people encounter. Future budgets need to keep strengthening the investment in LGBTIQ+ community-controlled and user-led health and wellbeing services, as well as ensuring access to safe and inclusive services in mainstream settings.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Victorians

Significant initiatives

  • Victorian African Communities Action Plan
    $4.7m in 2024-25 ($17.2m/4 yrs) to support the implementation of initiatives under the Victorian African Communities Action plan, including programs supporting educational attainment, employment, health, wellbeing and social participation amongst Victorians of African heritage.
  • Support for newly arrived migrant communities
    $1.4m in 2024-25 ($4.4m/4 yrs) for continued support for newly-arrived migrant communities, including legal support for asylum seekers and temporary visa holders.
  • English as an Additional Language
    $22.6m in 2024-25 ($45.5m/4 yrs) of uplift funding to enable more government school students who do not speak English as their first language to become proficient in English.
  • Strengthening participation of CALD children in early childhood education
    $2m in 2024-25 ($9.4m/3 yrs) to support children and families from culturally and linguistically   diverse backgrounds to access and engage in kindergarten.
  • Community language schools
    $1.9m in 2023-24 ($10.4m/5 yrs) to support the delivery and sustainability of community language schools.

What’s good

  • VCOSS welcomes the continued support for Victoria’s large and growing multicultural communities in this Budget. There is over $77m of investment over the coming years in education-focused initiatives for culturally and linguistically diverse children, young people and families. These programs are important in enabling the wellbeing, social and economic participation and educational attainment of young people from diverse backgrounds, including those who are newly-arrived.
  • The commitment to fund initiatives under the African Communities Action Plan over the next four years is also positive, supporting better outcomes across a range of wellbeing domains for Victorians of African heritage.
  • In addition, the extension of programs, legal support and tailored healthcare for newly-arrived migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in this Budget is critical in continuing to work towards better access and outcomes for these communities.

What’s missing

  • Multicultural organisations across Victoria provide essential support to their communities, including emergency relief, disaster resilience initiatives and strengths-based community engagement. This work has been enabled through funding from programs that are now lapsing such as Strategic Partnerships and Strategic Engagement Coordinators. VCOSS continues to call for a sustainable, equitable funding model for the multicultural sector, enabled through a co-designed multicultural strategy.
  • While this Budget includes a welcome $4m over the next two years for anti-discrimination measures, VCOSS awaits the release of the Anti-Racism strategy, due later this year. Implementation of this strategy will require a larger and more sustained investment than what has been made available in this Budget.

Senior Victorians

Significant initiatives

  • Strengthening public sector residential aged care
    $31.2m in 2024-25 to continue to provide high-quality care and service delivery in public sector residential aged care.

What’s missing

  • While there is an investment of $211m for supporting survivors of family and sexual violence, including funding for secure accommodation options, perpetrator case management and financial counselling (more detail here), we are disappointed that there is no specific investment into Elder Abuse. We are particularly concerned to note that there is no new investment into Senior Rights Victoria which runs the Elder Abuse Hotline. In our pre-Budget submission, we highlighted this service is struggling to meet increased demand, despite the injection of funding last year.

Community Transport

Significant initiatives

  • Regulation of Commercial Passenger Vehicle Services $129.2m in 2024-25
    This output delivers a commercial passenger vehicle industry that is customer-focused, safe, accessible and competitive in metropolitan and regional Victoria through regulating commercial passenger vehicles, booking service providers, and drivers.
    This funding includes the continued delivery of the Multi Purpose Taxi Program for 2024/25 to support increased demand for this program and continue the current MPTP lifting fee paid to drivers for wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAVs) trips.

What’s good

  • The Multi Purpose Taxi Program is an essential service and we are pleased to see its continued funding.

What’s missing

  • Disappointingly, the Budget doesn’t provide new investment in Community Transport. Community transport provides services – either direct transport or support to access public transport – for people who experience transport disadvantage. This will compound already significant challenges the sector is facing with reforms in the aged and disability sector, and perpetuate social isolation for some of the state’s most marginalised and excluded community members.

Carer Support

What’s good

  • While there were no new initiatives targeted specifically to unpaid carers, Carers Victoria has noted that there were some initiatives that indirectly benefit some carers, such as:
    • $6.8m in 2024-25 to expand the Glasses for Kids program to an additional 74,000 Prep to Grade 3 students across 473 government schools
    • $211m in 2024-25 to keep women and children safe and support victim survivors
    • $32.8m in 2024-25 to continue and expand transport assistance through the Students with Disabilities Transport Program
    • $24m in 2024-25 to continue to support for Victorians with disability
    • $25.6m in 2024-25 for support and treatment of eating disorders, including supporting families and carers.

