“But as a young person who’s grown accustomed to feeling overlooked and undervalued by those in power, it’s hard not to feel a sense of apathy towards yet another round of budget announcements that fall short on our real needs.”

–Ally Ahmad

As a young person living in Victoria, I’ve always been excited to move out and experience a newfound sense of independence. But as I scrolled through the headlines of the latest state budget announcements for the 2024-25 financial year, that dream felt further out of reach than ever before.

Instead of feeling excited or hopeful, I couldn’t shake the feeling of ‘meh’ that seemed to wash over me.

It’s a feeling that many others might relate to. Disillusionment and frustration with the seemingly endless cycle of promises and disappointments when it comes to the needs of young people in our state.

Sure, there were some positive aspects of the budget. Increased funding for mental health, steps towards addressing homelessness, and renewable energy projects are all good efforts.

But when you look closer, there are clearly still so many gaps.

As a student currently undertaking an unpaid placement, I was hoping for relief in the ever-increasing cost of living. But the budget disappointed in crucial areas like affordable housing and transportation.

There was a one-off $400 payment for some school parents. This gesture merely scratches the surface of the challenges facing young people.

Rising rents and utility expenses remain ignored, while many young Victorians struggle to make ends meet.

While the $700 million allocation to extend the Victorian Homebuyer Fund assists homebuyers, the absence of rental support was glaring.

Rental affordability is a pressing issue for many young people. You see, like many young Victorians, I've been grappling with the harsh reality of our rental market for far too long. With sky-high rents, fierce competition, and a lack of affordable options, moving out feels like an impossible dream.

It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve scoured rental listings, attended inspections, and submitted countless applications, only to be met with rejection after rejection.

I’ve had conversations with friends who have had similar experiences. Many young people’s harsh reality involves choosing between groceries or rent.

This should never be a one-or-the-other situation. Immediate assistance for young renters should’ve been a priority. Yet the budget lacked meaningful support for those in such dire circumstances.

And it’s not just the cost of rent that's the problem. Even if I were able to scrape together enough money for a bond and rent in advance, there’s still the issue of unstable work and income.

As someone who’s juggled multiple part-time jobs and casual gigs just to make ends meet, the idea of committing to a long-term lease feels like a gamble I’m not willing to take.

But perhaps the most frustrating part of it all is the hopelessness of knowing that even if I did find a place, I’d be living paycheck to paycheck just to keep that roof over my head.

With wages stagnating and the cost of living continuing to rise, the dream of moving out and independence feels more like a pipe dream than a tangible goal.

Top of house, with solar panels on roof

On a positive note, there were some small wins in this year’s budget that I recognise. There are encouraging steps for climate change, with increased investments in solar, hot water, and battery storage.

While there is still much work to be done, this signals progress towards a more sustainable future.

The budget also demonstrated a focus on healthcare, particularly for eating disorder treatments. This is crucial for addressing the mental health challenges faced by many young people.

Suicide prevention funding is a welcome development, as mental health issues continue to disproportionately impact young people, LGBTIQA+ individuals, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The budget delays some larger infrastructure projects, like the Airport rail line and the Upfield train line level crossing removal. I believe the government needs to make these sorts of decisions to prioritise pressing issues like climate change, housing affordability and family violence. These are the issues directly impacting young people and need immediate attention. So, it’s a shame the government couldn’t quite get those changes over the line.

Of course, I don’t mean to sound entirely pessimistic. I recognise that change takes time, and that progress is often incremental.

But as a young person who’s grown accustomed to feeling overlooked and undervalued by those in power, it's hard not to feel a sense of apathy towards yet another round of budget announcements that fall short on our real needs.

So, where do we go from here? It’s clear there's still work to be done – work that requires genuine commitment, collaboration, and a willingness to listen to us young people.

Until then, it seems I’ll have to live with the uncertainty and instability to rent in a market that remains stacked against me.

But that doesn't mean I’ll stop fighting for change. I’ll continue holding onto a glimmer of hope that one day, our leaders will truly prioritise the needs of young Victorians and work towards a brighter future for us all.

Ally Ahmad (she/her) is a 21-year-old policy intern at Youth Affairs Council Victoria, graduating from RMIT University in International Studies (Global Security).

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