Rural and regional Victoria

No matter where you live in Victoria – everyone deserves access to good schools, world-class care and secure jobs close to home.

Mother holding a baby in a hospital room

Since 2014, we’ve been investing in regional Victoria to build, upgrade and improve the hospitals, TAFEs, schools, roads and rail that regional communities need.

Not only is this investment helping families living in regional and rural Victoria – it’s also supporting thousands of new jobs.

Over the past nine years, more than 170,000 jobs have been created in regional Victoria – resulting in unemployment falling to historically low levels.

In this Budget, we are continuing that success – investing over $2 billion in the infrastructure, services and projects that matter to regional families.

Rural and regional healthcare

Victorians in rural and regional communities shouldn’t have to head to the city for routine care or travel hours just to get the treatment they need.

In this Budget, we are continuing to invest in the staff, services and life-saving equipment that rural and regional communities need and deserve, including:

  • $117 million to operate and begin expanding facilities at health services, including the Latrobe Regional Hospital, with capacity for 44 inpatient beds, 14 medical and surgical beds, a new emergency department resuscitation bay and a medical imaging pathology unit.
  • $28 million to deliver high-quality care in regional public sector residential aged care facilities.
  • $11 million for Priority Primary Care Centres in regional areas.
  • $10 million to provide additional mental health care to regional communities through support in Youth Prevention and Recovery Care (YPARC) beds, Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs, and suicide prevention services.
  • $6.9 million to deliver new early intervention for Victorians with an eating disorder, including an Eating Disorders Day Program in regional Victoria.
  • $5.7 million to provide improved care to new mums in rural and regional areas, ensuring they have the best support possible during and after their pregnancy.
  • $5.4 million for the Ballarat Base Hospital, to build a mental health, alcohol and other drugs emergency department hub.
  • $1.6 million to increase the number of people with cancer receiving early palliative care in our regional communities, ensuring the dignity of end-of-life care closer to home.

Schools and TAFEs for regional students

In last year’s Budget, we funded $27 million to create more incentives to attract and retain teachers in regional and rural schools. We have also transformed VCE and VCAL to give rural and regional students more opportunities to learn, helping them secure a great job and rewarding future.

This Budget builds on our commitment to provide a world-class education for every single young Victorian, with:

  • Four brand new primary schools in Greater Geelong, Wodonga and Mitchell Shire so more kids can learn close to home.
  • $394 million to boost access to vocational training and Free TAFE, including for those in regional Victoria.
  • $113 million for TAFEs to provide support services, training delivery, and help students get the most out of their training, with the regional TAFE network getting a share of this funding.
  • $40 million for seven regional school upgrades, providing new and upgraded facilities, such as libraries, sports grounds, and learning spaces.
  • $14 million for our Tech Schools to help students find their passions – including outreach for country students via regional science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) camps.
  • $6 million to expand the subjects on offer for rural and regional students by supporting collaboration and planning in clusters of schools.

We are also supporting smaller community-based projects that we know make a big difference for regional students and their families.

This includes $1.7 million to improve educational outcomes for students in the Great South Coast region through the Beyond the Bell initiative, training psychologists to work in schools across Western Victoria, and running food education programs to teach kids about healthy eating and growing their own food on the Bellarine Peninsula.

Cost of living support for regional families

Regional families are experiencing the same cost of living pressures as Victorians across our state.

This year’s Budget provides direct and targeted support to help ease this pressure for families – with our $400 School Saving Bonus to cover the cost of uniforms and the extras that make school fun, as well as expanding the Glasses for Kids program.

A further $4.1 million will go to the Rural Financial Counselling Service, so Victorian farmers, fishers, foresters and related small business owners experiencing financial hardship can continue to access free financial counselling.

And $38 million will continue the success of Solar Victoria, with an extra 35,000 energy efficient hot water rebates, including for homes in regional Victoria.

Better regional and rural travel

We have made big investments to improve regional road and rail – rebuilding, repairing and resurfacing roads across our state, and upgrading every regional passenger line in Victoria.

Last Budget, we invested $190 million to cap regional public transport fares at the same price paid in the city. And regional Victorians have responded resoundingly, with more than 22 million trips already taken.

