Did the Morrison government’s election budget deliver for the social sector? We asked eight NFP leaders.

Your petrol bill will soon be a little cheaper but did the ‘cost of living’ budget (no surprise there given Australia is on the cusp of a federal election) deliver for the social sector and the big issues it tackles?

The sector leaders we asked had mixed feelings. Let’s find out more…

Nici Andronicus, CEO, 10×10:

“Homelessness, domestic violence, mental health and other deeply entrenched community cause areas have only become more complex in recent decades. At this point, it’s hard to envision a world where we’ve solved these issues, and that will continue to be the case if we don’t shift the structure of funding for NFPs in support of our most vulnerable.

“It’s interesting to note that an ACNC study found that charities with $1 million or more in annual revenue received nearly 50% of their revenue from government sources, so large, established charities are being supported well supported by our government at the cost of innovation. Start-up and early-stage social purpose organisations with the brightest ideas to solve problems at the grassroots of communities are not part of the funding picture. The goliaths of the NFP sector are accessing deep resources, but are these organisations going to create the change that is needed to address the problems?  

“There are so many young, talented social entrepreneurs creating new and effective solutions and adapting to changes in our society. Rather than throwing money at the ‘old ways’ of doing things, we want to see more funding going towards grassroots innovators and changemakers tackling rapidly evolving issues – from teen suicide to inclusion, equity issues and LGBTQI+. We can’t let brilliant ideas that are effecting real change miss out on funding because the government wants to follow the status quo.”

Amy Nguyen, co-founder, Zen Tea Lounge Foundation:

“We’re thrilled to see the government investing in the education of our children, whether this is through teaching consent or providing teachers with the tools they need to provide quality education. What we really need is more investment in teaching children about emotional intelligence (EI). As a domestic violence charity, we see first-hand every day the impacts of violence across our communities. If our children were taught how to be more empathetic and manage their emotions from a young age, we would see a lot less harm. It’s a real gap in our education system. Teaching EI would not just reduce DV, but also improve happiness more broadly.”

Hamed Allahyari, owner and chef at Cafe Sunshine and SalamaTea House:

“The resettlement of refugees in Australian processing centres to New Zealand, whilst extremely welcome is long overdue and doesn’t go far enough to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Rather than fixing its broken, inhumane policies, the federal government has shifted the responsibility to its neighbour.

“What we need is less budget spent on housing refugees for decades, wasting millions of dollars of taxpayer money. This money could be much better spent on re-settlement initiatives rather than imprisoning the world’s most vulnerable people for no reason other than the fact they risked their life to arrive here by boat. We know refugees are one of the most entrepreneurial groups and when given the chance, contribute positively to society and the economy.”

Selim Ucar, Youth Street Services Manager, Humanity Matters on Youth Mental Health

“From being ushered into remote learning, disruptions to daily routines to loss of social connections, young people across the nation had to abruptly grapple with multiple changes over the pandemic. It is no wonder that the latest national mental health survey on young people revealed that the majority (82%) of those surveyed reported experiencing mental health issues during the pandemic. With the magnitude of the mental health crisis, it is positive to see the government recognise the urgency of the matter with $206.5 million of funding into services that address the mental health of young Australians.

“The investments announced so far goes into much-needed services for young people, but there needs further reassurance for marginalised youth who are frequently left out. Availability is one thing, but accessibility is another. We need to create a health system that is better at reaching and targeting the young people who slip out of sight – one that can engage with young people no matter where they were – be it on the streets, train stations or under-resourced areas. From our experiences working with young people on the streets, we know that specialised services that exist outside of typical settings will ensure inclusivity so that even those who slip out of the mainstream are seen, heard and supported.”

Brenda Gaddi, Managing Director and Founder, Women of Colour Australia

“It’s disappointing that the Federal Budget has failed, once again, to address the urgent need for a national anti-racism strategy and supporting community-based preventative programs despite racism being increasingly recurrent and obvious within all layers of society in Australia. In the past year, racism has been called out across various sectors – sports, business, politics, refugee and police force towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities but our government is choosing to turn a blind eye.”Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia and should be treated as such. Australia has not had a national anti-racism strategy in place since 2018.

“On top of funding to establish a national anti-racism strategy, there also needs to be mandatory anti-racism training in all schools across the country. If adults are perpetuating and/or experiencing racism everyday, this is also happening in our schools as well as on the playground. It is the government’s responsibility to make sure that the next generation are provided with the tools and skills to recognise, deal with and end racism.”

Dulce Munoz, Founder, Mums 4 Refugees:

“Our federal government is too slow to support and process claims by asylum seekers and refugees, and they are too fast to forget and leave behind people who deserve their help. We were anticipating a bolder, fairer, and more humanitarian approach to improving our immigration and refugee programs in this year’s federal budget.

“After advocating for a Special Intake for refugees from Afghanistan, we were pleased to hear of the government’s planned intake of 16,500 new Afghan refugees in yesterday’s budget. However, this isn’t a one-off solution that fixes our broken refugee and immigration systems. The offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees has been on the table every year for nine years, and the Morrison government has only now accepted this offer. It’s nine years too late and we cannot continue to be this apathetic to our most vulnerable community members for years at a time. Currently, those without a visa are detained for an average of 450 days in Australia. This is inhumane and has to change.”

Ashlee Donohue, CEO, Mudgin-Gal: 

“While it’s great that the federal government has once again prioritised women’s safety and economic security in this year’s budget, it’s a shame that Aboriginal community-led organisations are not being supported financially to offer a more holistic approach.

“The one-off $5000 financial assistance for women leaving violent relationships is helpful but not enough. The first thing that DV survivors look for when leaving violent relationships is somewhere safe to go. This is where the funding should be going first and foremost, to provide a safe refuge in cities as well as rural and regional areas, along with transport to get to and from hospitals, police stations and courts.

“Another area where the government missed the mark is where it failed to incorporate mandatory domestic, family and sexual violence education in every high school across Australia. We also need to invest in education for men as much if not more than women around DFV – most men do not believe that they are perpetrators because there are no substantial programs running that identify to men for men what a DFV is. Men need to be involved in the conversations and part of the solutions.”

Finn O’Branagáin, Artistic Director + CEO, Outloud

“We are extremely pleased to the government finally taking consent and sex education seriously. Its investment in the ‘Respect Matters’ program, whilst long overdue, is a strong step in the right direction to ensuring our next generations are armed with the tools to build healthy relationships and prevent harmful behaviour.

“Our concern is that the burden will fall heavily on teachers, who are already stretched to their limits. The government’s investment needs to focus on partnerships with community organisations that have decades of experience teaching children about these issues and have the skills to ensure it’s done correctly. We’ve seen so much progress in just the last year and the last thing we need is a botched rollout that doesn’t achieve the change Australians are so clearly demanding.”

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