International Students left out on family-focussed 2024 Vic budget

Welcome relief for homebuyers and multicultural families with children, but International students will continue to feel the cost-of-living clinch.

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Families and education will receive sizable investments as part of the Victorian Government’s 2024-25 budget, handed down on Tuesday.  

Subtitled ‘Helping Families’, Treasurer Tim Pallas says the budget is aimed at ‘addressing the challenges’ of the cost-of-living crisis, acknowledging the high inflation rate and workforce shortage.  

“This Budget is about helping Victorian families with the most important things – continuing our investment in the education, health, housing and transport services Victorians rely on, while providing cost-of-living relief,” says Minister Pallas. 

“We’re facing up to the economic challenges faced around the world with sensible, disciplined decisions – we won’t shy away from reality.” 

Education and families to receive a quarter of the Victoria budget

Headlining the budget is the $400 School Saver Bonus, a one-off payment to every public school student to aid with costs such as excursions, uniforms and books.

Education takes up almost a quarter of the 2024 Victoria budget, with $1 billion allocated to continue building the 16 new schools promised in developing suburbs such as Wollert and Point Cook. 

Multicultural community language schools will receive a $11 million boost, with $3.9 million allocated to interpreting and translating services in schools and early childhood facilities and $6 million to upgrade security services at faith-based non-government schools. 

“Every child, no matter where they live, deserves access to world-class facilities and an outstanding education – we’ve spent a decade building the Education State, and this Budget continues our investment in our kids’ future,” says Minister for Education, Ben Carroll.  

three school children in uniforms reading books
Students at Government schools will receive a one-off $400 School Saver Bonus. (Source; 2024 Budget website)

Following recent events, family violence prevention and assistance for survivors will grow from $211 million to $4 billion, with the Government committing to introducing legislation requiring each future budget to include a gender equality statement.  

Homebuyers spared but International Students to lose out 

Investment in the Victorian Homebuyer Fund’s shared equity scheme will continue, with $700 million promised over the next financial year, before transitioning to the Federal Government’s scheme.  

However, the budget provides no reprieve for the rental surge, which hasn’t been addressed since the 2023-24 $2 million Rental Stress Support Package announced in last year’s Housing statement.  

The Government also plans to scrap Covid-era initiatives, notably the Sick Pay Guarantee providing much needed reprieve for casual and contract workers. This will heavily impact young people, with 40 per cent of International students employed in ‘low skill’ jobs according to the 2021 Census.  

Whilst the Free TAFE initiative will continue with broadened eligibility criteria admitting Permanent Residency holders, the $7.5 million allocated towards food relief organisations sustaining many international students has also been cut down to $4.6 million.  

This comes as visa refusal rates reach an all-time high, according to the latest home affairs data, with a hike in student visa fees expected for the upcoming Federal budget.  

Modest investment in multicultural communities  

Multicultural initiatives hallmarking the previous Victoria budget will receive limited investments this time around, with the Multicultural Festivals and Events fund slashed from $12 million to $8 million, and the Multicultural Media Fund to receive just $1 million.  

The $9.8 million previously allocated towards targeted multicultural support programs including the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV) has disappeared, this year’s budget instead allocating $4.8 million towards supporting the settlement of newly arrived migrants.  

Four Sikh men at the Multicultural festival
Less money has been allocated to the Multicultural Festivals and Events Fund. (Source: Victorian Multicultural Commission website)

Eddie Micallef, Chairperson of the ECCV, has expressed concern over cuts to their targeted engagement program.  

“We are disappointed that funding has ceased for strategic partnerships and engagement coordinators that provide critical support for our regional multicultural communities. We will continue advocating for sustainable funding for regional ethnic councils to ensure they can support their local communities,” he said.  

A dedicated $5 million has been put towards the social and economic wellbeing of Victorians with African heritage, to provide culturally appropriate support for this emerging community. 

Addressing Multicultural Media yesterday, Assistant Treasurer Danny Pearson also mentioned the Government have also reappointed their Anti-Racism taskforce and is looking to revise their Anti-Vilification laws.  

Less capital investment in infrastructure 

Amongst this year’s biggest casualties is the long-awaited Melbourne Airport rail, which has been pushed back another four years.  

A train inside the newly built metro tunnel
The Melbourne Airport Rail project has been delayed another 4 years. (Source: 2024 Budget website)

Overall capital investment in infrastructure will decline from $24 billion to $15.6 billion over the next three years as part of the Government’s plan to address what it describes as ‘unique challenges’. 

To this extent, the Multicultural Community Infrastructure fund will receive $30 million, $10 million less than in the previous Victoria budget.  

Despite reigning in infrastructure spending, state debt will continue to grow, with Minister Pallas stating that ‘public and private projects are facing shortages of materials and the workforce we need’. 

‘Helping Families’, the 2024-25 Victoria Budget is available now 

Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy is an emerging journalist and theatre-maker based in Melbourne.

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