25 November 2020

The Victorian Government has announced in yesterday’s Budget a commitment of $335 million to transform the child and families system with a focus on early intervention and prevention – including funding for family preservation and restoration programs.

This is a fantastic development, for which I am very grateful, as it follows my advocacy for this specific funding.

In October, I directly raised with the Treasurer, in Parliament, the urgent need for this approach.  In particular, I spoke about two landmark Social Ventures Australia (SVA) Consulting reports which support a focus on early intervention in the child protection and out-of-home care systems.  I also asked the Treasurer to what extent the Government supported the principles found in those reports and called for funding and resourcing to implement those findings in this year’s Budget.

More broadly in Parliament, I have repeatedly (23 times to be exact) called for a focus on early intervention, including systemic changes to focus greater funding on addressing the issues that lead to poor outcomes and crime. We need to do this much better – and earlier – to bring about the lasting generational change that is required to reduce the number of people ending up in our justice, out-of-home care and residential care systems. The potential benefits are plentiful – improved wellbeing, less trauma, less children in out-of-home care, and reduced crime. By investing at the right end, we can save time and money later in health systems, our courts and prisons.

In respect of the Budget announcement yesterday, this advocacy would not have been possible without the tremendous collective work of the service providers who engaged SVA Consulting and the Macquarie Group Foundation to sponsor and undertake modelling that made a very clear and convincing case for critical funding to prevent 1,200 children a year from entering out-of-home care.  I had the pleasure to meet with many of these organisations and share their understanding for this critical systemic change – Berry Street, Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, VACCA, OzChild, Anglicare Victoria, Mackillop Family Services, Mallee Family Care, Queen Elizabeth Centre, Uniting, and Youth Support and Advocacy Service.

I sincerely thank them and I also sincerely thank the Treasurer, Tim Pallas, and the Minister for Child Protection, Luke Donnellan, for listening to our collective calls, committing to this desperately needed investment and steering the child and families systems towards targeted early intervention.  I am very hopeful that these developments will decisively reorient these systems and thereby deliver more effective solutions and outcomes in the future for vulnerable Victorian children and families.