What’s missing

  • VCOSS noted in its pre-Budget submission that greater investment is needed to help reduce carers stress, prevent burnout and ensure caring relationships are sustainable. While investment in carer respite has been sustained, we are disappointed that this Budget did not expand access to carer respite, which enables carers to improve their health and wellbeing outcomes and sustain their own social connections. Maintaining the status quo risks carer burnout and long-term costs on the health system and other government services.

Gender Responsive Budgeting Practices

Significant initiatives

  • Financial Management Amendment (Gender Responsive Budgeting) Bill 2024
    Introduced into Parliament on 7th May 2024. (no budget attached)

What’s good

  • VCOSS has long advocated for gender responsive budgeting to be enshrined into law and the proposed Financial Management Amendment (Gender Responsible Budgeting) Bill 2024  establishes a high level, overarching principle; ensures gendered reporting as part of the Budget; and builds on the existing requirements of the Gender Equality Act 2020 to help ensure that gender is considered as part of key revenue and expenditure decisions. We welcome this move and hope that it is further strengthened and underpinned by the establishment of an independent Gender Equality Budget Group and training on gender impact assessment and gender responsive budgeting.

What’s missing

  • The Victorian Government had already committed $500,000 a year for two years, ending in 2024-25. It will be important to ensure that funding for DTF for this gender responsive budgeting approach is embedded across government policy and programs.

Gender equality and family violence

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

Family violence response

  • Driving down family and sexual violence
    $10.4m in 2024-25 ($41.6m/4 yrs) to continue delivery of the perpetrator case management program with individualised and timely interventions to reduce the risk associated with perpetrators’ use of family violence. This includes responses for diverse cohorts, including Aboriginal communities, as well as the specialised intervention programs for diverse cohorts. The Budget also continues support for research that can inform evidence-based policy and program development for prevention of family violence.
  • Family violence victim survivors supports
    $35.8m in 2024-25 ($72m/2 yrs) to support family violence victim survivors, including:
    • Specialist supports including case management, therapeutic interventions for children and young people, crisis brokerage, and flexible support packages for victim survivors on temporary visas;
    • Safe and secure accommodation including operation of the core and cluster refuges, supported emergency accommodation for families with complex needs, the post-crisis Short-Term Accommodation Response program at Berry Street, and Personal Safety Initiative responses to ensure safety of victim survivors in their own homes;
    • Critical workforce supports including staffing at peak body Sexual Assault Services Victoria, workforce capability building to improve responses to multicultural communities, and training packages for professionals and organisations to better respond to children and young people using family violence or experiencing family violence.
  • Community sector legal support and early intervention services
    $8.7m in 2024-25 ($28.8m/4 yrs) is provided to continue early intervention programs that provide legal assistance for people experiencing hardship. Part of this funding is earmarked for integrated service projects and early intervention Health Justice Partnerships delivered by community legal centres. The Budget papers specify that this will include assisting people experiencing family violence to put in place safety plans and apply for family violence intervention orders, avoiding homelessness; to re-establish plans to resolve financial matters; and to deal with other legal matters.
  • Safer families: Central Information Point service
    $12.0m in 2024-25 ($24.3m/2 yrs) for the continued operation of the statewide Central Information Point, the multi-agency 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.
  • Family violence victim survivors supports
    $1.1m in 2024-25 ($4m/4 yrs) to embed the child and young person-focused practice guidance   and tools into the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) framework.
  • Financial counselling support for victim survivors of family violence
    $1.7m in 2024-25 ($6.8m/4 yrs) to continue delivering financial counselling services to family violence victim survivors facing financial stress.

Gender equality and primary prevention of gendered violence

  • Preventative health support for Victorian women
    $9.1m in 2024-25 ($18.3m/2 yrs) to support 12 women’s health organisations across Victoria to provide preventative health promotion and education to Victorian women, with a particular focus on sexual and reproductive health, cervical cancer screening, chronic illness, family violence and other gendered health promotion initiatives.
  • Women’s leadership and recognition
    $1.8m in 2024-25 to continue programs that promote the participation, leadership and   recognition of women. This includes targeted programs to support women from diverse backgrounds including First Nations women and women of colour to navigate barriers to advancement and leadership, paving the way for systemic and cultural change.
  • Respectful Relationships for children and youth
    $10.4m in 2024-25 ($39.1m/4 yrs) to continue to deliver the Respectful Relationships program to support schools and early childhood educators to promote respectful and positive attitudes and behaviours. The initiative provides training and support to schools to implement respectful relationships education as a core component of the Victorian curriculum. It also includes professional development for early childhood educators to support teaching children how to build healthy relationships, resilience and confidence. Funding is also provided for partnerships with Safe and Equal, Jesuit Social Services and the Pat Cronin Foundation to support delivery.

