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Victorian State Budget 2023/24

Safe and strong: A Victorian gender equality strategy

Critical foundations to make Victoria a more equal place.

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Safe and Strong: A Victorian gender equality strategy laid the critical foundations to make Victoria a more equal place – for everyone – setting out a framework for enduring and sustained action over time.

Since the 2016 release of Safe and Strong, we've enacted major reforms across Victoria to better promote gender equality across the entire community. We introduced the Gender Equality Act 2020, and established the Commissioner for Gender Equality in the Public Sector, achieved gender parity on government boards and set up the Gender Responsive Budgeting Unit in the Department of Treasury and Finance.

Since 2017/18, the Victorian Government has invested more than $160 million into initiatives that supported the implementation of Safe and Strong, with key highlights being shown in the table below.

  • Budget measure


    $12 million to establish a Prevention Agency – Respect Victoria


    • In response to recommendation 188 of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, Respect Victoria was established on 4 October 2018 as an independent statutory authority under the Family Violence Prevention Act 2018.

    • The first agency of its kind in Australia, Respect Victoria is dedicated to the primary prevention of all forms of family violence and violence against women. Its focus is on stopping violence before it starts by changing the norms, practices and structures that allow it to happen. Respect Victoria is central to the Victorian Government’s ongoing work to build a state free from violence.

    $6.2 million to drive female participation in sport by increasing representation on sporting boards, expanding the number of female sporting projects and promoting female role models, leaders and coaches


    • We implemented the 40% women on sport boards quota for all peak organisations receiving program funding from Sport and Recreation Victoria and VicHealth.
    • More than 93% of bodies now meet this target, up from 44% in 2017.

    $4 million to expand the Female Friendly Facilities Program to build or upgrade women’s change rooms and facilities


    • The Female Friendly Facilities fund initiative provided grants of up to $500,000 to help clubs and communities, through their councils, develop local sports infrastructure projects that make a real difference for women and girls – creating safer and more welcoming spaces for them in sporting clubs across Victoria.

    $2.5 million to expand a women’s Victorian Government Leadership Program


    • We launched the Women on Boards Leadership Program to provide flexible support packages for women pursuing a board career, including through networking, scholarship programs, mentoring and capacity building.

    • We established the Her Place Women’s Museum in East Melbourne, to record the history of women in Victoria and promote women’s leadership roles in the Victorian community.

    • We launched the Joan Kirner Young and Emerging Leaders Program for Women, enabling a pipeline of new leaders through development, networking and mentoring.

    $1.7 million to re-establish the Rural Women’s Network with employment, education and mentoring support for women living in rural areas


    • We supported the re-establishment of the Victorian Rural Women’s Network in 2017, acknowledging the barriers that rural and regional women face in accessing leadership opportunities. In 2019, the Network brought together women at events across Victoria to network and share ideas, and has also supported rural women through mentoring and leadership programs.

    $1.4 million to promote women’s self-employment opportunities and business skills


    • We provided career support for parents through the online Grace Papers program. The program acts to reduce the barriers faced by parents returning to work and to strengthen connection between parents in the workplace.

    $1.1 million to improve financial security for vulnerable women through financial literacy programs


    • We delivered a Peer Support Program with the Brotherhood of St Laurence that enabled women with low levels of English literacy and numeracy to build their foundational knowledge of Australian business systems and share experiences, increasing the likelihood of business success and fostering women’s leadership.
    • We developed and launched a free financial wellbeing toolkit to support women over 50 to build confidence in money management and protect themselves against financial abuse, in partnership with Women’s Information Referral Exchange.
    • We delivered financial capacity workshops to women in rural and regional areas, leading to improvements in women’s knowledge about financial systems, resilience and understanding of credit contracts, utility bills and how to identify future financial risks.

    $800,000 to assist women to deliver gender equality in their community through social entrepreneur programs


    • We created economic opportunities for women through the first all women trade delegation to China and provided small business workshops to mentor and upskill women entrepreneurs. The program delivered participants great business connections and networks, involving buyers, distributors, influencers and potential business partners.

  • Budget measure Status

    $24 million to support behavioural change campaigns through Respect Victoria


    • Two behaviour change campaigns were released in the Respect Women series, and the first Respect Women: ‘Call it Out’ (Café) active bystander campaign was launched on 29 March 2018. This coincided with the second anniversary of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The second campaign, Respect Women: ‘Call It Out’ (Public Transport), launched on 7 April 2019, urged Victorians to ‘call out’ sexual harassment on public transport.

