Major Investment in the COVID-19 Recovery for Young People

The Victorian State Budget released yesterday sets out the first major steps of the Victorian Government towards a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic impact of the pandemic will be the biggest in nearly a century. Premier Daniel Andrews said that this budget will ‘not just repair the damage but allow us to be stronger than we’ve ever been’.

The recovery must provide dedicated support for young people, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and will continue to face rising unemployment, declining mental health and unprecedented interruptions to their education and lives into the future. The Budget includes major investments in employment, mental health, housing, education and infrastructure.

YACVic’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan for Young People outlines crucial investments essential to support the long term recovery for young people, many of which have been addressed by this budget.

Employment for Young People

The Victorian Government has announced a Jobs Plan with a target to create 200,000 new jobs by 2022 and 400,000 new jobs by 2025 across the whole community. The Jobs Plan acknowledges that young people and women have been hardest hit during the pandemic, and introduces tax and other incentives to create jobs, provide targeted support, training and new pathways.

  • $836 million for a New Jobs Tax Credit to encourage small and medium businesses to employ staff and increase hours.
  • $619 million for the Jobs for Victoria initiative to provide targeted employment support for those most affected by the pandemic, including young people and women. This includes $150 million of wage subsidies to support businesses to specifically hire women.
  • $155 million to provide subsidised and free training specifically for young people, women, refugees and migrants, and retrenched workers.
  • $33 million to support the employment and training of up to 1,500 apprentices and trainees on government infrastructure projects.
  • $34.3 million for multicultural communities, which will include employment of 50 Community Employment Connectors to support multicultural communities onto employment pathway services, and 60 multicultural infrastructure, social cohesion and place-based projects.
  • $16.6 million for pathways to employment in child and family services $12.7 million for mental health services, including vacation internships, financial support for undergraduates, traineeships and part-time work during study.
  • $10.3 million to increase workforce supply in digital occupations, including targeted graduate placements to improve employment pathways into digital occupations for young people.
  • $4 million to better leverage the government procurement spend to create employment and training opportunities for those most disadvantaged during the pandemic, in particular women and young people.
  • $318.5 million for regional tourism, including events, upgrades to a range of tourist attractions and locations, incentives to increase visitation, and projects to leverage private sector investment to develop new attractions. This will create jobs for young people right across rural and regional areas.

A long-term recovery for young people will require the Victoria Government to take another step beyond this budget and create a comprehensive Youth Employment Plan. There is an urgent need to support more than 100,000 young people who have lost their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic, and more than 20,000 young people who will graduate from school into the workforce each year.

Mental Health

The State Budget includes a significant investment in mental health initiatives for young people, following the interim recommendations from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

  • $47.8 million to provide dedicated early intervention support for young people.
  • $21.4 million to complete the state-wide expansion of the Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal Engagement (HOPE) service which will support young people and families.
  • $16 million for a lived experience (peer) workforce, including training and opportunities for employment.
  • $7 million to support research for youth mental health at Orygen.

The next phase of investments in youth mental health will come early next year when the final report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System is released, and work begins on building a new mental health system for Victoria.


Young people’s education at school, TAFE and university has been dramatically disrupted by the pandemic. While learning from home worked for some, many young people were left behind. This Budget invests heavily in supporting young people in primary, secondary and tertiary education.

  • $219.9 million to pay for tutors to run small group learning support for students who need it, including funding for more Koorie Engagement workers and Multicultural Education Aides.
  • $116.3 million to build 100 new schools across the state by 2026.
  • $24.5 million to allow students and government schools to keep their school-owned computers and devices where this will help their education.
  • $15.5 million for programs that accelerate the training and employment of teachers into schools and early childhood services with a focus on rural and regional areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers.

Access and Inclusion

The COVID-19 Pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities and excluded many young people from education, work and the community. The State Budget includes a significant investment in inclusive education, ensuring marginalised students are able to thrive in the education system.