What’s good

  • The Victorian Government continues to stay the course on tackling the scourge of gendered violence. Crucially – amongst the suite of initiatives – this Budget preserves investment in a raft of specialist family violence programs and services that were facing lapsing funding. However, we note this extended funding is just two years in duration. While we recognise the broader investment context – investments in the 2024-25 Budget bring the state’s total investment in family violence since the Royal Commission to a nation-leading $4bn – ending gendered violence involves long-term systemic and cultural change. It’s challenging for the specialist family violence sector to deliver long-term reform with short-term funding.  
  • Five family violence initiatives in the 2024-25 Budget are located in the Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF). This is significant. The Victorian Government introduced the EIIF in the 2021-22 Budget,becoming the first Australian jurisdiction to embed early intervention into its budget process. The EIIF is intended to support the service system to help more Victorians get effective early help before problems escalate. The prominence of family violence in the EIIF sends a positive and welcome signal about the Government’s genuine commitment to this issue.  Another benefit is that the EIIF provides greater visibility of the projected avoided costs and economic benefits of early intervention in family violence. Cumulatively, the Budget papers project that a five-year investment in family violence initiatives of $167.5m will yield between $115m and $140m in estimated avoided costs over 10 years, and estimate between $60m and $120m in economic benefits. However, one observation about the selected initiatives is that there are some (for example, Respectful Relationships funding) that are reasonably well-established, which we think should move into recurrent funding by departments, creating the space for the EIIF to test and prove emerging models of early intervention in family violence. 
  • Although the exact amount is unknown at this stage, funding has been allocated for research to inform evidence-based policy and program development for prevention of family violence. This new investment is welcome as we know that investing in primary prevention research and initiatives is key to helping stop violence before it begins and providing better support to families and communities.  
  • We are pleased to see an investment in community sector legal support and early intervention services, particularly in the integrated services fund program. There are great examples of how integrating legal and non-legal supports can address service gaps, silos and access issues for people with multiple and complex needs. A wealth of expertise has been building up in the community legal sector and this investment in community legal centres will deliver significant benefits for many Victorians.
  • VCOSS is also pleased to see an investment of $18.3m over two years to further support 12 women’s health services across Victoria to provide preventative health promotion and education to Victorian women. Gender inequity produces unequal access to healthcare and poor health and wellbeing outcomes. These women’s health services not only deliver tailored sexual and reproductive health advice, information and testing to their communities, but – crucially – increase awareness of gendered health needs and drive improvement across the broader health system, alongside LGBTIQ+ health services. Looking ahead, we urge the Victorian Government to lock in boost funding as the new baseline level for the women’s health services and introduce long-term contracts to improve economic security for the women’s health workforce.
  • The Victorian Government has foreshadowed it will have more to say in coming weeks about further measures to prevent family violence, address toxic masculinity, and help make sure women are safe. A new funding package is critical if we are to drive down the high rates of family violence and gender-based violence in our communities.

What’s missing

  • While VCOSS welcomes the $72 million in lapsing funding uplifts for a further two years, we are concerned that this short-term funding does not provide the certainty that frontline specialist family violence services need, particularly as demand for services continues to rise.
  • The $42 million for perpetrator case management only represents an extension of funding. If we are to stop men’s use of violence, we need to invest in frontline services working with men, including investing in evidence-informed practice and programs that support perpetrators to change their behaviour, directing funding to improve the evidence base underpinning perpetrator accountability programs, growing and developing the perpetrator intervention workforce, and investing in suitable housing options for perpetrators.
  • There is no funding for the Sexual Violence Strategy, which was recommended by the Victorian Law Reform Commission, and we note that we are currently waiting on further detail as to whether there is new funding for sexual assault services.
  • VCOSS is disappointed to see that there was no new investment in Seniors Rights Victoria, which is the only integrated legal and advocacy service specialising in elder abuse that covers the whole state. We highlighted in our State Budget Submission that Seniors Rights Victoria was struggling to meet increased demand, despite the injection of funding last year. 
  • While this Budget invests $18.4 million in output initiatives in women’s policy (including economic security, safety, leadership, health and wellbeing), alongside investment of $1.8 million in 2024-25 to continue programs that promote the participation, leadership and recognition of women, VCOSS was hopeful that this Budget would contain significant new investment in gender equality initiatives following the release of Victoria’s gender equality strategy, Our equal state, last August.
  • A missing piece in the women’s leadership space is investment in part-time and co-leadership in the community sector. The community sector is one of the state’s most feminised industries. In our State Budget Submission, we sought investment in a women’s co-leadership pilot initiative, to get more women and gender diverse people into leadership roles in community services, resulting in improved economic security and better career progression.

