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Victorian State Budget 2023/24

Doing what matters for Victorian women

The Victorian Government has a strong record of delivering stronger, fairer outcomes for women and girls.

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Previous budgets have supported women’s health and wellbeing, strengthened women’s workforce participation, and invested in services for women and children experiencing family violence.

And this Budget builds on previous investments to continue our work to advance gender equality. We’re giving women’s health the focus it deserves, doing more to keep women safe, addressing reproductive rights, and improving women’s economic security workplace opportunities.

Giving women’s health the focus it deserves

Women and girls make up more than half of our population. And yet their health is somehow seen as a ‘niche issue’.

Conditions including dysmenorrhoea (period pain), fibroids and menopausal symptoms will affect around 80% of women in their lifetime. But still, they go under-diagnosed and untreated.

Women and girls are at greater risk of mental health issues than men and boys, including higher rates of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Between 2015 and 2019, 21% of Victorian women reported high levels of psychological distress, compared to 16% of men. And 36% of Victorian women were diagnosed with anxiety or depression, compared to 24% of men.

The Victorian Government has made important investments in women’s health, including funding Victoria’s first clinic focused on women’s heart health and our state’s first ever sexual and reproductive health phone line. But there’s still more to do.

In this Budget, we’ll give women's health the serious focus we promised, and the funding it deserves, with:

  • $65 million for 10,800 additional laparoscopies: these will help treat debilitating endometriosis that affects one in every nine girls and women.
  • $58 million for 20 new comprehensive women's health clinics and a dedicated Aboriginal-led women's clinic, to overcome some of the barriers to treatment that women face such as cost, confidentiality, geographical location of services, cultural and communication barriers. The clinics will mean women can access specialists – gynaecologist, urologist, along with specialist nursing and allied health – in one spot, making it easier and faster to access the world-class care women need and deserve.
  • $12 million for research initiatives that will directly benefit women's health, such as an inquiry into women's pain management and early work to establish a Women's Health Research Institute.
  • $10 million to establish nine sexual and reproductive health hubs in addition to the 11 existing hubs and to continue funding the Local Public Health Unit networked hub and spoke primary care model, to provide clinical services that, when they are available through a GP, are associated with out-of-pocket costs.
  • $5.3 million for a mobile women's health clinic to improve access to specialised women's health services for women in regional and remote Victoria.
  • $2 million in grants to women's health NGOs to provide women's health and wellbeing support programs, particularly online.
  • $2 million for women's health specialists' scholarships, to improve workforce capability and capacity.

Designs for the redevelopment of the Austin Hospital and Northern Hospital emergency departments will consider safe and welcoming environments for every Victorian, providing for breastfeeding parents through features such as lighting designed with safety in mind, and stronger privacy measures.

In particular, the Government is also delivering healthcare initiatives specifically supporting women’s health, including:

  • $86 million to help parents with their newborn babies, including more access to free Maternal and Child Health services and lactation. consultants, additional support for fathers’ groups and multicultural communities, investing in a new early parenting centre and creating a centre dedicated to Aboriginal families and children. Funding will also support the Baby Bundle program.
  • $50 million to help more Victorian families access public fertility care, with up to 3,375 treatment cycles funded each year.
  • $38 million to continue respite support for unpaid carers and assist with the physical and emotional demands of caring.
  • $23 million to help alleviate period poverty through providing free pads and tampons in public places.
  • Up to $19 million to give victim-survivors of sexual assault and harm within the justice system the care they need through timely and safe support in engaging with the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine by increasing workforce capacity.
  • $20 million for a community pharmacy pilot to make it easier to access healthcare and medicines like oral contraceptives and urinary tract infection treatments.
  • $10 million to support mothers experiencing acute mental health and wellbeing issues during that critical perinatal period.
  • An additional $10 million to upgrade mental health facilities across Victoria, including a focus on making women safer through the physical design of facilities. These investments will help ensure that more Victorian women can get the specialist care and treatment they deserve closer to home.

Women make up a majority of our health workforce – around 78% – whether they're nurses, doctors, paramedics, cleaners or administrative staff. While we can’t ever thank them enough for what they’ve done for us, we can give them the extra pair of helping hands they need to keep delivering the best of care.

That means we'll work to reduce the pressure our healthcare system is experiencing because of the pandemic, and support the Victorian workers who look after us when we need it most.

In this Budget, we’re supporting our health workforce, with $154 million to increase support for nurses and midwives, a female-dominated workforce heavily affected by stress, fatigue and burnout. We'll boost the workforce with sign-on bonuses and increase the number of nurses in emergency departments, maternity services, intensive care units and other high workload areas.