  • $1.6 billion invested through a new Disability Inclusion package, that will double the number of students supported in the classroom to 55,000.
  • $102.8 million included in the Disability Inclusion Package to provide more resources and training to school staff to deliver inclusive education. This will include 100 extra on-the-ground staff in schools to support program implementation.
  • $525.9 million for the Digital Future Now initiative, which includes upgrades to broadband and mobile access across the state, an urban technology hub, digital short courses and industry internships. This will begin to close the digital gap for young people in rural and regional areas.
  • $37.5 million to continue the Respectful Relationships in schools to promote respect, positive attitudes and behaviours.
  • $1.4 million to deliver an Anti-Racism Strategy to address the increase in race- and faith-based discrimination.


The pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of having a safe and secure place to live. This budget commits to a Big Housing Build for social housing, and a landmark investment in support for young people in out of home care, both of which will support a significant number of young people at risk of homelessness.  

  • $5.3 billion to build 12,000 new homes throughout Victoria including 9,300 new social housing properties, replacing 1,100 old social housing dwellings. Funding will also develop 2,900 mainly affordable housing dwellings. This is a very significant step towards reducing the waiting list for social housing in Victoria.
  • $75.1 million over four years for the universal expansion of the Home Stretch initiative which ensures continued support for young people in care until they turn 21. This is a landmark investment which will significantly change the lives and futures of young people in care.

The Big Housing Build must involve young people in the design of the new social housing so that it meets their unique needs. This should be coupled with efforts to address the systemic barriers that prevent young people from accessing social housing, and stronger intervention in the private housing market to make sure every young person has access to a safe, secure and affordable place to live.

Youth Sector

Youth workers play a vital role in engaging and supporting young people, building their strengths and identifying issues early. This budget recognises the importance of youth work programs for marginalised young people and continues investment in community-led projects. The pandemic means that more young people are seeking support than ever before, including young people who have never engaged with services.

  • $28.5 million to expand existing supports for the wellbeing and mental health of students, including the Navigator program, LOOKOUT, Headspace mental health training, and the mental health practitioners in secondary schools program.
  • $3.8 million to continue the Latrobe Youth Space projects and services, the Regional Presence Project in Warrnambool, Swan Hill, Morwell and Ballarat, the Le Mana Pasifika Youth Project in Melbourne’s south-east and west, and the Marram Nganyin Aboriginal Youth Mentoring Project at five Aboriginal organisations across the state.
  • $7.7 million to continue six community-led Community Support Groups which provide culturally specific early intervention for young people and meet increased demand for certain groups.

The Government should commit more long-term funding to a range of community-based generalist and targeted youth work programs, to meet existing and projected increases in demand for services over the next decade. Such an investment in prevention and early intervention youth work would allow young people’s issues to be identified and addressed early, rather than spiralling out of control and costing more in the long run.

Youth Justice

The budget includes new targets and ongoing funding to continue programs that support young people involved in the justice system. New performance measures provide a commitment from the Victorian Government to reduce the number of children and young people in custody, and to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.

  • A new target to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander children and young people in custody.
  • $1.5 million to establish and expand Aboriginal community-led programs that reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the youth justice system.
  • $1.2 million to continue the Embedded Youth Outreach Program in the existing pilot locations of Werribee and Dandenong, where police officers and youth workers are paired to provide assessment, initial support and referral for marginalised young people.
  • $29.6 million to improve the youth justice system, including initiatives to create a more diverse, capable, safe and stable workforce.

The new targets are a significant step that will reduce the number of children and young people in custody. The Victorian Government could act further on these targets by raising the age of criminal responsibility.  

Climate Change

The Victorian Government has included some funding to address climate change, reduce emissions and protect the environment from the impacts of climate change. This builds on the state commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

  • $540 million to establish six Renewable Energy Zones which will help prepare the electricity grid for future renewable projects.
  • $223.9 million to improve the health of regional waterways and catchments and to protect them from the impact of climate change.
  • $20.7 million to support emissions reduction, innovation and climate change adaptation.