Justice

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • Community sector legal support and early intervention services
    $8.7m in 2024-25 ($28.8m/4 yrs) is provided to continue early intervention programs that provide legal assistance for people experiencing hardship. Part of this funding is earmarked for integrated service projects and early intervention Health Justice Partnerships delivered by community legal centres. The Budget papers specify that this will include assisting people experiencing family violence to put in place safety plans and apply for family violence intervention orders, avoiding homelessness; to re-establish plans to resolve financial matters; and to deal with other legal matters. The second part of the funding is dedicated to supporting programs delivered by Victorian Legal Aid, including the Help Before Court program that supports people to resolve their matter at their first hearing. Their Independent Family Advocacy and Support program works with parents and primary carers in the early (pre-court) phase of child protection involvement.
  • Youth Crime Prevention and Early Intervention Project
    $1.6m in 2024-25 ($6.6m/4 yrs) is provided to Victoria Police for the continuation and expansion of the Youth Crime Prevention and Early Intervention Project, which aims to reduce rates of reoffending among young people by providing for increased early intervention measures including early referrals to legal and social supports.
  • Supporting the corrections system to improve community safety
    $19.8m in 2024-25 ($52.6m/4 yrs) is provided to support the operation of the corrections system, reduce recidivism and enhance prisoners’ reintegration in the community, including through:
    • Support for women to maintain or develop strong family connections while in custody and help for victim survivors of family violence
    • Culturally safe support programs to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people
    • Programs that improve job prospects for people on community orders and reduce reoffending, including education, training and employment services, and for the Kickstart program to help address substance issues
    • Trauma-informed, gender-responsive supports for women in custody, short-term accommodation and transitional support for men exiting prison.
  • Enhanced Youth Justice bail supervision and support
    $7.9m in 2024-25 ($30.8m/3 yrs) is provided to establish a two-year metropolitan-based pilot to enhance Youth Justice’s capacity to monitor and support young people on bail. The pilot will enable electronic monitoring to be part of bail conditions ordered by a court. The Budget papers state that this funding will also allow more comprehensive supervision of serious and repeat young offenders. Combined with more intensive case management and supports to help this cohort correct their behaviour and re-engage in pro-social activities, this will reduce the risk of further contact with the criminal justice system and improve community safety.  (Note, this language is taken from the Budget papers – it is not VCOSS’s characterisation of this activity.)
  • Continuing to support a safe and stable Youth Justice system
    $8.5m in 2024-25 ($35.3m/4 yrs) is provided to support the operation of the Youth Justice System, including through:
    • Culturally responsive services to support Aboriginal young people in custody
    • Specialised support for young people with diagnosed disabilities
    • Behaviour support specialists and training programs to support Youth Justice staff.
  • Support for newly arrived migrant communities
    $1.4m in 2024-25 ($4.4m/3 yrs) is provided to continue the delivery of programs that provide early support for newly arrived migrant communities. This includes continued funding for Community Hubs Australia and Refugee Legal, which will build community cohesion and extend legal support for asylum seekers and temporary visa holders.
  • Rental Stress Support Package
    $1.2m in 2024-25 ($8m/3 yrs) is provided to organisations delivering support for renters in the private market so that Victorian households facing rental stress can gain access to information and advice, advocacy and legal assistance.