    $8 million for improving gender equality in Victoria through the continued implementation of Safe and Strong, in the public sector, private sector workplaces, sporting organisations and other settings


    • Through initiatives under Safe and Strong we have supported thousands of Victorian women through the delivery of economic security, financial capability and empowerment programs tailored to Victorian women facing the most significant barriers and discrimination. Programs have supported women’s economic participation and financial security, particularly for women from migrant and refugee backgrounds.
    • We expanded the reach and visibility of the Victorian Honour Roll of Women to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Victorian women. Nominations increased by 67% between 2016 and 2021.
    • We funded the Stella Prize to run Girls Write Up gender-conscious writing workshops, which brought together writers and artists with vulnerable groups of young people, including young people in out of home care, young mothers, Aboriginal young people and young people who were disengaged from school. The workshops equipped participants with the skills and confidence to share their own stories and challenge gender norms and stereotypes among their peers.
    • We developed a model for valuing unpaid work and care and its impact on the Victorian community, help us assess the impacts of policy, social and economic changes to unpaid work on women’s economic security, workforce participation and health and wellbeing, as well as state productivity and Gross State Product (GSP). This initiative has been relied upon in policy and advocacy and laid the foundations for the current focus on structural change promoting equality through the care sector. The model showed the value of women’s unpaid work equated to more than $205 billion – almost half of Victoria’s GSP in 2021-22.
    • We supported the Victorian Local Governance Association with funding to help more women apply as candidates for the local government elections in 2020.

    $5 million to boost jobs through better procurement. The Government will use its infrastructure investments and broader procurement activities to promote secure work and job opportunities for women


    • The Victorian Government Social Procurement Framework (SPF) commenced operation in September 2018. The framework includes women’s equality and safety as one of the seven social procurement objectives. The SPF aims to use government infrastructure investments and broader procurement activities to promote secure work and job opportunities for priority groups, including women.
  • Budget measure


    $6 million towards reproductive health including through: planning for public IVF services that will, once established, provide bulk-billed and subsidised treatments for up to 4,000 Victorians a year and continued funding for the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority, which provides critical support for families accessing assisted reproductive services

    Delivered/in progress

    • We continued funding services under the Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program to support the healthcare needs of women who have undergone female genital mutilation and facilitate attitudinal change in communities.
    • The planning for public IVF services was delivered.
    • The Victorian Government provided further funding in the 2021/22 Budget to establish public fertility care services which commenced roll out in October 2022.
  • Budget measure


    $17 million investment to support women and organisations at the heart of gender equality, including funding for women’s participation, leadership, and recognition in the community, and additional funding for the iconic Queen Victoria Women’s Centre to continue supporting and empowering Victorian women from all walks of life


    • Hundreds of women from a range of backgrounds have participated in the last five years of the Women’s Board Leadership Program. This has included funded places to increase rural women’s economic participation, professional development and wellbeing, and culturally relevant peer support to culturally diverse women. The program provides formal courses and networking to help women increase their capacity and expertise in becoming a member of a board.
    • The funds supported the operation and capital repairs of the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre. The Queen Victoria Women’s Centre is an iconic Melbourne landmark that supports women (cis, trans and non-binary inclusive) through creative experiences, community resources and the power of connection.

    $13 million to support implementation of the Gender Equality Act 2020, including establishment of the Commission


    • The Gender Equality Act 2020 (the Act) commenced on 31 March 2021. It is the first of its kind in Australia and is recognised globally as leading workplace gender equality legislation.
    • The Victorian public sector has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to gender equality with all 300 defined entities completing their first ever workplace gender audits in December 2021, which established the most comprehensive dataset on public sector workplace gender equality in Australia.

    • In August 2022, the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector released its inaugural Baseline Audit Report, and also published audit results via its Insights Portal.

    $10 million for the Women’s founders Angel Sidecar Fund, which will provide investment support for innovative early-stage startups founded by women. The fund will increase access to finance for women founders, helping to grow early-stage startups, and increasing the participation rate of women in Victoria’s startup economy and creating new jobs


    • Named after the founder of Australia’s first all-woman motor garage in the 1920s, the Alice Anderson Fund is a $10 million angel sidecar fund supporting women-led startups.
    • Our fund co-invests between $50,000 and $300,000 in early-stage deals put forward by investors to increase the funding pool available to Victorian women. Our investment is structured so that only 85c in the dollar is taken as equity; the rest is provided as a non-dilutive grant to the startup. This gives our women-led startups an extra upside.
    • With every dollar matched by three dollars of private investment, the Alice Fund will unlock close to $40 million for women founders by 2024.

    $5 million for the Women in Construction program, which will provide funding to deliver the actions outlined in the Women in Construction Strategy and implement the Building Equality Policy by creating employment opportunities for women on major government construction projects


    • The Victorian Government launched the Building Equality Policy (BEP), which creates training and employment opportunities for women through government procurement. The BEP seeks to disrupt the existing gender stereotypes, norms and roles in the construction sector. It is comprised of actions that seek to address the structural and cultural barriers women face.

