Adrienne Picone says the latest Gutwein State Budget has plenty of green shoots, but any real judgment of its effectiveness will be in the months and years ahead.
THE true worth of Thursday’s budget won’t be known for some time.
Effective budgets should be more than a one-way transaction between a government and the community.
Done well, budgets engage with the communities they affect. Done well, they can be transformational and set the course for cultural change and structural reform.
Our state is benefiting from a remarkable post-COVID economic and jobs recovery, but the gains are not benefiting everyone.
Many Tasmanians are unable to grasp the opportunities on offer, often because the legacies of the past remain with us.
Too many Tasmanians are being excluded from taking up opportunities through ineffective systems and barriers that stand in the way, such as a public transport system not shaped around where people need to go, inaccessible and unaffordable health care, inadequate and insecure housing, and an education system not geared towards engaging all learners.
Solving entrenched issues in Tasmania such as poverty and inequity, and the systemic problems we face in health care and housing, are not simple and won’t be solved in one budget cycle. But they are possible to solve. We’ve seen evidence of what we’re capable of achieving through our collective pandemic response when our industry, business and government worked alongside communities.
There are green shoots of change in this budget, such as the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, which should make a material difference to the lives of thousands of Tasmanian children and young people.
Moreover, a significant investment in food security and place-based programs that put people at the centre, such as the Jobs Hub model, which is delivering tremendous outcomes for locals.
These initiatives are developed as solutions should be: shaped by community, driven by community, and championed by community.
Also hugely significant is the funding that sits behind our industry’s workforce, which was announced at the 2021 State Election — $3.3 million over three years to address the skills shortage and create 4,000 new jobs by 2024 to meet rising community demand. This significant investment in the care economy — in the wellbeing of people — is necessary, and will generate a return on investment for government.
This provides economic validation for the important work our industry is doing and will future-proof our industry. But more importantly, it reflects more than a transactional approach to our industry and people we serve.
This funding will transform the way we work so we too can keep putting Tasmanians at the centre of everything we do.
Most importantly, this budget demonstrates a commitment to doing things differently. But as welcome as the announcements and the investments are, it comes with a caveat: the true test of this budget is yet to come.
The onus is now on the government to measure the progress and effectiveness of funding allocations against metrics that matter — metrics that measure outcomes with regard to the wellbeing of our state’s people.
Their voices need to be central as services, programs and supports are rolled out in the coming months.
The Premier promised us a government of conviction and compassion and made it his priority to ensure Tasmanians — no matter where they live, their circumstances or background — will have the chance to benefit from our growing state. The community services industry is best placed to ensure the Premier’s words are translated into reality for every Tasmanian by making sure that every opportunity is a meaningful one.
So, let’s embed these green shoots and work together, across government and with our communities — as we’ve successfully shown we can — to create opportunity and tap the potential of Tasmanians.
Adrienne Picone is chief executive of the Tasmanian Council of Social Service.