UNICEF Australia has welcomed an explicit focus on children in the Budget - particularly those experiencing disadvantage - but urges further continued commitment and investment in social protection and access to early learning to ensure no child is left behind.
“Building on the existing and landmark commitment to an Early Years Strategy for Australia, the significant $199.8 million investment in addressing entrenched disadvantage announced by the Treasurer, including the Investment Dialogue for Australia's Children, is a welcome boost,” says Nicole Breeze, UNICEF Australia’s Chief Advocate for Children.
“This will help make meaningful change to the wellbeing of children, young people, and their families in areas of ingrained disadvantage.”
Similarly promising is the $1.9 billion investment in Closing the Gap which should drive positive change for First Nations children, young people and families, across health, education, mental health, and family violence - particularly for those in remote areas. It will be critical to ensure the involvement of First Nations organisations in determining how these funds are implemented.
“However, with the focus of the budget mainly on current cost-of-living pressures, we are concerned that the Government hasn’t gone far enough in ensuring access for all children to early childhood education and care. The Activity Test continues to unfairly penalise children based on the circumstances of their carers, with those who need early learning the most remaining locked out,” says Ms Breeze.
UNICEF Australia welcomes the expansion of eligibility for the Single Parent payment, energy bill relief and a mandated reduction in the costs of medication – these will benefit children in low-income families.
However, the modest increases in income support, including Youth Allowance and Job Seeker, fall well short of the increase recommended by the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee. This means some families with children will continue to struggle to afford the basics, including fresh food, medication and school-books.
“When it comes to climate change, we note the Government’s commitment to a comprehensive transition towards net zero, reaffirmed in the creation of the National Net Zero Authority. We hope that the Authority will deliver targeted solutions to ensure that young people and families with children are not left behind in the transition,” says Ms Breeze.
“We welcome funding for the National Emergency Management Agency and Disaster Ready Fund, along with the commitment to develop Australia’s first National Climate Risk Assessment and a National Adaptation Plan. It is essential that children - who make up almost a third of our population but who are the least responsible for and most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change - feature centrally in this agenda.”
Regarding international development funding, UNICEF Australia acknowledges the consistent and timely allocations of funding to address humanitarian crises and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. But we know that demand for development and humanitarian assistance globally is growing.
If we want a stable and prosperous region, Australia needs to demonstrate increased ambition through the development program by increasing Official Development Assistance growth in real terms which is necessary to meet the growing challenges. We hope to see such ambition realised in the new International Development Policy.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF Australia and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.au