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GEN VIC Victorian Government budget analysis 2019 – 2020

Analysis of government investment to advance gender equity, promote women’s health, prevent violence against women and support the development of a sustainable peak body. 

All GEN VIC members working in gender equity, women’s health and the prevention of violence against women are impacted by the Victorian budget. All women and girls in Victoria are impacted and effected by the budget.

It is the role of GEN VIC to advocate and influence for our members to ensure the budget achieves optimal outcomes for women and girls and a gender equitable Victoria.

Everyday women in Victoria experience inequality in income, superannuation, leadership and representation, education, secure employment and health. Everyday many women across Victoria experience family violence, abuse, assault and harassment. Because of this GEN VIC advocates for the Victorian Government to structure its spending around ways to advance gender equity, promote women’s health, and prevent violence against women and girls.

In the lead up to the Victorian budget 2019 – 2020, GEN VIC engaged with its members to develop GEN VIC’s Priorities for Government Action 2018-2021. This document identified where government investment is needed in Victoria to keep women, safe, healthy and equal:

This investment in these priorities will support state-wide strategies that government has adopted following substantial consultation with the community:

  • Safe and Strong, A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy
  • Women’s sexual and reproductive health: key priorities 2017-2020
  • Free from violence, Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women
  • Building from Strength: 10-Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response
  • The Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2015-2019.

In the lead up the the Victorian Election last year, the Australian Labor Party officially recognised that GEN VIC’s Priorities for Government Action are consistent with their work to make Victoria fairer for women.

Let’s see how the Victorian Government’s 2019 – 2020 budget supports GEN VIC’s Priorities for Government Action, alongside the implementation of existing government strategies to advance the equality, health and safety of women.

Advance Gender Equity

Safe and Strong is the Victorian Government’s strategy for gender equality that sets out six settings for statewide action. This year’s budget has a strong focus on building gender equity in the Sport and Recreation setting, by investing in upgrades to infrastructure to increase women and girl’s participation in community level sports, and new programs specifically focused on particular sports to adapt and evolve their inclusion of women. For instance, $160K to establish golf scholarships to increase women’s participation, $7.4 million for motor sports, including $300,000 to expand the Dare To Be Different program, which aims to encourage more women and girls to get involved in the sport, and $13.5 million for the Community Cricket Program to deliver targeted improvements to women’s sporting venues.

In the Education and Training and Economic Security setting of Safe and Strong, the Victorian Government has delivered new funding of some $976M across TAFE, employment programs, tax support and education to increase women’s economic security. This includes significant investment ($882M) to ensure that all three-year-old children have access to five hours per week of kindergarten, upgrade to TAFE facilities ($57m), and investment to add Certificate III/Diploma of Early Childhood to the free TAFE/Priority course list ($28.5M). In the Work and Economic Security setting, payroll tax exemptions are being offered to encourage employers to offer parental leave to both mothers and fathers.

It is worth noting the investment that the State Government are doing in multicultural Victoria with some $17M to support multicultural organisations, events and infrastructure. There is also new investment to support LGBTI communities across homelessness, mental health, counselling services and support of victims of conversion therapy.

Gender equity programs and policies are not specific in one portfolio but across whole of government.  Even though there is no new money for prevention, there are ongoing programs that can be worked with to support and increase gender equity.

Analysis: Gaps

  • There is no new funding this round for Women’s Health Services to support the delivery of the Victorian Government’s Safe and Strong gender equality strategy, Health, Safety and Wellbeing setting. This is a key ask in GEN VIC’s Priorities for Government Action 2018-2021.
  • The Gender Equity Bill is not budgeted for specifically as the wording in bill is still being worked through and negotiated.  It was communicated to GEN VIC that there is work going on behind the scenes as part of the Gender Equity Bill development to understand what support will be required for legislative implementation.
  • While there is an investment in multicultural Victoria and LGBTI communities to address issues of homelessness and mental health, there has not yet been an investment for women with these identities and backgrounds in decision-making to ensure diversity of decision making in local government. This investment is likely to come in later years of government’s term being listed in the Victorian Branch Australian Labor Party policy platform 2018-2021.
  • The Arts, Media and Culture setting did not receive any new funding in this year’s budget to advance gender equity, however there is a commitment in the Australian Labor Party policy platform 2018-2021 to invest in music, culture and creativity for giving greater opportunities and voice to those women in traditionally under-represented creative industries.

