The Victorian Government has released its 2024-25 Budget, saying that it is firmly focused on helping regional families, investing more than $2 billion to support the infrastructure, services and projects that matter to regional Victorians.

Homes and homelessness

This Budget invests nearly $197 million in frontline homelessness and housing services, with more than $115 million in grant funding available for homelessness services – while a further $19 million will improve response times for repairs and maintenance in public housing. 

The $5.3 billion Big Housing Build is already providing more Victorians with a place to call home – with 25 per cent of that fund dedicated to delivering quality homes in regional Victoria. 

This is on top of an investment to build more homes in regional Victoria with $1 billion from the Regional Housing Fund to deliver more than 1,300 new social and affordable homes across regional Victoria – designed with councils, regional partnerships, and local communities. 

With the cost of living continuing to rise, The State Government has said that it is also delivering an extra $5 million to support organisations and neighbourhood houses to provide food relief, as well as continuing the work of its six regional food relief hubs.

Workforce 

As it delivers the things that matter most to families, the government has said that it needs to be disciplined and sensible in responding to the challenges ahead. 

Victoria’s economy is expected to outpace all other states over the next five years. And over the past nine years, more than 170,000 jobs have been created in regional Victoria – with unemployment falling to historically low levels. 

The State Government acknowledged that it’s a good problem to have – knowing that each month, thousands more Victorians find secure, fulfilling work.

But it also means that, in some priority sectors, the state needs more workers. Which is why the government has said it needs to make sensible and modest adjustments to the pace of some of its biggest projects and reforms to give Victoria’s workforce time to build up and skill up, and allow global supply chains to catch up.

Because of this, the Budget is looking to keep building the pipeline of future workers the state needs – continuing nation-leading investments in training, including Free TAFE which has already helped skill more than 170,000 Victorians.

Transport

From more frequent train and bus services, to upgrading and fixing country roads – the Budget allocates $25.3 million to continue running extra services, including weekday return services for the Warrnambool and Echuca train lines.

The Budget also invests $133.4 million to further 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. A further $104 million will keep rail freight moving across Victoria.

This Budget also includes $62 million for upgrades to make regional roads safer, including upgrades to sections of the Princes, Western and Calder Highways.

The government said that it is reducing the need for trucks to travel through towns, creating better freight routes through Sale in Gippsland, and making safer crossings for pedestrians at Miners Rest and Wedderburn.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

The State Government said that, sadly, what were previously considered once-in-a-generation flood events are now commonplace, bringing record rainfall and inflicting unprecedented damage to roads.  

The Budget is set to help regional and rural communities get back on their feet and repair flood-impacted roads. It includes $964 million to maintain the state’s road network in 2024 alone – including extra funding to clean up the damage from flooding. 

The government is investing an extra $100 million to repair roads, including pavements, infrastructure and fixing landslips, as well as immediate recovery works to roads within the Buchan Caves Reserve site.

It is also supporting the clean-up, repair and rebuild of communities like Pomonal and Beaufort with $302 million to help community recovery from the bushfires and storms. This includes repairs to schools, roads and other infrastructure, as well as temporary accommodation, relief payments and mental health support for residents.

Every day, Victorian emergency services are on the frontline, protecting their communities from fires, floods and other incidents. The State Government has said that it is making sure they have the equipment they need to do the job, with new world-class replacement pumpers for the CFA. 

Greenspaces

It is also creating more opportunities for Victorian families to enjoy the great outdoors. Victoria has an extra 1.8 million hectares of forest for people to explore – this Budget invests $115.7 million to manage this land, keep forests healthy and find more opportunities for people to get out across beautiful Victoria.

Domestic violence and violence against women

The State Government has said that already in 2024, too many regional communities have felt the heartbreak and trauma of violence against women. 

This Budget invests more than $211 million to help keep women and children safe and support victim-survivors – including making sure the State Government’s Respectful Relationships program continues to prevent family violence before it starts. 