What’s good

  • VCOSS is pleased to see an investment in community sector legal support and early intervention services, particularly in the integrated services fund program. There are great examples that show integrating legal and non-legal supports can address service gaps, silos and access issues for people with multiple and complex needs. A wealth of expertise has been building up in the community legal sector and this investment in community legal centres will deliver significant benefits for many Victorians.
    We understand that this funding includes support for:
    • Four years of funding for eight Health Justice Partnerships and 14 Integrated Services Programs. (This includes the seven Health Justice Partnerships and nine Integrated Services Fund programs administered by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.)
    • Two years of funding for Q+Law (Fitzroy Legal Service)
    • Four years of funding for WEstjustice’s Youth Crime Prevention and Early Intervention Program
      VCOSS welcomes this investment over four years as this will provide increased certainty and access to justice for clients and employment certainty for staff.
  • Four justice initiatives in the 2024-25 Budget are funded through the Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF). This is significant. The community sector has long called for a re-direction of resources in the justice system to prevention and early intervention. The EIIF is intended to support the service system to help more Victorians get effective early help before problems escalate.
    While some of these investments are not as far upstream as the sector has been advocating for, and have not been selected using a justice reinvestment process, VCOSS believes the inclusion of these four initiatives is a positive step. People in the justice system – particularly young people and women – are more likely to have untreated health problems, including mental ill-health, and have experienced homelessness and family violence. Long term, the EIIF has the potential to help us shift resources – at scale – away from prisons and towards local, community-based initiatives that combat disadvantage and steer people away from criminal offending.  
    In the meantime, an immediate benefit of the EIIF is that it is already providing greater visibility of the estimated avoided costs and economic benefits of early intervention. For example, the 2024-25 Budget papers show that the Government projects a five-year investment of $28.8m in funding for community sector legal support and early intervention services (which includes funding for Victoria Legal Aid) will deliver $45m to $50m in estimated avoided costs over 10 years and deliver $20m to $40m in estimated economic benefits.
    This is on top of what our sector already knows are immeasurable social benefits at an individual level, family level, community level and societal level.
  • VCOSS looks forward to seeing more detail about what is in scope for the EIIF initiative that will enhance prisoners’ reintegration in the community, including through support for women to maintain or develop strong family connections while in custody. We note that the cost of phone calls from prison makes it difficult for people who are incarcerated to maintain connection with their families and the outside world. The particular impacts on First Nations people have been highlighted at the Yoorrook Justice Commission. VCOSS strongly supports VACRO’s campaign for the Victorian Government to fully fund phone calls from prison – whether it is through this initiative or another Budget line. Ultimately, it should be a recurrently funded measure.
  • The community legal sector plays a crucial role in helping renters to assert their rights. VCOSS is pleased to see the Renter Stress Support Package bolsters the capacity of seven Community Legal Centres – Justice Connect, Mallee Family Care Community Legal Centre, Tenants Victoria, ARC Justice, Barwon Community Legal Service, Peninsula Community Legal Centre and WEstjustice – to provide legal advice for private renters facing rental stress. This new package was one of eight rental fairness initiatives announced in the Victorian Government’s Housing Statement, released in September 2023. This boost to information, advice, advocacy and legal assistance is timely, necessary and welcome. VCOSS’s recent Renting in Victoria research found the hardship currently facing renters is staggering. Community sector workers told us the renters they support are feeling powerless, confused and insecure. They identified an urgent need to bolster resources for services that support renters to understand and assert their rights, sustain tenancies and prevent homelessness.
  • VCOSS understands that four years of base-level funding has been allocated to the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service’s specialist Balit Ngulu and Baggarrook programs with a commitment for these programs to be made ongoing from the 2027-2028 financial year. Whilst this funding is welcome, we know that increased demand for these programs requires Government to provide a funding boost so that more Aboriginal women, children and young people can access culturally safe legal assistance and representation.  

What’s missing

  • VCOSS does not support the two-year pilot of electronic monitoring of young offenders as part of bail conditions ordered by a court. This trial could see children being subject to monitoring and surveillance without ever being found guilty, and does not address the root causes of justice system involvement. VCOSS believes a smarter Budget investment is to fund the implementation of the Smart Justice for Young People coalition’s Action Plan to End the Overrepresentation of Particular Groups of Young People in the Criminal Justice System, which identifies actions to keep young people healthy, housed, in education and training, and out of the prison system.
    This must be a priority for the next Budget.
    The framework is ready made to set, coordinate and drive investment in actions across government, statutory agencies and government-funded organisations aimed at addressing the criminalising processes and systemic overrepresentation across the justice system and policing, and at providing supports for housing and material needs, health, education, and family wellbeing. The sector is ready to commence work with the Government now, to prepare for the 2025-26 Budget.
  • We acknowledge that the Budget papers specify that the investment in community sector legal support and early intervention services will include assisting people experiencing family violence. This is welcome. But we’re disappointed there’s not a lot more to expand community legal centres’ family violence services. In our pre-Budget submission, we called on the Government to expand the legal services pilot in the Frankston Orange Door to all Victorian Orange Doors, to ensure victim survivors can access legal services as part of a holistic response to family violence.
    We do note that the Victorian Government has foreshadowed it will have more to say in coming weeks about further measures to prevent family violence, address toxic masculinity, and help make sure women are safe, and hope this helps create more capacity in the CLC sector to support victim survivors.
  • We are awaiting further details but understand that funding is unconfirmed for Djirra’s Prison Support Program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in and exiting prison, which will lapse at the end of June 2024.  

