What the new Victorian Labor Government means for homelessness and disadvantage

With the official swearing in of the Government on Monday, Victoria  has started this week with a new government that has plenty on its to-do list. The Member for Albert Park, Martin Foley was sworn in as the new Minister for Housing, as well as Minister for Disability and Ageing, Equality and Creative Industries.   

Other Ministerial appointments with relevance to homelessness include:  

  • Jenny Mikakos, Minister for Community Services, Seniors and Ageing and children
  • Fiona Richardson, Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence
  • Jill Hennessy, Minister for Health and Ambulance Services

Former Shadow Minister for Housing Richard Wynne has become the Minister for Planning. With this change, CHP hopes to see future planning policies that support the supply of affordable housing.

The new Cabinet is also accompanied by some departmental reforms, with Health and Human Services again being incorporated into the one department.

Soon after the election results were known the Victorian Labor Party released its financial statement, detailing the cost of various pre-election promises.

Funding for the Gatwick and other rooming house upgrades show the government is committed to raising the standard of living for people who rely on low cost, marginalised accommodation. Another announcement that is of great interest to the homelessness sector is the establishment of a royal commission into family violence. CHP will work to ensure that the connection between family violence and homelessness is made clear and will expect to see housing solutions come out of that commission.

Below is a list of commitments that are relevant and of interest to the homelessness sector. The full financial statement can be found here:

A Safe and Just Society

  • Funding for children’s services: $2.5m in 2015-16
  • Support services for women: $2.5m in 2015-16
  • Boost to Domestic Violence Victoria: $1.44m over four financial years 2015-18
  • Men’s behaviour change program: $550k in 2015-16
  • Family violence personal safety: $90k in 2015-16
  • Family violence Royal Commission: $40m over two years starting 2015-16
  • Community Legal Centre Assistance Fund: $2m over two years starting 2015-16

Sustainable and Liveable Communities

  • Homes4Homes: $500k in 2015-16 (this is funding to the Big Issue’s seed program)
  • Rooming house upgrade program: $10m over three financial years starting 2016-17 (includes funding for improvements and service provision to the Gatwick Hotel: $600k)

Skills and Knowledge

  • Community service obligation funding for TAFEs: $220m over four financial years, plus $20m for this financial year
  • Local Learning and Employment Networks  (LLENs): $32m over four financial years starting 2015

Health and Wellbeing

  • Social inclusion mental health support services: $4.98m across financial years 2015-18

Savings & Efficiencies

  • Reduce the number of executive officers: $39.9m across financial years 2015-18

The following programs will be deferred pending the recommendations of the Family Violence Royal Commission:

  • Education pilot for children impacted by family violence*
  • Crisis accommodation support for women and children
  • Enhanced access to support services *
  • Individualised responses for Aboriginal people
  • Multi-disciplinary Centres – expanding the scope to include family violence
  • Multi-disciplinary Centre – new centre
  • Performance framework and monitoring*
  • Proven prevention and local coordination*
  • State-wide behaviour change campaign*
  • Crime prevention initiatives
  • Evaluation of justice-related family violence responses*
  • Targeted programs for offenders in correctional settings

*these programs have funding allocated for the current financial year. According to the Financial Statement all will receive this funding, totalling $6.7m. However, funding is deferred pending the recommendations of the Family Violence Royal Commission.

2014 pre-election budget update initiatives being replaced by alternative Labor policy

  • Flexible post-crisis (family violence) responses for women and children $3.8m in 2015-16
  • Legal Aid expansion: $1.6m in 2015-16
  • Coroners Court family violence review expansion $600k
  • Ice community education forums: $2.8m

Capital funding commitments

  • TAFE capital fund: $100m
  • Doctors in schools: $18m
  • Health Service Violence Prevention Fund: $20m
  • Orygen Youth Mental Health: $60m

At CHP’s AGM on 19 November, the then Shadow Minister for Housing Richard Wynne committed to restoring the funding cuts made to the Social Housing Advocacy Support Program (SHASP). This commitment is not detailed in the Financial Statement.