Victorian Budget 2019-20: Investing in early years will be transformative for the state

27 May 2019

The Brotherhood of St Laurence warmly welcomes the Andrews Government’s Budget – and its key social investments that recognise that the prosperity dividend has yet to arrive for all Victorians.

The early years of a child’s life are critical for their development and help ensure a fairer society. The pipeline of opportunity for the most disadvantaged families in our community therefore starts in children’s early years.

In its fifth Budget, the Andrews Government implements a key election commitment by introducing universal three-year-old kinder. This education shift, to begin in regional locations, is nothing less than transformative for Victorian families on low incomes, said the Brotherhood’s Executive Director Conny Lenneberg.

"We know from our practical work and research that thoughtful investment in the early years of a child's life yields strong social dividends for families, especially those facing multiple challenges," Ms Lenneberg said.

"Critically, such investments don't just benefit individual children and families, they strengthen local communities and contribute to the social and economic prosperity of our entire state. It's also encouraging to see, as a complementary measure, targeted early childhood courses will be added to Victoria’s fee-free TAFE list."

Ms Lenneberg acknowledged the state’s recent jobs growth, powered by infrastructure expansion. It is important, she said, that young people can also fully benefit from the state’s economic success. Youth unemployment is still much higher than overall unemployment and posed a deep risk for Victoria’s early school leavers.

"We remain concerned that particular groups of Victorians - such as young people in outer suburbs and regions and mature age job seekers without the education and skills that employers now require - are vulnerable to big shifts we are seeing in our economy."

"The Government’s continuing investment in Jobs Victoria remains important to ensuring opportunities for jobseekers experiencing insecurity, disadvantage and dislocation."

Inclusive growth, good for all of us

The Brotherhood of St Laurence knows that, to ensure a truly thriving state, there must be ongoing attention paid to Victorians who are facing disadvantage. In this context, we note and particularly welcome the following measures in the Budget, Ms Lenneberg added:

  • Investment in the treaties process with Aboriginal Victorians to achieve meaningful Reconciliation.
  • Measures for energy affordability with greater oversight of the retail market, including the development of the Victorian Default Offer and extension of solar panel rebates for renters.
  • Ongoing funding to operate the Education First Youth Foyer at Kangan TAFE, in Broadmeadows. More than offering a roof over the head, this initiative enables young people at risk of homelessness to build skills, confidence and independence for a good life.
  • Continuing support for people seeking asylum who have limited access to the broader social safety net.

Whilst acknowledging new allocations for social housing and the national housing agreement, a significant challenge remains around the provision - and paucity - of affordable housing. Similarly, with an upcoming prison expansion, there remains a strong concern about the balance being struck between preventative and punitive measures in our state.

"It’s well recognised that it’s better to build ‘a fence at the top of the cliff than providing the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’. This must be a guiding philosophy for our state in the quest for fairness for all," Ms Lenneberg said.