On 24 November 2018, Victorians will go to the polls to decide who will form our state government and make major decisions about issues including education, transport, employment, housing, policing, and health.
At YACVic, we are urging all candidates in the upcoming election to commit to the objectives of #vicyouth2020, and take the first steps to building the best Victorian community for all young people.
Are we feeling optimistic? Absolutely! Recently we’ve seen the major parties pledge some positive steps they would take to build a better state for young people. Many of these pledges align with priority areas for #vicyouth2020, and we welcome them.
Recent undertakings by the Victorian Government have included:
A $175,000 grant to extend the Free Myki pilot to a further 15 schools in Wyndham until the end of 2020. This program, piloted by WEstjustice in partnership with the Public Transport Ombudsman, has shown good initial results in strengthening students’ school engagement and wellbeing. This aligns with one of the recommendations of #vicyouth2020: "Provide free public transport to young people up to 18 years of age if their parent or guardian has a Centrelink income or health care card, to strengthen students’ attendance at school and extra-curricular activities, and to young people who are experiencing family violence”. If the program continues to demonstrate success, we would be keen to see it extended statewide.
A $22.6 million investment to provide a greater choice of school subjects for students in rural and regional areas, through new online and face-to-face teaching models. The ultimate aim is that every student will be able to access every VCE subject, regardless of where they go to school. YACVic applauds this commitment; one of the recommendations of #vicyouth2020 was "Increase investment in rural and regional schools so their students have opportunities equal to those of their Melbourne peers." These new learning models will need to be developed in close consultation with rural school communities, and schools will need the right staff in place to administer and support students through these new models of learning.
A new Mental Health in Schools program to employ over 190 mental health professionals, such as counsellors, youth workers or psychologists. There is an undertaking that every state secondary school will receive between one and five days a week of support from a mental health professional, “depending on their enrolment numbers”. YACVic welcomes this very promising news, which aligns well with one of the goals of #vicyouth2020: that "All schools support students to enjoy good mental health and recover from mental illness." However, we would stress the importance of engaging closely with rural communities in the design of the program. Rural enrolment numbers may be relatively small, but with few local health services available and geographical isolation a significant factor, it’s important that supports for rural students are designed to meet their needs.
Raising the age of leaving out-of-home care from 18 to 21, so that vulnerable young people growing up in care can stay longer with their carers if they wish, and receive better support to get ready for adult life. This is a major development, and aligns with a key recommendation of #vicyouth2020. YACVic is a supporter of the Home Stretch campaign, and we are delighted to see it coming to fruition around the country.
Building a new 20-bed youth residential rehabilitation facility in Gippsland for young people aged 16-21 to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. As we noted in #vicyouth2020, there is a concerning shortage in youth-specific AOD support in rural and regional communities, so YACVic is encouraged by this news.
Rent Fair Victoria: a plan for rental reform, shaped strongly by the Make Renting Fair campaign, which YACVic has been proud to support, including in #vicyouth2020. We welcome the Victorian Government's commitment to reforms which will offer tenants greater security from abrupt or no-reason evictions and rent increases, enable tenants to make minor modifications (including disability modifications) and recover their bonds faster, and ensure that tenants can have pets without additional bond payments. The Make Renting Fair campaign continues to urge ongoing reforms in areas including health, safety and efficiency standards for properties, and rejecting onerous and unfair lease terms. YACVic continues to support this campaign.
Delivering five new Empower projects to help young people live better, more connected lives in Swan Hill, Moorabool Shire, Geelong, Whittlesea, and Melbourne's north-east. The new funding is intended to support at least 250 young people per annum for the next four years. Empower has represented a significant new investment in youth work in Victoria, which YACVic identified as a priority in #vicyouth2020 and our Youth Work Matters campaign.
A new trial to provide heavily discounted public transport to Victorians facing homelessness and disadvantage. We welcome this pilot, in light of our push in #vicyouth2020 for free or affordable transport for young people dealing with disadvantage and family violence.
Expanding the Le Mana program to support young people from Pacific Islander communities become more engaged, socially connected and on positive pathways, in partnership with the Centre for Multicultural Youth, local government, and the United Pasifika Council of Victoria. In #vicyouth2020, we spoke of the importance of nurturing strong and positive connections between young people from migrant backgrounds and their families and wider communities, so it's very welcome to see such innovative approaches being developed and extended.
Building 16 new Neighbourhood Houses and delivering new funding to 11 existing houses, most in regional and interface areas. Neighbourhood Houses are places where people connect, learn new skills and get support with employment, training, health and volunteering.
Meanwhile, there have been some welcome undertakings from the Liberal Nationals, including:
$1.14 million in grants over four years for headspace to provide outreach services to communities in Regional Victoria and Melbourne. This funding could support social events for young people or regular outreach health services in communities without a permanent headspace location. Improving access to mental health supports for young people in rural communities was a key theme in #vicyouth2020, and we welcome this commitment, while also noting that much greater outreach will still be required to meet the extent of the need.
A new program to provide transitional support for tertiary students from rural communities who relocate to Melbourne or a regional city to study, to help them deal with the challenges of isolation and independent living.
A ‘European-style High Speed Rail’ project to link Melbourne with regional cities, and a pledge to double the current number of return rail services from Shepparton to Melbourne. As we identified in #vicyouth2020, public transport remains a critical priority for young people growing up in rural, regional and interface communities, and we would welcome a network which enabled young people to connect more easily with opportunities and supports.
Better coordination of allied health, education and early childhood services in rural and regional areas through a hub model, funded through a ‘Brighter Futures Fund’.
Funding SYN FM to give more young people a voice in the media, through industry mentoring, leadership and media training programs.