As a young student in regional Victoria, the recent budget was impressive in its commitments to healthcare, especially in the regions, as well as the investment in transportation infrastructure.
Yet there have been many shortcomings and oversights in both the fiscal and policy elements of the budget including the lower-than-expected raise to Youth Allowance, and the delayed rollout of infrastructure projects.
One of the most important parts of the budget for young people is Youth Allowance. The daily rate was raised by $2.86/day ($40 a fortnight).
This pales in comparison to the smallest raise suggested by most advocates who were asking for an increase to at least $76 a day, above the poverty line ($70 a day).
Young people on income support payments are likely to only suffer more, with inflation hitting young people the hardest as they have had such a short amount of time to get their footing in an unstable economy.
This insufficient Youth Allowance increase has an especially high impact on students who are commuters. While the cost alone of traveling in Victoria has come down, the $2.86 raise is still below the cost of a concession return ticket.
Further, many students who commute to a city university from rural and regional areas can spend whole weeks busy with travel or attending their classes, limiting their ability to work to support themselves.
Allocations of $18.9 million toward the Research and Development for rural and regional transport has been sceptically welcomed, as many regional areas have been continually promised the development of better and more frequent trips between their regional base and the metropolitan stations.
Yet these processes have drawn out by repeated research and auction processes, without providing real benefit to the regional communities.
As a student who makes the commute often to attend classes, traveling up to seven hours per day in total for classes, the flexibility and number of available lines are essential to me and many other students who commute.
It may have been more beneficial for the regional communities to provide funding for previous research process findings to be acted upon, including the construction and addition of more running times from regional centres to Melbourne.
A welcomed change is the increase in funding for Medicare programs, yet there are some significant oversights in the change of policy surrounding scripts for the most vulnerable.
While it is true that the savings of over $40 a year for concession card holders on filling scripts is a welcome change, allowing people – some young, some old – to fill their scripts for two months reduces the interaction required between the medical practitioner and the patient. The government should make sure this does not create a disconnect in their care, which may provide a lapse of action to help the patient.
Expanding on their healthcare investment, the government investment in creating scholarships and bursaries for nursing and related healthcare courses provides support to many students.
However, it does not wholly address the requirements for many students to complete unpaid full-time work placements to the tune of six months during their course.
I would have preferred to see better practices to put in place, policies or subsidies to ensure that the organisations providing placements were affording the students a liveable wage for the term they were working.
As many nursing students will struggle to balance university, placements, and work, let alone being able to have a social life or to build their community engagement.
Shifts to healthcare, youth support, and transport for regional and rural communities have largely been well received, but in each case, it's important to approach the changes with a healthy sense of scepticism.
With advocates still calling for raises to the income support rates, hopefully our voices are not lost, given that it is an investment in the workers of the future, with most students providing essential skills to help society function.
Personally, I hope that funding for transport can be widened to focus on addition of new lines for commuting young people, and that Youth Allowance can be adjusted to be more in line with recommendations.
Rowan Farren (he/him) is a regional young person studying economics.