    $2.4 million for the Women in Transport program, which provided training and employment opportunities to women in the transport sector, including supporting jobs for 300 women to become heavy vehicle drivers


    • The Government developed the Women in Transport program, contributing to an increase in the number of women working, as well as holding senior management roles, across the transport sector.
  • Budget measure


    $12 million to support women’s participation and gender equality in sport, including improving the visibility of our female athletes


    • We developed the Women in Sport Recruitment and Retention Guidelines and the Women in Sport Communication and Marketing Guidelines and distributed them to sporting associations throughout Victoria to guide sports in best practice to promote gender equality.
    • We developed design principles for organisations to pilot gender equality and prevention of violence principles within sport and recreation settings and ‘Tackling Violence Against Women: Guidelines for Taking Action Through Community Sport’ to support key organisations working directly with community sport clubs to build cultures that are safe, inclusive and prevent violence against women.
    • We supported more than 100 women working or volunteering in sport and recreation to access professional development opportunities to improve leadership pathways for women in sport.
    • We developed the Change Our Game Champions program over two years to support CEOs of sport and recreation bodies to develop gender equity frameworks that drive diverse and inclusive workforces.

    $10 million to extend the Female Friendly Facilities Fund to deliver community pavilions, change rooms, playing grounds, and courts, enabling more women and girls to get involved in grassroots sport


    • Following the success of the Female Friendly Facilities Fund in 2017/2018, this fund was further extended.

    $4.3 million to ensure the needs of women are being considered at the heart of government, including establishing a gender responsive budgeting unit to ensure outcomes for women are measured as part of the budget decision-making process.

    In progress

    • We established the Gender Responsive Budgeting Unit, the first of its kind in Australia.
    • The funding also supported more than 1,000 women at greater risk of economic insecurity, addressing the needs of women at different stages of their employment. It provided support and mentoring to build confidence and skills to pursue employment, establish a small business or access further education.

    $2.3 million for initiatives that promote gender equality and respectful relationships among young people, and address drivers of sexual and family violence

    In progress

    • More than 1,950 Victorian schools have signed on to create a culture of gender equality and respect in their school community by implementing the Respectful Relationships whole school approach, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Family Violence. This includes all government schools.
    • The Victorian Curriculum provides the basis for teaching and learning about respectful relationships and identifies the knowledge, skills and understanding for students to be able to engage in respectful relationships.
    • The Respectful Relationships initiative also includes professional learning to strengthen the capacity of up to 7,700 early childhood educators in Victorian Government-funded kindergarten programs to promote respectful relationships, positive attitudes and behaviours within their integrated teaching approach, to enable children to build healthy relationships, resilience and confidence.

    $1.8 million to improve the representation of women in local government, to ensure local councils better reflect the communities they represent

    In progress

    • Significant progress has been made toward gender parity in local government. In the 2020 Local Government elections, Victoria elected 272 women – 43.8% of councillors, the most in Australian history. The Safe and Strong target of achieving 50% women councillors and Mayors by 2025 will be carried over into the new gender equality strategy.

    $1.4 million to assist the Victorian Rural Women’s Network to upskill and support the professional development of women living in our rural communities

    In progress

    • The Rural Women’s Network run two Leadership and Mentoring Programs.
    • The Mentoring Program pairs rural women together for a peer-to-peer exchange of skills and experience. There are also capped allowances for childcare, travel and accommodation are available for those who require this support.
    • The Leadership Program provides women with support to participate in training and study that accelerates their development as leaders. Each participant is eligible for up to $10,000 (excl GST) in funding support toward the agreed costs of study, travel, accommodation, and childcare.
  • Budget measure


    $8.3 million Investing in Victoria’s new gender equality strategy

    Being implemented

    • Funding was provided to implement the Gender Equality Act 2020, including training, education and resources to support gender impact assessments, upgrading the Gender Equality Act reporting platform and developing a new dispute resolution case management system.
    • Funding was also provided to deliver the Women of Colour Leadership program, which aims to address structural barriers for women from diverse backgrounds seeking leadership opportunities.

    $1 million for gender pay equity initiatives including funding to support the Equal Workplaces Advisory Council

    In progress

    • The funding was provided to promote gender pay equity workplace initiatives and the functions of the Equal Workplaces Advisory Council, and to undertake relevant research. The focus will be on gender pay equity in all Victorian workplaces through advice on issues relating to pay equity, equality and productivity.

Safe and Strong has delivered 30 out of 31 of its founding reforms to set Victoria up for further progress on gender equality.

And significant progress has been made on the final reform, of achieving gender parity in local government, toward the 2025 target.

All 40 early actions outlined in Safe and Strong have been completed, helping individuals and organisations across workplaces, businesses, sporting associations, health providers, media and the arts to improve gender equality.

Following the successful implementation of Safe and Strong, the Government will release a new Gender Equality Action Plan and Strategy in the coming months. This will set out a framework for coordinated action in Victoria to improve gender equality, as required under section 50 of the Gender Equality Act 2020.

Progress towards implementing the new State Action Plan and Strategy will be reported on and tabled in Parliament every two years as required by the Gender Equality Act 2020.

Reviewed 22 May 2023

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