The Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic) has welcomed the Victorian Government’s commitment to deliver a stronger, inclusive education system and targeted support for young people escaping family violence.
"This is a strong budget which delivers on the Andrews Government’s promises to build Victoria into the Education State and take a powerful lead in preventing and ending violence in the home," said YACVic CEO Georgie Ferrari.
The Andrews Government has distinguished itself with unprecedented commitments in response to the recommendations of the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence. The initial $572 million funding boost over two years includes significant increases in housing and specialist supports for women and children escaping violence, $25.7 million to prevent and address violence in Aboriginal communities, and $10.4 million to build the capacity of support workers to respond to family violence.
"We were especially pleased by the Government’s commitment of $21.9 million over two years for respectful relationships education," Ms Ferrari commented. "Young people can be very vulnerable to family and relationship violence, and they often receive harmful messages about what sort of behaviour is OK. But intervening early to promote gender equality and positive ways of relating to each other can have a tremendous impact."
Through the Roadmap for Reform, the Victorian Government has made significant new commitments to child protection; items in the 2016-17 budget include $35.9 million to improve the safety of children and young people in residential care, $8.5 million for long-term therapeutic support and sexual assault counselling for children exposed to family violence, and $16.2 million to strengthen the cultural connections and identity of Aboriginal children and young people in care.
Also welcome was the Victorian Government’s commitment of half a million dollars in 2016-17 for family violence prevention initiatives targeted at adolescent young people, and an undertaking to extend the Sexually Abusive Behaviours Treatment program which works to change the behaviour of adolescent offenders. These undertakings are in line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
Meanwhile, YACVic welcomed the Victorian Government’s very significant commitments to building and upgrading schools, with a particular focus on those in the worst condition and rural and regional schools. Key undertakings include $185 million over four years for the construction of new schools, funding for 10 new Tech Schools around the state, and $43.8 million for the Doctors in Secondary School program.
"We know that many young people are reluctant to seek help for health problems, especially as regards their mental and sexual health," Ms Ferrari commented. "Having a familiar, youth-friendly professional within their own school would be a great help."
Another way the budget commits to a safer, more cohesive community is through a two-year $5.6 million commitment to a youth diversion program through the Children’s Court (building on the successful work of the Jesuit Social Services’ Youth Diversion Pilot Program), and over $1 million over two years to expand the Youth Justice Bail Supervision program.
"The earlier we can divert young people away from crime, reconnect them with schooling, and link them to programs which address their behaviour, the less likely it is that they will end up in the justice system as adults," Ms Ferrari said.
Young Aboriginal people, especially those at risk of involvement in the justice system, will also be helped to reconnect with education, culture and community through a new Aboriginal Youth Mentoring Program ($875,00 for 2016-17).
"YACVic is proud to work closely with the Koori Youth Council, and we welcome the government’s commitment to expanding their support to Aboriginal young people to take part in decision-making and build their leadership skills," Ms Ferrari said.
YACVic also welcomed the Victorian Government’s undertaking of an additional $1.15 million to expand the HEY project, which works to strengthen the mental health of young people who are same sex attracted and sex/gender diverse. YACVic has been proud to play a leading role in this work.
Other commitments in the 2016-17 budget included:
- $45.3 million over the next four years to fund 398 packages for school leavers with a disability.
- $4.5 million over three years for the 40-bed Education First Youth Foyer at Kangan Institute in Broadmeadows to assist young people at risk of homelessness to continue their education.
- Delivery of the promised $59 million over three years to rebuild Orygen Youth Mental Health.
- A grant to the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre to develop a youth suicide prevention app, to link vulnerable young Victorians to support and help them develop a safety plan.