As a Year 10 student living and working in regional Victoria, I am hopeful the upcoming state Budget includes measures which positively affects the lives of students and young people. As an activist for students and young people, and a member of VicSRC’s Student Executive Advisory Committee, I am hopeful that the Victorian Government releases a budget that invests more in health and wellbeing, including mental health, increases opportunities for student-informed co-design to achieve student voice and empowers young people to speak up and makes day-to-day life easier for students.
There’s been a lot of talk about the increase in recreational vaping lately, especially among young people. The Federal Government pledged $247.4 million to tackle vaping and smoking, but this investment falls short of educating students on the risks of smoking and vaping. Schools, families and other service providers aren't properly equipped to tackle the issue of vaping among young people, and I would love to see the Victorian Government announce funding for students to be educated about these risks. The Government should consult with a larger group of young people to discuss this growing epidemic and find new ways of tackling this growing problem within our schools.
Something I am a huge advocate for is updated, relevant, sex and consent education. Consent education delivered in schools is often awkward and uncomfortable for students. In 2021, it was mandated by the Victorian Government that all school aged children and young people attending a government school receive consent education, but it’s hard to know how this rollout is going. I know my school is yet to update their sex and consent ed program, and I am hopeful we will see some positive change soon. This process should be co-designed with students, ensuring young people have priority in shaping their education to ensure its relevant to their needs, and the learning environment is safe and comfortable for all students and teachers.
The mental health of students is an important topic, and the government continues to work with community organisations and schools to fix this issue. Students across Victoria report high rates of mental ill-health, with lengthy waitlists and minimal support available to them, especially if they live in rural or regional Victoria. One of our top priorities for 2023 at VicSRC is establishing a Student Mental Health Taskforce, made up of a group of current students working directly with decision makers in government on the implementation of mental health initiatives in schools. The establishment of this taskforce would provide another opportunity for students to have direct input into the programs and initiatives aimed at supporting them and will ensure top decision-makers are considering the needs of students when designing and implementing these crucial programs.
VicSRC has been working closely with the Victorian Government to find solutions to these problems, and we hope that the upcoming state budget will provide much-needed financial support to make these objectives a reality for all Victorian students.