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ACT Budget 2016-17: Safe budgets and Safer Families

Elise Dare

Chief Minister Andrew Barr was confident as he handed down the ACT 2016-17 Budget yesterday morning.

“This is a budget for an even better Canberra. It’s a budget that invests in the priorities that the people of Canberra want the ACT Government to invest in,” Barr announced aside a seemingly low risk budget in the lead to October’s state election.

A total of 5.4 Billion will be spent by the government on delivering services for Canberra, with the most significant component of government spending going towards health, education and roads.

While the Barr government boasted of a budget that “returns to balance and then a strong surplus”, for Canberra’s women, the true value of this budget is not only economic but lies in the social investments at its heart.

So, what should Canberra women know about this years budget?

The Safer Families Package

In what Mr Barr said he believed to be the most comprehensive response to the issue of family violence ever delivered by an ACT government, the 2016-17 Budget sees a $21.24 million commitment made over the next four years towards the Safer Families Package.

While this is a relatively small amount in terms of budget spending, the introduction of the package does see much needed investment into family violence prevention.

“This is an issue that the nation is confronting [and that] no family is immune from. It’s something that we have been working on for some time, a detailed long-term response to one of the most challenging issues that our community, and the Australian community faces,” explained the Chief Minister.

A $30 domestic violence levy will be put in place to fund this reform, with ratepayers footing the bill. However, with close to half of all Australians having experienced violence since the age of 15, the importance of such reforms is clear.

For the first time, legislation is being put in place that expands the definition of family and domestic violence.

This means the recognition of the devastating effects that economic and psychological harm causes to women and children, as well as physical violence and trauma.

A majority of the funding will be going towards the coordination of government, community partners and frontline staff to support the identification of family violence, early intervention and better case management.

$1.18 million will go towards ACT Police to better assist victims in applying for domestic violence orders with new laws put in place creating interstate recognition of domestic violence orders across jurisdictions as apart of a national scheme.

Over $1.2 million go towards the Domestic Violence Crisis Service and the and the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre to support the vital work they do in supporting victims of domestic violence.

Around $1.2 million will also go towards legal aid and improving access to legal services while almost $1 million will see a residential behaviour change program for men who use or are at risk of using domestic violence.

What’s happening in Health

Almost one third of the entire ACT budget is being spent on better health services for Canberra. The ACT will see more doctors, nurses and health professionals as $1.6 billion is invested into health.

Over the next four years Mental Health services in Canberra will receive $50 million in funding, while more than $111 million will be invested in health infrastructure and services such as the new public hospital at the University of Canberra.

The budget also committed $11 million to improving the health services provided to our most vulnerable Canberrans. This includes $1.3 million to improve access to sexual health services as well as blood borne virus vaccination, testing and treatment for vulnerable communities.

Your child’s education

$1.16 billion is being spent on education, increasing teacher numbers and improving school facilities.

This budget will see public schools in Belconnen, Gungahlin, Tuggeranong, Woden and the inner suburbs receive a combined $41.5 million.

For all students, $24.7 million will go towards improving the standard of education being provided across Canberra along with special needs accessibility, cultural awareness, modernisation, capacity and quality assurance of schooling all being addressed.

There will also be $3.35 million in spending dedicated to upgrading playgrounds and parks around the city, including $360,000 being put towards “natural” play spaces for children.

On the roads

$100 million has been committed toward eradicating key “bottle neck” areas across Canberra through the duplication of roads such as Aikman and Horse Park Drive. Meanwhile there will be a hike in registration fees, parking fees and drivers license fees. The additional drivers license fee however can be offset for those with a clean driving record.

This, paired with the introduction of two mobile speed cameras, means that if you’re not careful, you are likely to be paying more while on the roads.

Image by Martin Ollman

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