No one can predict the future, but perhaps the closest thing we have to a fortune teller is the Department of Treasury.
This week, Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers set the course for Australia’s next twelve months by releasing the federal budget – an extensive and thorough plan for our country’s finances over the next year. The report is highly conceptual, and indeed, many aspects are beyond our control. Nevertheless, it is important for young people to understand the spending and tax policies of Government. The budget has far-reaching implications that impact all Australians, and students are certainly not an exception.
The budget has real-time effects on the everyday life experiences of Victorian Students, as schools largely rely on the support of Government funding to provide an education.
It is reassuring to see that amongst those values is a commitment to upholding a high standard of education for primary and secondary school students. As a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product - a global measure of the monetary value of goods and services), the Australian Government invests more into education than both the United States and the United Kingdom combined (14.43% as compared to 6.05% and 6.1% respectively), making our country a pioneer for youth and future generations.
Amongst the many investments into improving educational outcomes are a few key funding areas:
First Nations Education: $32.8 million towards the Clontarf Foundation and expansion of the City-Country Partnerships program
This investment, alongside the Closing the Gap policy, aligns with Vic SRC’s inclusive indigenous education initiative in that both envision a more equitable education for First Nations students. Elevating the educational experience for Indigenous students is essential to this vision, alongside a commitment from non-indigenous schools to increasing awareness of Australia’s history and issues in this space. The funding for the City-Country Partnerships program aims to connect metro schools with remote schools which have a high proportion of First Nations students. This investment is particularly important toward promoting a culture of reconciliation, and creating a generation of informed citizens.
Consent Education: $20.4 million per year for three years has been invested toward supporting programs in schools
Again, Victorian students have identified time after time that consent & respectful relationships education are in need of significant, student-led reform. This funding looks to expand the program reach and we hope to see it deliver relevant, consistent and engaging courses to students.
Learning Environments: $265.8 million investment into the Schools Upgrade Fund
Education is very much a physical experience as it is mentally. A clean, modern and spacious learning environment is essential to fostering a productive and robust work ethic amongst students. Whilst all schools could do with a make-over, this investment should ensure an equitable distribution of funds so that a lack of facilities is not a barrier to accessing education. In our country, a postcode should not be indicative of the quality of education students are receiving, as all teachers in all areas should be adequately equipped to educate young people.
Certainly, education extends beyond the programs and physical learning environments, and this recognition has certainly been reflected in the budget. In response to student mental health and wellbeing concerns, the Government has committed $61.4 million per year for four years towards the National Student Wellbeing Program. With the introduction of a student-led mental health taskforce being one of VicSRC's key advocacy priorities, we hope this funding is a significant step towards achieving that.
In closing, while the Australian Education system certainly still has many areas with room for improvement, this Federal budget is a step in the right direction for all students.