Thriving rural and regional communities

A VCOSS guide to what’s being funded, what’s missing out and where the 2019 budget might take Victoria.

Explore Policy Areas

The Victorian Government has followed its previous investments in infrastructure for rural and regional Victoria by announcing a range of regional development priorities and train services, as well as increased support for children, and health and family violence services.

VCOSS welcomes the announcement that the roll out of subsidised three-year-old kindergarten will commence in regional and rural Victoria. This will help to lay solid foundations for children’s success in education, work and life and contribute to a strong future for rural and regional areas. Continued and increased funding for kinship care, supporting vulnerable children and the reform of the Children and Families sector across Victoria will further support children who live in rural and regional Victoria to thrive and meet their potential.

Investments have also been made in health, including access to specialist appointments, residential rehabilitation, the National Centre for Farmer Health and continuation of the Victorian Patient Transport Assistant Scheme, as well as family violence refuge and crisis case management.



Positive initiatives in education and skills

Kinder for every three-year old

Subsidised kinder for three-year-old children will commence in 2020 in Buloke, Hindmarsh, Northern Grampians, South Gippsland, Strathbogie and Yarriambiack. Subsidised places will be available in a further 15 rural and regional local government areas in 2021.
Cost: $35.5m in 2019/20 ($598.7m/5 years) (non capital) and $54.5m in 2019/20 ($283m/4 years) (capital)                                       


School Breakfast Club expansion

The School Breakfast Club, which provides free school breakfasts and school holiday supplies, will be expanded to reach 1000 primary, secondary, P-12 and specialist schools across Victoria. The program will also introduce targeted meal preparation and nutrition classes for patents and children at 100 schools.
Cost: $9.3m in 2019-20 ($58m/4 years)


Regional TAFEs

Three regional TAFE upgrade and redevelopment projects will improve lifelong education pathways for young people in rural and regional Victoria. The following institutions will receive funding through the initial round of the Building Better TAFEs Fund:

  • GOTAFE – Health and Community Services Training Facility
  • The Gordon – Culinary School, Geelong
  • South West TAFE – Library and Learning Hub.

Cost: $8.5m in 2019/20 ($46.3m/3 years)



Positive initiatives in transport


Regional train boost

Regional train services will be boosted, with the Victorian Government adding up to 18 new VLocity trains to the regional network to replace ageing trains. Three new stations will be constructed in and around Bendigo, and planning will start on a Bendigo line upgrade to enable more frequent train services. Government will also begin planning the separation of regional and metro services on the Geelong and Ballarat lines to reduce crowding.
Cost: $209.6m in 2019/20 ($464.6m/4 years)



Positive initiatives in health and human services


Regional Health Infrastructure Fund

The Regional Health Infrastructure Fund has been boosted to improve the quality and amenity of infrastructure across a range of rural and regional health services and includes funding for Ararat Hospital, the renewal of rural residential aged care facilities and the commencement of planning for Stage 2 of the Goulburn Valley Health Redevelopment.
Cost: $50m in 2019-20 ($100m/2 years)


500,000 specialist appointments for rural and regional Victorians*

Additional funding has been allocated for up to 500,000 specialist appointments, along with the establishment of a registry for GPs with up-to-date information about individual hospital waiting lists.
Cost: $32.8m in 2019-20 ($136.2m/4 years) including Commonwealth funding


Victorian Patient Transport Assistant Scheme

Travel and accommodation subsidies continue for rural and regional Victorians who are required to travel long distances to receive specialist medical care.
Cost: $2.6m in 2019-20


Gippsland residential rehabilitation*

This funding will provide an additional 30 residential rehabilitation beds for up to 90 people each year to support them to address substance abuse.
Cost: $1.4m in 2019-20 ($10.2m/4 years) including Commonwealth funding


National Centre for Farmer Health

Funding continues to support farmers and their families with a focus on health literacy and health promotion through the National Centre for Famer Health.
Cost: $1m in 2019-20 ($4m/4 years)


Family violence services in Wodonga, Wangaratta and Horsham

As part of the family violence refuge and crisis case management response, funding has been allocated to specialist children’s counselling in Wodonga and Wangaratta and family violence counselling services and upgrade of crisis accommodation in Horsham.
Cost: $6.8m in 2019-20 ($12.3million)



