I had no expectations for this year’s Federal Budget. 

We’re in a housing crisis, cost of living is at an all-time high, and there’s a lack of adequate support for young people like myself. But, the government gave me a glimmer of hope.

Student debt and placements

I’m from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, where education is seen as very important. I was encouraged to go to university, which led me to complete a Bachelor of Health Science. Now, I’m studying a Master of Occupational Therapy, but this path has left me with a significant HECS debt.

The government’s change to wiping around $3 billion from student HECS debts is a win for young people. This means that for example, a student with an average HECS debt of about $26,000 will have it reduced by about $1200.

As young people, we’ve been campaigning for paid practical placement for a long time and the government finally started to listen. The Commonwealth Prac Payment will offer $319.50 per week to students of teaching, nursing, midwifery, and social work during their placements. This is great news for students studying those courses. 

However, there are thousands of students, like myself, who are studying health courses such as paramedicine and physiotherapy, who will be missing out. With all our hours dedicated to unpaid placement, there’s little time left for paid work. It is incredibly challenging to manage both. 

I still have hope that in the upcoming years, the government will expand the payment for other health courses unpaid placements. 

Mental health

Another win for young people is $588.5 million for a free digital mental health service that needs no referral. Many young people find it hard to get help for mental health because we are afraid of going to the specialists, worried about the cost and this can lead to suffering in silence. This service will make it easier for us to access mental health support. 

Despite the push for 20 sessions for mental health to be covered by Medicare, like we had during COVID-19, it remains at 10. This is disappointing to see, as so many young people with complex mental health issues desperately need these extra sessions.

Domestic violence and healthcare

The government is giving $5,000 to women who flee from violent relationships and access to more support services. This is a great first step. 

Those with complex gynaecology conditions like endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain or PCOS will get longer specialist consultations (45+ mins) under Medicare starting July 2025. 

So many women that I know suffer from these conditions and find it hard to get the care that they need. I know that they will be relieved to see these changes. 

Cost of living

The $300 energy bill payment for each household and the slight increase in Rental Assistance is a welcome change. However, it is still not enough to ease the cost of living pressures.

People are still struggling to cover bills and rent, with the rate of Youth Allowance and JobSeeker still sitting below the poverty line. 

This federal budget had some pleasant surprises, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. As a young person, I’ll continue to advocate for better outcomes for us. We deserve more.

Sumaya has a background in public health and is currently studying a Masters of Occupational Therapy. She is passionate about working with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in accessing care. 

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