We know the importance of physical activity when it comes to uniting communities and improving physical and mental health. We are supporting the wellbeing of Victorian women by breaking down the barriers that make it harder for women and girls to get involved in sport and outdoor recreation, with:

  • $201 million to improve community sport and recreation facilities including through the Local Sports Infrastructure Fund, and the Country Football and Netball Program, which include upgrades to create more female-friendly spaces with better changerooms and outdoor lighting, and broaden opportunities for women and girls to participate.
  • $7.4 million to make public parks more accessible, including safety features such as lighting, playgrounds with a range of active, quiet, free and structured play areas, seating for older people, accessible paths, and play equipment for children and carers with disability.

Keeping women safe

We believe in a future where all Victorians are safe in their homes, at school, at work and in the community. Violence against women – including family violence, sexual violence and harassment – continues to inflict devastating harm in our communities.

The findings from the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence were clear: gender inequality is the key driver of family violence.

Family violence remains a leading cause of homelessness for women with children.

And intimate partner violence continues to contribute to more death, disability and illness for women aged between 15 and 44 than any other preventable risk factor.

Victoria is leading the nation on women’s safety, but we know there’s a long way to go. By building on our record investments in family violence prevention, we will create a safe and positive future for all Victorians.

In this Budget, we’ll invest in a range of measures aimed at preventing family violence – from early intervention through to better support for victim-survivors – including:

  • $77 million towards ending family violence and sexual assault through intervention strategies such as crisis management support and behaviour change programs.
  • $43 million to deliver expanded primary health services in Victoria's two women's prisons, including increased access to medical officers and a focus on continuity of care for women exiting custody.
  • $23 million towards providing access to specialist family violence legal assistance including pre-court engagement strategies that may lead to fewer family violence intervention order breaches.
  • $6 million to support initiatives to address elder abuse, including prevention networks and the Senior Rights Victoria support service.
  • $3.3 million to enable victim-survivors of family violence to appear in court remotely from a secure location when applying for a Family Violence Intervention Order.
  • $2.1 million towards early intervention programs directly addressing the links between alcohol and other drug use and family violence.

We’ll invest to make public spaces safer, particularly for women and girls, with $340 million to improve safety and accessibility on public transport, including more regional train services on weekends, accessibility upgrades at Boronia Station and enabling infrastructure to support deployment of accessible Next Generation Trams on the network.

And we’re improving access to legal assistance and support to give Victorians free, safe, and fair access to justice. This Budget invests $14 million to continue funding community legal centres to support people engaging with the justice system.

Best Start, Best Life – unlocking economic participation

Young child playing outside in a garden

The childcare system is set up to work against working families.

Fees are high, with many parents having to do complicated sums just to weigh up the financial impact of going back to work – and that’s if they can even find a place. It’s crippling family budgets and holding back parents, mainly mums, from returning to work.

Caring for children remains the largest barrier to women’s participation in the labour force. Across Australia around a quarter of women who want to work or to work more hours cite caring for children as the main barrier.

It shouldn't be this hard.

We are making kinder free at participating services, easing pressure on household budgets and giving every Victorian child the best start, for the best life.

That’s why the Victorian Government is rolling out Best Start, Best Life and Three-Year-Old Kinder. Building on the more than $4.4 billion invested to date, we’re investing a further $1.7 billion to continue delivering this ambitious reform.

We are delivering more places at more kindergartens so parents can enrol their child at a great centre, close to home. With funding in this Budget, the Government’s total investment to date in Best Start, Best Life and Three-Year-Old Kinder is $6.2 billion.

This funding includes:

  • $1.6 billion to roll out Three-Year-Old Kinder and increase capacity by building new kindergarten facilities.
  • $1.4 billion for Free Kinder to give Victorian parents – especially mums – the choice to return to work if they want to and provide savings to families each year, up to $2,500 in 2023.
  • $1.3 billion to build up to 100 new kindergartens including land acquisition, with the majority to be located at or nearby government schools to help avoid the double drop off.
  • $921 million to deliver 35 new government-owned and operated Early Learning Centres by 2027 including land acquisition.
  • $303 million for around 35 new early learning facilities at low-fee non-government schools, and to expand early learning facilities on local government sites.

Kinder gives the youngest Victorians the very best start in life, and gives parents – particularly working mums – the choice to do what's best for their families. That's why we made kinder free, and with this Budget we're building more kindergartens as part of our Best Start, Best Life reforms.

Funding will progressively transition four-year-old kindergarten to Pre-Prep, providing 30 hours per week of play-based learning and to attract and retain the kinder workforce, as recommended by the Inquiry.