The Victorian government has also said that it will have more to say in the coming weeks about further measures to prevent the scourge of family violence, address toxic masculinity and help make sure women are safe.

Healthcare

The commitments made as part of this Budget mark the single biggest multi-year investment in Victoria’s healthcare system in its history, giving hospitals funding certainty as they continue to recover from the impacts and increased costs of the pandemic.

The State Government is funding $117 million to operate expanded facilities at health services – including $44 million for expanded facilities at the Latrobe Regional Hospital, which will have capacity for 44 inpatient beds, 14 medical and surgical beds, a new emergency department resuscitation bay and a medical imaging pathology unit.

It is also supporting bed-based services in Traralgon, with ten new beds to provide more support for young people experiencing mental health challenges, along with an investment of $6.9 million to deliver early intervention for Victorians with an eating disorder, including establishing an Eating Disorders Day Program in regional Victoria.

The Victorian Government has said that equality is not negotiable no matter where one lives, and that as such it is continuing its nation-leading support for the State’s LGBTIQA+ communities, with a gender-affirming clinic in Ballarat to make sure trans and gender diverse Victorians have the healthcare they deserve.

The Budget is also allocating $5.7 million for the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies initiative – available at nine locations across regional Victoria – ensuring Victorians have the best support possible during and after their pregnancy.

On top of the historic redevelopment of the Ballarat Base Hospital, we’re investing $5.4 million to establish a mental health, alcohol and other drugs emergency department hub.

The government is also looking to make sure Victorians at the end of their life get the care and comfort they deserve with $1.6 million to increase the number of people with cancer receiving early palliative care in regional communities.

The government has recently announced a major Statewide Action Plan delivering a health-led approach to reducing drug harms across the state – and this will include grants available to community-led health services in Victorian regions.

Schools

This Budget is also set to deliver a once-off $400 School Saving Bonus to help cover the cost of uniforms, excursions, sports and the extras that make school fun. Available to every government school student, and those at non‑government schools – this payment is intended to give regional families one less thing to worry about. 

The Victorian Government is also tripling the Glasses for Kids program – reaching an extra 74,000 young Victorians across the state – providing free vision screening and prescription glasses for kids who need them. Additionally it is delivering more Get Active Kids vouchers, providing up to $200 to help families cover the costs of kids’ sport.

On top of immediate cost-of-living support, the government is continuing to build schools across regional Victoria, with four brand-new primary schools in some of Victoria’s fastest-growing areas: Greater Geelong, Wodonga and Mitchell Shire.

The State Government has said that a great education starts with great facilities – which is why it has delivered $40 million to upgrade and modernise seven schools, including schools in Traralgon, Beechworth, Swan Hill and Cobden. 

The Budget is also delivering $14 million for Tech Schools, to help reach more regional students with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) camps and delivery of Tech School programs through remote and flexible learning.

To make sure that distance isn’t a barrier to students studying the things they want – the Budget is allocating $6 million to expand curriculum access for rural and regional students, and $11.1 million for locally-driven projects across regional Victoria, supporting students to engage in education with local knowledge and expertise. 

This includes supporting One Red Tree to train psychologists to work in schools in Ararat, the Farm My School program on the Bellarine Peninsula that will teach kids about growing healthy food, and on the Great South Coast of Victoria the Budget is backing Beyond the Bell to support kids with challenges outside of the classroom. 

The State Government is continuing to invest in healthcare in Victorian schools – ensuring students have access to doctors, nurses, speech pathologists and social workers at school – and backing community-based education projects with $8.4 million. 

Victorian Premier, Jacinta Allan, said that this is her first Budget as Premier and that she is proud to say it’s a Budget that’s all about helping regional families.

“Many regional families are doing it tough right now. With this Budget we’re helping ease that pressure and give families one less thing to worry about,” Premier Allan said. 

“We’ll always deliver for regional Victoria. This Budget continues our record of investing in regional Victoria and delivering more schools and better healthcare for families, closer to home.”

Image: ungvar/shutterstock.com

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