Promote Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health

Women’s sexual and reproductive healthy Key priorities 2017-2020 strategy identifies four key priority areas for optimal sexual and reproductive health for Victorian women. The budget had a strong focus on Victorian’s having improved knowledge and capacity to manage fertility, a key priority of the strategy, where $6 million towards the strategy is focused on establishing a business case for IVF services to provide bulk billing, subsidised treatments and continued funding for the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority.

A welcome investment of $20.7 million has been made to make tampons and pads free and available in all government schools.

The Victorian Government’s Gender Equity Statement also noted new investment of $500K for the Country Women’s Association to continue its ongoing advocacy on health and wellbeing of rural and regional women.

We are seeing a increased funding for women’s mental health and making IVF accessible, however have not seen an investment in women’s access to reproductive choices.

Analysis: Gaps

  • There is no new funding to ensure that Victorians have improved access to reproductive choices, which is a key priority area in the Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health key priorities 2017-2020. This funding is required to improve the accessibility and affordability of medical and surgical terminations, including at public hospitals, while reducing unwanted pregnancies. This was also a key ask in GEN VIC’s Priorities for Government Action 2018-2021, which also payed particular attention to services being available in rural and regional communities and to those who experience barriers to their access including Aboriginal women, migrant and refugee women, women with disabilities and those who are LGBTI.
  • There is no new funding for regional sexual and reproductive health partnerships, led by specialist women’s services to build capacity at the local level to deliver on the Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health key priorities 2017-2020. However, it is noted in the that the Australian Labor Party policy platform that it will implement the Victorian Sexual and Reproductive Health Plan, working alongside women’s health organisations.

Prevent of Violence Against Women

Free from Violence strategy Victorian strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women: First action plan 2018-2021 outlines four key priority areas. At the heart of this plan are statewide efforts to prevent violence against women before it occurs. In this budget there is no new money for prevention of family violence and all forms of violence against women – however GEN VIC has been officially advised that there is continuing funding for Respect Victoria.

The ministerial press release speaks of $185.5 million in prevention of family violence however, close reading of the papers shows that this is focused on response initiatives – secondary and tertiary.  A big focus for the budget is $85M towards programs to hold perpetrators to account and change their behavior.

Building from Strength Industry plan is set to receive $3.1M in new money, but it is not clear what this will directly support. It is speculated that it will be invested in the Building from Strength, first rolling action plan set for immanent release.

A formal acknowledgement has been made that while there is no new money for primary prevention (especially in prevention of violence against women), Respect Victoria funding is continuing, as is the support and funding for the Office for Women.

No new investment for primary prevention of family violence but ongoing support for the social and economic wellbeing for women.

Analysis: Gaps

  • There is no new funding for the primary prevention of family violence or violence against women. There is a strong focus on holding perpetrators to account, a positive and much needed investment for intervening early to prevent intimate partner violence and to change behaviors after violence has occurred. However, an investment in addressing the determinants of violence against women as identified in Change the Story, Australia’s National Framework for the Prevention of Violence against Women and their Children, is missing in this budget.  That we have seen less of an investment than previous years is of some concern. However, there are primary prevention commitments in the Australian Labor Party policy platform which provides scope for further investment in subsequent years, including:
    • the full implementation of all recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence by 2023
    • support Respect Victoria, the state-wide prevention of violence agency to coordinate and deliver state wide prevention of family violence campaigns
    • oversee programs to prevent family violence including in rural and regional areas
    • commission research to ensure Victoria is a world leader in the prevention of family violence
    • research the development of a Family Violence Index to monitor and report to parliament on the prevention of family violence.

Support the development of a sustainable peak body

There is no specific money for Gender Equity Victoria, with no new money to build the infrastructure of peak bodies. Gender Equity Victoria looks forward to working with the Victorian Government in their support of GEN VIC’s Priorities for Government Action 2018-2021, one of which is to support the development of a sustainable peak body.

So what do we think?

While there are gaps, there are many wins and we are seeing a strong investment in gender equity in Victoria and a move towards gender equitable budgeting. We are pleased that we have a government that invests in gender equity and is committed to releasing a Gender Equity Budget Statement.

As your peak body for gender equity, women’s health and the prevention of violence against women, we will be working with the Victorian Government to progress investment in women and girls, bringing the issues and concerns raised by our members to the fore and supporting the full implementation of government policy.

For any questions, please get in touch with us at genvic@genvic.org.au

Read GEN VIC’s media release for our comment: GEN VIC welcomes ongoing commitment to equity for women but concerned about ongoing support for primary prevention of violence against women