We promised to deliver Three-Year-Old Kinder and introduce a new year of Pre-Prep and that's exactly what we're doing. This year, three-year-old Victorian children can access between 5 and 15 hours of funded learning each week, while four-year-olds can access 15 hours before expanding to 30 hours over the next decade.

In this Budget we are investing $1.8 billion in early childhood and Pre-Prep, including funding to make our existing kinders even better by investing:

  • $48 million to support existing kinders and toy libraries to purchase equipment, provide additional Bush Kinder programs, and create 10 new bilingual kinders and continue the existing services.
  • $18 million to strengthen and modernise existing inclusion support for children with disability and additional needs.
  • $10 million for local councils and eligible providers to improve local kindergarten facilities.

Work and economic security

Women and men should have equal opportunities and economic security.

The Victorian Government is taking targeted action to address barriers to women’s workforce participation.

We’ve made significant investments in women’s economic security by supporting more women into jobs, extending initiatives to help families to better balance work and care, and providing new professional development opportunities.

With this Budget, we’ll go a step further – by working to remove the barriers that stop women entering and staying in the workforce, easing the pressure of the rising cost of living, and improving education opportunities for all Victorians.

Education to support future economic opportunity and equality

From kinder, to great local schools, all the way to TAFE and uni – education changes lives.

We’re creating even more opportunities for women and girls to get the education and training they need for the jobs they want, with:

  • $116 million for six new tech schools, encouraging more girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
  • $40 million to develop lesson planning and curriculum materials to take the burden off teachers and improve STEM teaching, helping girls narrow the gap in these subjects.
  • $17 million for the Student Excellence Program, including training teachers to identify how high ability can present differently in girls, so teachers are better equipped to spot bright young students and ensure they get the support they need to achieve their best.
  • $16 million to support female students, for example, by providing free period products in all government schools.

We’re investing in targeted support for students who need it, particularly vulnerable students, students with disabilities, and students from low socio-economic backgrounds. Crucially, this support also considers the different needs of girls and boys:

  • $203 million to expand the High Intensity Outside School Hours Care program to provide free care to kids with complex disabilities, as well as improving access to the NDIS and other health services and extracurricular activities as recommended by the Inquiry.
  • $14 million for health and wellbeing programs to support vulnerable students, including those from multicultural and LGBTIQ+ communities.

Women represent 63% of the education workforce. We’ll invest in re-engaging inactive teachers, helping more women to advance to senior positions and teachers in leadership roles to take up flexible working arrangements.

Investing in reducing the gender gap in work

To achieve gender equality at work, you need women in the room, around the table, and in positions with power to drive real change.

But we know women continue to face barriers to participating in traditionally male industries, including construction, manufacturing and trade.

In this Budget, we’ll invest in:

  • Manufacturing$21 million to strengthen and expand Victoria’s manufacturing capability, which will support input into the Women in Manufacturing Strategy. The input into the Strategy is expected to include the development of policy options aiming to increase women’s participation in manufacturing by supporting parental leave and flexible working arrangements, reducing sexism and sexual harassment in the workforce, and identifying pathways for women, as recommended by the Inquiry.
  • Trade – investing $12 million to support Victoria’s trade sector and boost global engagement, involving the Global Victoria Women group to give women more opportunities to broaden their trade networks and participate in trade and export activities, as recommended by the Inquiry.
  • Innovation$5 million to expand the successful Alice Anderson Fund, which supports women-led startups to leverage private sector capital.
  • Construction$2.4 million to increase women’s participation in construction and improve gender equality in the sector, as recommended by the Inquiry.

This Budget will also invest directly in initiatives that will improve economic and employment outcomes for women:

  • $36 million for planning initiatives to help support housing growth and supply, which may benefit lower socio-economic groups, including those most at risk of homelessness, such as people with disability, older women and single parents.
  • $100,000 to provide skills-based learning and employment support for migrant, refugee and asylum seeker women to improve their economic security.

Supporting Aboriginal women as we work towards Treaty

As Victoria progresses towards Treaty with our First Peoples, we’re working to make sure the benefits will be shared by all Victoria’s First Peoples.

We’re investing $191 million in Treaty and First Peoples initiatives that will be accessible to all First Peoples and will ensure there are opportunities for women to be heard and involved in decision making.

We’re listening to First Nations Victorians when it comes to gender norms, roles and relations and how they might affect equal access to opportunities for First Nations men and women. We’re ensuring balanced gender representation in participants, decision makers and suppliers for cultural events and awards such as the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll. And we’re addressing accessibility barriers for Aboriginal women who may face disadvantage and pressure when completing funding applications.

Reviewed 22 May 2023

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