What the budget means for young people

This year’s federal budget makes some welcome commitments to youth mental health, vocational education, and young carers. But the big picture remains unchanged: young Australians are being left behind.

We have no national strategy to address the critical issues of youth unemployment, housing and wellbeing, no Minister for Youth, and no voice for young people into federal government.

Young people deserve a voice

We welcome the budget’s commitment to amplifying young people’s voices about mental health, evident in $2.8 million funding to batyr for an online platform for young people’s stories, and the confirmation of funding to headspace’s Young Ambassadors Program.

However, beyond that, this federal government continues to shut young people out of the big decisions that affect their lives.

That’s why YACVic has been calling upon all candidates in the 2019 federal election to support the introduction of a federal Minister for Youth, a federal youth engagement mechanism to give young people a direct voice into government, a national peak body for young people, reinstatement of federal funding to National Youth Week, and a national strategy for youth affairs.

Support our call and send this letter of support to your local candidate.

Mental Health – positive promises, but a long way to go

Young people have made it clear: they consider mental health the most important issue affecting Australia today, and it’s one of their greatest personal concerns. So, we were pleased to see the federal budget commit to further investment in this space – notably:

  • $152 million over seven years for headspace centres to deal with unmet demand
  • $111.3 million over seven years for 10 new headspace centres and 20 new headspace satellites
  • $5 million ‘for young Indigenous leaders to participate in place-based cultural programs’

However, key areas of need continue to go unmet. The headspace model, while valued, was not designed to support young people in crisis, or young people living with serious and complex mental health issues. And the distress and injustice experienced by many Aboriginal Australians needs far greater commitment than the $15 million set aside for Indigenous Suicide Prevention.

We acknowledge that the budget confirms funding already pledged for the Early Psychosis Youth Service, which operates out of headspaces in Bentleigh, Frankston, Dandenong and Narre Warren. However, this funding, while welcome, is not new, and cannot meet the demand in rural areas especially.

The budget also made a positive undertaking to establish four new residential eating disorders centres. We await news of the locations, and hope they might help address unmet need in rural, regional, and interface Victorian communities.

Young carers recognised

The 2019 budget makes a welcome commitment of an extra $84.3 million over four years for the Integrated Carer Support Service. The aim is to support young carers in their education, and expand the Regional Delivery Partners network, which provides outreach activities, peer support, and coaching.

Meaningful careers for young people – still missing the big picture

The budget confirmed some welcome investment in vocational education and training, including funding for 80,000 additional apprentices over five years in industries experiencing skills shortage, as well as incentive payments for employers and apprentices.

We also note the establishment of a National Skills Commission, and the pledge to pilot ‘training hubs’ in ten regional areas with high youth unemployment. We hope the latter initiative will be developed in close consultation with local communities, schools, and LLENs.

However, with youth unemployment in Victoria at 8.8% and entry-level jobs vanishing, a broader strategic and cross-government approach is needed.

Young people on Newstart neglected

We were deeply disappointed to see that once again the pitiful Newstart payment has not shifted. Newstart recipients, struggling by on $40 a day, were even denied the $75 one-off payment for pensioners. YACVic supports the campaign to 'Raise the Rate' for Newstart and related payments by $75 a week.

Alcohol and other drugs

The 2019 budget confirmed the undertaking made in 2018 to an additional $337.2 million over five years to support the National Drug Strategy 2017-2026.

There are some welcome undertakings here, including $9.6 million over three years to increase AOD workers in regional and remote Australia.

However, the strategy is tilted heavily towards law enforcement, and contains comparatively little in the way of prevention, early intervention or treatment options for Victorians.

Disability – possibility and shortfall

YACVic welcomed the announcement of $528 million for a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect And Exploitation of People with Disability. We trust this Commission will listen to the direct voices and perspectives of young people with disability (not only their families and carers), and will take meaningful action in response.

More concerning was the news that there has been a major underspend on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is vital that the supports provided to young people through the NDIS are adequate and appropriate to their needs, and support young people to make the big decisions about their own lives.

What else was missing?

YACVic remains concerned that a number of other issues were ignored in the 2019 federal budget.

  • Renting affordability remains at an all-time high, with only 0.01% of rental listings being affordable to young people on Newstart
  • Despite the massive School Strike 4 Climate, there was a lack of funding commitment to action on climate change
  • No funding for a national peak body for young people which would independently voice and represent the experiences and concerns for all young Australians

At a time of tremendous change, we need a vision which empowers young people to build Australia’s future.

Unfortunately, this budget was not that vision.

We need a national vision for young people and we need it now.

Support YACVic's call for all federal candidates to commit to giving young people a voice in federal government.