Climate and resilience

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • Maintaining water cycle climate action: Becoming net-zero and disaster ready
    $2.9m in 2024-25 ($11.7m/4 yrs) to improve the resilience of the water system and water infrastructure to climate change.
  • Water planning for a resilient and secure future
    $6.4m in 2024-25 ($24.6m/4 yrs) for water planning for a drying climate, including implementing sustainable water strategies and community education around water security.
  • Zero interest loans for solar home batteries
    $6.1m in 2024-25 for Solar Victoria to continue to provide interest-free loans to eligible households to install solar battery storage systems in their homes.
  • Improving Victorian Energy Upgrades
    $2.9m in 2024-25 ($5.9m/2 yrs) for a strategic review to update the Victorian Energy Upgrades (VEU) program to ensure continued alignment with key Victorian Government objectives including electrification, energy affordability, emissions reduction targets, and reliability.
  • Supporting a circular economy
    $5.5m in 2024-25 ($14.8m/4 yrs) to support improvement of Victoria’s waste and recycling systems to achieve Victoria’s circular economy targets.
  • Disaster relief and recovery
    $93.2m in 2024-25 ($299.6m/2 yrs) for relief and recovery initiatives for the 2023-24 floods and storms and the 2024 bushfires and storms. 
  • Reducing the risks of floods in a changing climate
    $9.0m in 2024-25 ($37.5m/4 yrs) to continue implementing floodplain management strategies and to strengthen flood warnings and forecasts. 
  • Emergency management information and warnings systems
    $4.1m in 2024-25 ($9.4m/4 yrs) to upgrade and maintain emergency information systems including the VicEmergency platform.
  • 1800 Recovery Hotline
    $0.9m in 2024-25 ($2.0m/2 yrs) to extend a hotline that assists community members impacted by disasters. 

What’s good

  • VCOSS is pleased this Budget provides funding to back up the Water Cycle Adaptation Action Plan (AAP), one of Victoria’s seven sectoral AAPs. We’ve been calling for funding to implement the AAPs since they were released in 2022. This investment in the Water Cycle AAP will help ensure water remains available for drinking and for the environment, and flood water is able to be managed after storms.
    Funding for the Water Cycle AAP is complemented by other Budget measures that help improve the resilience of the water system (by improving water efficiency across the state, and supporting water use behaviour change and education).
    Victoria will experience increased dryness in coming decades. These initiatives will help Victoria to prepare for the increasing impacts of climate change.
  • Renewable energy is a critical part of the path towards net-zero emissions. Victoria has a legislated renewable energy target of 95 per cent renewable energy generation by 2035. The continued investments in renewable energy will help Victoria reduce its climate pollution. More detailed analysis is provided here.
  • A circular economy continually seeks to reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption. Continued investment in Victoria’s circular economy means more resources will be recycled and saved from going to landfill, which would contribute to climate pollution. The Budget also includes funding for charities in Victoria that are involved in reuse and recycling to deal with illegal waste dumping.
  • Continued investment in the Resource Smart Schools program will help to embed sustainable behaviours in schools. This program is supported by Sustainability Victoria, which reports that, since 2008, more than 1,600 schools have participated in the program. Together, they have planted 5.2 million trees; saved more than 74,000 tonnes CO2e greenhouse gas emissions; diverted 168,000 cubic metres of waste from landfill; saved 1.8 million kilolitres of water; and saved more than $60 million on bills.
  • A rich body of research – including lived and living experience insights from the 2022 Maribyrnong Floods – highlights the importance of empowering communities with information in the context of disasters and emergencies. VCOSS welcomes funding to improve the accessibility of the VicEmergency platform by investing in upgrades that will help people understand advice and warnings about extreme weather events.
  • The 1800 Recovery Hotline is being extended for an additional 12 months. The calls are answered by trauma-informed staff who help disaster-affected people access services and payments. It can take years for communities to get back on their feet after a disaster, so this extension is welcome and necessary.
  • The Budget will support the health, wellbeing and safety of volunteers for Victorian State Emergency Services who are on the frontline during extreme weather events.

