Did the state budget deliver on student voice?

With a significant dollar figure attached to education related investments, we asked our Student Executive Advisory Committee co-chair, Grace (she/her), to weigh in on the student perspective following the Victorian 2023/24 Budget announcement.

grace speaking

The Victorian Government just released the State Budget for 2023-2024, and there's so much to discuss! They're allocating a lot of funding to the education sector, which is great news for us students. As exciting as this is, it's essential for us to understand the budget's implications for our schooling experience. 

First off, the Government is really investing in our education spaces. They're putting a significant amount of funding into the construction of more schools and improvement of existing ones. This means that we can expect improved facilities that can lead to a better learning environment. It's exciting to see the education system expanding to accommodate more students. 

There’s also a big focus on accessibility and inclusivity. Specialist schools will now have more extracurricular activities and occupational therapists. This is fantastic because it means students with disabilities can participate in activities and experiences that were previously only available in mainstream schools. It's an exciting win for students at specialist schools! 

The Government is also focusing on "building equity and excellence for rural and regional students." They're investing $1.6 million in various initiatives, such as new online science and art programs. I'm thrilled that they're investing more in rural and regional students. This funding shows a commitment to ensuring that students outside of major cities have access to quality education, and is a step in the right direction towards bridging the gap between metropolitan and rural education, and will hopefully help these students to feel more empowered in their education.  

Mental health has been a hot topic at VicSRC for years, and the government is now allocating $10.6 million to boost anti-bullying initiatives. While this funding is great, I still believe we need to do more in this area. Establishing a student-led mental health task force could be a game-changer, as it would empower students to work towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental health in schools. Our voices matter, and we should seize the opportunity to make a positive impact on our own well-being. 

Since 2019, the State Government has been providing free menstrual products to government schools. This year, they're devoting $15.5 million to ensure these essential products are always available in schools. I'm glad to see that the provision of free menstrual products in government schools continues.  

I'm disappointed that there is no mention of new initiatives for consent and sex education. What we're receiving now is simply not enough. It's crucial that we continue to advocate for lots of education in these areas, as it directly impacts our well-being and understanding of important issues. Students have been actively expressing the need for more comprehensive consent and sex education, and we’d like to see more programs that involve them directly.  

Global warming is another massive issue that we'll all have to face in our lives, and it seems like there's little in this budget when it comes to “greening our schools”. However, there is one positive note,: they're allocating $19.1 million from 2023 to 2027 to support students to gain work experience in high-demand industries, including clean energy. That's definitely a step in the right direction! 

As students, we are the key stakeholders in our education, and we should feel empowered to use our voices. I think there were positive steps in the right direction with this budget, with programs to boost inclusion and access, as well as the development of more spaces for students to learn. But there is still a way to go, and a clear need to shift the focus towards listening to our voices to help pave the way.  

About the author

Grace VicSRC 2024 Student Executive Advisory Committee Member