Positive initiatives in cost of living


Rural financial counselling

Free financial counselling will be available to farming and related small businesses suffering financial hardship.
Cost: $1.7m in 2019-20


New Foodbank Victoria Hubs

Government will develop a business case to establish additional Foodbank Victoria hubs in Morwell and Ballarat, alongside funding the Fair Share charity kitchen in Abbotsford. VCOSS looks forward to the timely delivery of the two new regional hubs in line with Labor’s commitment in the 2018 Victorian election.
Cost: $12.5m in 2019/20


Affordable clean energy for Newstead

The Government will make a funding contribution to a 10-megawatt solar farm for Newstead. This will help transition Newstead to 100 per cent renewable energy.
Cost: $1m in 2019-20


Positive initiatives in Social cohesion

Supporting young people in rural and regional Victoria*

Funding continues for the Regional Presence Projects in Warrnambool, Morwell, Ballarat and Swan Hill, which support young people in engaging with work, school, family and community life and promote a sense of wellbeing and belonging. They also work closely with and support services and volunteers in their efforts to more effectively target this group of young people
Cost: $1.2m in 2019-20


Celebrating LGBTI communities

Additional funding has been provided to expand the Pride Festivals and Events Fund to support events in Victoria’s regional areas, along with Melbourne Pride 2021, a street festival that will celebrate 40 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Victoria.
Cost: $0.5m in 2019-20 ($1.4m/4 years) 



Other regional development priorities

Building on the government’s election commitments, this funding will deliver a range of priority initiatives across the arts, community facilities, jobs, services, sports and tourism in rural and regional Victoria including:

  • Barwon Heads Community Hub
  • Restoration of Her Majesty’s Theatre in Ballarat
  • Free public wi-fi in Ararat and Latrobe Valley
  • Lighting for Lake Wendouree and Victoria Park in Ballarat
  • Regional car parks
  • Sebastopol revitalisation
  • Protecting the agriculture industry
  • Supporting the Country Women’s Association
  • Bringing the best sports and entertainment to Kardinia Park
  • Eureka sports precinct
  • Benalla Splash Park
  • Daylesford and Macedon Ranges festivals and events
  • Lakes Entrance Fisherman’s Cooperative Society
  • Romsey ecotherapy park

Cost: $91.1million over four years ($82.9 in 2019-20)


Further Strategies

A number of further strategies that were not included in the 2019/20 budget could bring significant benefits for people in rural and regional Victoria. VCOSS will be advocating for these initiatives over the coming year, in the lead up to the 2020/21 Victorian Budget.


Ramp up transport options for rural and regional Victorians

To ensure that people living in rural Victoria can access education, employment and services, the government can expand the Flexible Local Transport Solutions program.


Augment funding for rural services

Rural loading recognises the difficulties of providing services, often with little professional support, in rural and remote areas, including the burden of travel, accommodation and office space costs. Rural loading can provide community organisations with the resources they need to provide services to all Victorians, no matter where they live.


Back community organisations in the face of climate change and emergencies

Rural and regional community organisations are ill-prepared for the impacts of climate change and emergencies, yet are expected to provide frontline support, resources and triage, along with longer-term community recovery, resilience and cohesion. The Government can develop a community services framework for emergencies and climate change that will build the resilience of community organisations and their communities.


Expand alcohol and other drug treatment services

The new residential rehabilitation centre in Gippsland is welcome, but rural and regional Victoria need more alcohol and other drug treatment services to help people across Victoria access help close to where they live.


A regional community sector workforce strategy

The Government can develop and begin to implement a regional workforce development strategy to meet the future needs of the community and social service sector in rural and regional Victoria.


Expand public access Wi-Fi and internet to allow people to participate in social and economic life and to be connected with family and friends.

People in Ararat and the Latrobe Valley will benefit from free public Wi-Fi under this budget. This can be expanded right across rural and regional Victoria through a digital inclusion strategy to ensure all Victorians have access to the internet.


Boost community health as regional health hubs to ensure equal access for marginalised and isolated communities

The Government can commit to implementing the Victorian Community Health Taskforce recommendations to ensure that all Victorians can access community health services no matter where they live.


* Indicates the initiative is also included under other policy areas.
^ These initiatives include new funding for 2018/19. This has been included in the total cost and years of funding where relevant.

More VCOSS analysis
Read the VCOSS media release
Watch the VCOSS Treasurer's Breakfast
Real Spending Changes Table