Young people in rural and regional Victoria have proven to us time and time again that they are resilient, driven, and hard-working.
The ongoing pandemic, environmental disasters, and increasing instability we are seeing in society have hit young people incredibly hard, but they're still positive and passionate about our world.
That's why Tuesday's budget announcement was a slap in the face to that resilience, as young people in rural and regional areas were ignored by the federal government's plans for employment, education and their futures.
Rural and regional Victoria have been completely left out of the $7.1 billion announced for "turbocharging" regional economies with infrastructure funding and upgrades. There are great opportunities to improve roads and rail infrastructure to help with tourism, economic investment, and to increase the opportunities for the workforce in Victoria, but these have been missed. Investing in renewables and action to address climate change, which directly impacts young people in rural and regional Victoria now, and ensures our future, has not even been considered.
The extension of wage subsidies to help young people get apprenticeships, with specific support going to regional areas and women in "non-traditional trades" is welcome. These moves aim to boost the economies of regional areas and to reduce barriers for women entering into certain trades. This move will undoubtedly have positive impacts for many rural and regional young people, and provide more opportunities for employment and to learn skills outside of traditional educational routes. Yet these subsidies and measures predominantly support employers, with less support for young people and no guarantee or measure that they will complete their apprenticeship.
Rural and regional Victoria have been completely left out of the $7.1 billion announced for "turbocharging" regional economies with infrastructure funding and upgrades.
Similarly, increasing women's participation in industries where they have traditionally been excluded is a fantastic step, but it is still funding for male-dominated industries where sexist cultural attitudes continue to hold women's careers back. More support is required towards changing attitudes and making working environments truly inclusive.
Advancing young people into trades is crucial and a great step, yet this budget announcement comes while the federal government is planning to cut funding from public schools at an unprecedented level - $559 million over the next three years.
For many, entering a trade may be their only choice for employment, and while economically, trades are essential, they cannot be the only option young people have to participate in society.
At the same time, private schools will be receiving enormous increases in funding, with $616.8 million in 2022-2023 alone. These cuts in funding to public schools will affect rural and regional young people incredibly hard, especially in areas where choice of school is already limited due to cost or location. What the federal government is doing is essentially further widening the gap between the educational privilege metropolitan young people have over rural and regional young people.
This funding gap will make it even harder for rural young people to get into higher education in the field and institution of their choice, as the funding will directly affect the education they are able to receive.
The attempts to address the skyrocketing cost of living, through fuel subsidies and one-off handouts, can't even be described as band-aid solutions, because they truly don't achieve much at all.
As someone who was on Youth Allowance and government assistance for years, an extra $250 would probably have worked for only for a week or two at most.
With the cost of rent, education, food, petrol, and even public transport, what young people need is ongoing security and living support that is in line with the current cost of living. We need to raise the rate of income support, so that thousands of young people can afford to make ends meet.
Young people are often held back because government support such as youth allowance barely covers expenses such as rent and bills - they have to work casual jobs as well. But if you work more than a certain number of hours, your assistance will be slashed and you have less stability than if you weren't working at all.
There are a huge number of issues in the system that need fixing to actually help young people to be able to do things like buy houses, but the government is refusing to take these steps.
These short-term political promises have been made at a time when young people are facing uncertain futures, and will inherit the wicked challenges of climate change, unaffordable housing and debt.
Every person wants to leave a better future for the next generation, so we must make sustainable changes to the environment and the economy so rural and regional communities will continue to thrive and set up our young people for a fairer, more prosperous future.
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