What’s missing

  • Apart from the investment in the Water Cycle Adaptation Action Plan, and complementary water resilience measures, the Budget stays largely silent on how Victoria will continually adapt to climate change, particularly with a focus on those with the least capacity to adapt on their own. Victoria’s Adaptation Action Plans (AAPs) are an important part of Victoria’s plan to respond to climate change. However, since the release of the first round of AAPs in 2022, little funding has been made available to implement these plans.
  • VCOSS remains concerned about the disproportionate impacts of a changing climate on low-income Victorians, renters and other vulnerable cohorts. These groups must not be left behind in the transition to net-zero. Victoria needs to develop and implement a plan to keep people safe during heatwaves, and to increase green space in areas of Victoria with a higher proportion of people experiencing disadvantage. Refer also to our analysis of Budget measures in the energy space.
  • Meaningful investment to fix, expand and green Victoria’s bus networks would help reduce climate pollution from transport while making travel quicker and easier. Investments in this year’s Budget for buses fall short, focusing on improving connection points in a small number of areas rather than expanding bus networks for the benefit of more people.
  • The Budget invests a welcome $300m in disaster relief and recovery but it is unclear if it includes funding to extend the community services stood up after the 2022 floods. It can take years for communities to get back on their feet after a disaster and many flood-affected families are still relying on these services. VCOSS is seeking further information about this substantial package of funding and will provide updates to the community sector when this information comes to hand.
  • VCOSS has been strongly advocating for an ongoing disaster resilience workforce, embedded in the community health sector, and is disappointed that the 2024-25 Budget did not deliver the necessary investment.
    Many people living in country Victoria have experienced multiple disasters since 2019, and this trend is set to continue with the impact of climate change. Communities are yet to rebuild their lives and recover from the long-term impacts of trauma and devastation from one disaster, only to find their lives turned upside down again as they face the next. Despite the number of disasters that occur, the recovery response starts from scratch every time. This is inefficient and compounds stress and trauma.
    Looking ahead, the Victorian Government should recalibrate the reactive nature of emergency funding and invest in an ongoing and integrated disaster resilience workforce in the community sector. As part of this, funding should be directed to registered independent regional and rural community health services to deliver the Community Recovery and Resilience model, which includes the internationally-recognised Disaster Recovery Star, a tool developed by Gippsland Lakes Complete Health to support and measure recovery after a disaster.
  • The Budget invests an additional $1.9m for temporary accommodation for communities affected by the 2022 floods and 2024 bushfires and storms but there is a missed opportunity to think ahead and address the housing needs that will be created by future disasters. Eighty-two modular homes were purchased after the Black Summer bushfires and this fleet should be expanded.

Valuing the community sector

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • Disability and Social Services Regulation
    $21.6m in 2024-25 ($39.3m/4 yrs) to support the new independent Social Services Regulator, which will commence on 1 July 2024.
  • Growing the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Locals workforce
    $3.1m in 2024-25 ($15.8m/3 yrs) to establish a new worker pipeline for clinical and wellbeing graduates to support workforce demands in each Mental Health and Wellbeing Local service.

What’s good

  • VCOSS welcomes the announcement of funding to enable the Social Services Regulator to be effective, responsive, and to support regulated providers during the establishment phase. VCOSS will continue to support the community sector throughout this transition and notes that the disability advocacy sector and Disabled Persons Organisations seek further engagement with the Victorian Government on elements of this reform that relate to disability regulation.
  • VCOSS is pleased to see an investment of $1.8m in 2024-25 (7.6m/4 yrs) to continue the waste levy grants rebate program for the charitable recycling sector, including community organisations who operate op shops, to help cover costs arising from illegal dumping. This funding supports both the circular economy and the community sector, as waste management costs use resources that could otherwise be directed to cover staffing and other initiatives of charitable organisations engaged in recycling.