This Budget continues our investment in regional roads and rail with:

  • $133 million to support the regional rail network, including operating newly delivered train stabling yards, stations and VLocity trains, and upgrading the 150-year-old historic rail tunnel between Geelong and South Geelong.
  • $104 million on works to keep rail freight moving across Victoria, with maintenance works and encouraging operators to take up rail.
  • $41 million to continue train timetable services, including running additional weekday return services for the Warrnambool and Echuca lines.
  • $30 million for improved bus and ferry services, including more frequent bus services for Leongatha and Yarram and continuing the Portarlington ferry service.

Earlier this year, Victoria experienced dangerous and damaging storms and flooding. And across the state, our roads paid the price.

We are helping regional and rural communities get back on their feet and repairing flood-impacted roads. $964 million will be spent to maintain our state's road network this coming year alone – including extra funding to clean up the damage from flooding.

As part of the joint Victorian and Commonwealth Government emergency recovery and rebuilding package announced in February, $100 million will fund roadworks across the state, including fixing pavements, infrastructure and landslips.

This Budget also includes upgrades to make regional roads safer for Victorians and improve freight routes by:

  • Upgrading the Princes Highway East between Melbourne and the Latrobe Valley.
  • Upgrading the Sale Alternative Truck Route in Gippsland, creating better freight routes and reducing the number of trucks travelling through the town centre.
  • Upgrading the Dimboola Bridge and the Dadswell Bridge on the Western Highway.
  • Delivering a pedestrian crossing on the Calder Highway at Wedderburn.
  • Safety improvements to the London Bridge at Talbot.
  • Creating a safer crossing for pedestrians at Miners Rest.

Thriving water projects for all Victorians

Because we know how precious water is to local communities and economies, this Budget delivers $691 million towards critical water projects across Victoria.

That includes $270 million to restore waterways and wetlands across our state, improving access so more Victorians can enjoy swimming and on-water activities and $60 million to make the most of every drop, with water efficiency improvements for our rural and regional irrigation communities.

Four people riding bikes on regional coastline road

Strengthening regional sport

Local sports clubs are the beating heart and soul of rural and regional communities.

They are where some of Australia’s best athletes have honed their skills – and where countless young Victorians get active and make lifelong friends.

In July 2023, we announced over $500 million to build new and upgrade sporting facilities in regional Victoria, including dedicated sports packages for Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland and Geelong regions:

  • The Bendigo Sports package, which will deliver major upgrades for Bendigo Stadium, Bendigo Showgrounds and Bendigo Bowls and Croquet clubs.
  • The Ballarat Sports Package, which includes projects at Eureka Stadium and Ballarat Sports and Events Centre.
  • The Gippsland Sports Package, which upgrades the Gippsland Regional Indoor Sports Stadium, Gippsland Sports and Entertainment Park, Ted Summerton Reserve and Morwell Gun Club.
  • The Geelong Sports Package, which will build and upgrade facilities for residents in Armstrong Creek, Waurn Ponds and Corio.

This Budget continues our investment in community sports clubs and facilities, including:

  • $18 million to build and upgrade community sport infrastructure and deliver sporting programs across Victoria
  • $4.1 million to maintain the Kardinia Park Stadium as a great place to bring people and events to Geelong, including replacement of the southern scoreboard.

Boosting regional tourism

Every year, regional tourism is worth billions of dollars to Victoria’s economy – supporting thousands of jobs across hospitality, events, arts and culture.

In July 2023, we announced $2 billion to generate lasting benefits to regional communities. Not only will this mean new homes and better sporting facilities – it will bring some of the biggest and best events to regional communities.

With this Budget, we are continuing to invest in the attractions, facilities and major events that will help bring more visitors to our rural and regional communities, including:

  • $33 million to continue marketing Victoria as a leading tourism and events destination.
  • $11 million to support the work of the Great Outdoors Taskforce, which will work on developing future uses of our state forests.
  • $4.5 million for the Victorian Festivals Fund, further strengthening our state’s events calendar.
  • $3.3 million to support Victoria’s regional tourism boards and visitor economy partnerships, backing their work to grow local tourism and local jobs.