The Victorian government has vowed to create hundreds of jobs across health and support services to help the state recover from its COVID-19 lockdown.
Deputy Premier James Merlino says $235 million from the upcoming state budget will go towards 500 jobs and 875 traineeships and internships in mental health, family violence, health and child protection sectors.
“This has been the most extraordinarily challenging year. Staying home, staying apart from young ones, it has been really difficult for many people,” he said on Wednesday.
“But there has been a group of people who have been there for us when we’ve needed them most.
“Mental health professionals, family violence specialists, child protection workers, workers in our Indigenous communities … they’ve made such a powerful difference this year.”
He said the investment would create a “pipeline of workers” to help Victorians get access to the support they need as the state opens up.
Some $4.6 million will also go towards helping carers get jobs in the community services, disability and aged care sectors. They will be supported during their studies.
Diane Scott, who has been caring for her brother and her 23-year-old son full-time, said the announcement gave her hope for the first time in 2020.
“To be given the opportunity to study part-time and get some assistance, sign me up,” she told AAP.
“This package looks like it wants to help people who are not often seen, or visible. Being a woman, being elderly, being unemployed, I haven’t got a loud voice.”
Ms Scott said she was hoping to work in the disability sector.
“I can tell you now I’ve got the tacit experience,” she said.
Giselle Bailey from the Salvation Army’s Family Violence Services described the package as a “boost to a tired workforce”.
“There’s a possibility there will be an increase in demand for services as we continue opening up. We’re expecting as people move away from home, they will report things that have happened,” she told AAP.
“What we know is one in three women are experiencing family violence and they still do, even in lockdown.”
According to the latest crime statistics, both family violence and sexual assault reports have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan said there had not been a rise in demand for child protection services during the pandemic.
$235 MILLION TO BUILD VICTORIA’S ‘RECOVERY WORKFORCE’:
* $106.7m over four years to recruit 239 new child protection practitioners.
* $40m to support a service delivery fund for Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations.
* $25.62m to employ specialist alcohol and drug workers.
* $22.5m to employ 48 staff to help reduce the administrative burden on child protection workers.
* $8.1m to build family violence and sexual assault support workforce, including 240 traineeships.
* $4.6m to support pathways into employment in the community services, disability and aged care sector for existing carers.
* $4.3m to increase the number of mental health graduate positions available across Victoria.
* $3.7m for a new child protection student employment program.