What’s missing

  • The 2024-25 State Budget did not address cost pressures impacting community service organisations as a result of increases to the superannuation guarantee, portable long service leave contributions and higher WorkCover premiums. Funding for the community sector should reflect the full cost of delivering services, which includes these rising workforce-related costs.
  • Regulatory reforms and new compliance obligations are adding to the sector’s operating costs. VCOSS’s pre-Budget submission called for specific funding to support service providers with compliance costs arising from the new Social Services Regulations and Fair Jobs Code. This should include funding to cover the costs of upskilling and supporting staff and upgrades to systems and policies needed to comply with new social service standards and regulatory requirements.
  • The Victorian Government has cited workforce shortages as a key economic challenge and the reason for slowing down the rollout of flagship social reforms such as the Best Start Best Life early childhood reforms and the Mental Health Wellbeing Locals. To this end, funding to deliver a pipeline of clinical and wellbeing graduates to each newly-established Mental Health and Wellbeing Local is welcome. However, these mental health workforce challenges need to be located in a broader healthcare and social care workforce context. Victoria needs a strategic, holistic and funded workforce plan to solve these broader challenges. Key workforce challenges for the community sector include a lack of long-term, secure funding which creates barriers to attracting and retaining staff; challenges with the new worker pipeline (for example, the impact of unpaid student placements on course completions); and a decline in volunteering. The sector also needs a detailed and industry-wide dataset to model demand, guide workforce planning and support collaborative practices among service providers and with government. Workforce shortages in the community sector are particularly urgent due to the levels of disadvantage and vulnerability experienced by people who rely on the support of social services.
  • VCOSS welcomes a further year of funding ($1.8m in 2024-25) to continue leadership and mentorship programs to support women, including women from diverse backgrounds, to gain leadership positions and advance their careers, paving the way for systemic and cultural change, as part of Our Equal State: Victoria’s gender equality strategy and action plan 2023-2027. Looking ahead, we’d like to see this investment stretch into the community services sector. The community services workforce is female dominated, yet women are under-represented in senior positions. One constraint is the lack of part-time leadership or co-leadership roles. These forms of shared leadership are not widely adopted in community services, and employers don’t have the resources to build organisational or individual capacity – unlike the school sector, which has been allocated funding in this Budget to support flexible job-sharing arrangements for leaders in government schools. Our pre-Budget submission proposed support for VCOSS and Gender Equity Victoria to design and deliver a women’s co-leadership pilot to get more women and gender diverse people into leadership roles. Having more diverse senior leadership would enhance the sector’s performance and impact.
  • A lack of affordable housing for community sector workers is contributing to workforce shortages. VCOSS’s pre-Budget submission called on the Victorian Government to recognise community sector workers as key workers and establish a dedicated affordable housing program. This would help organisations to attract, recruit and retain staff, particularly in regional and rural areas.
  • While VCOSS welcomes funding to support the health, wellbeing and safety of volunteers for Victorian State Emergency Services, there is no specific funding to support place-based volunteering infrastructure or implement the Government’s Victorian Volunteer Strategy 2022–2027.

Raising revenue fairly in tough times

Read a PDF version here.

Significant initiatives

  • Standalone land tax exemption for social and emergency housing
    This cost-neutral measure formalises an existing arrangement, clarifying that owners of land that is used to provide social and emergency housing are not liable to pay land tax.
  • Return Fire Services Property Levy collections to statutory parameters
    Expected to raise $166.3m in 2024-25 ($590.5m/4 yrs) by bringing the revenue collected through the Fire Services Property Levy back up to statutory levels. Funds raised through this levy go towards supporting the state’s fire services.
  • Harmonise the waste levy with NSW and South Australia
    Expected to raise $143m in 2025-26 when the measure takes effect ($423m/3 yrs) by increasing the levy rate for metropolitan industrial and municipal landfills. Funds raised will first be distributed to the Environment Protection Authority, Sustainability Victoria and Recycling Victoria, with the remainder used to support programs in climate change action and waste reduction.

What’s good

  • The land tax exemption for social and emergency housing is a positive step towards establishing the right system settings for building more social housing – an urgent priority for Victoria. But more Victorian Government funding will be required to build our state out of the housing crisis. We need at least 60,000 new public and community housing properties built over the next decade.  
  • The increase to the waste levy may have the added benefit of encouraging greater investment into resource recovery and recycling. This is a helpful incentive as Victoria needs to move towards a circular economy.

What’s missing

  • Governments must raise adequate revenue to deliver social services, invest in our education, health and justice systems, and perform other core government functions that ensure the wellbeing of all Victorians – now and into the future. In our pre-Budget submission, VCOSS said the Victorian Government should not be restrained in considering new taxes, levies and other revenue mechanisms to invest in services essential for the community’s wellbeing. We noted these would need to be designed fairly, so the burden falls on high-income earners and people with significant assets or investments. Appropriate exemptions or discounts would need to be created for people on low incomes or with an inability to pay.
    In this Budget, the Government has reached for low-hanging fruit in the revenue space. Looking ahead to 2025-26, we encourage the Government to consider equitable, targeted measures that raise much-needed funding from areas of society that benefit the most from Victoria’s growing economy.
  • There are still some revenue measures that unfairly burden those who can least afford to pay. One example is fines. A proportional fines system would be fairer and mean lower-income Victorians pay less and higher-income Victorians pay more in dollar terms for the same offence. The standard $288 fine for not having a valid ticket on public transport may be annoying to a high-income earner, but it will absolutely upend the household budget of somebody on a low income, forcing them to cut back on food, medicine or energy. (The underlying reasons why people receive or attract fines also need to be addressed – including homelessness, racial profiling and other forms of discrimination – and this continues to be a focus of VCOSS’s advocacy.)

VCOSS acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country. We pay respect to Elders past and present, and to emerging leaders. Our business is conducted our business on sovereign, unceded Aboriginal land.