CWA of NSW welcomes NSW budget commitments but keen for further detail
NSW Budget commitments to rural and regional health and women’s issues have been welcomed by the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW, but the association says it’s still keen to see the detail and the timeliness of the funding roll-out.
In the 2022 State Budget, handed down by Treasurer Matt Kean earlier today, announcements include $2.4 billion over 10 years to increase the regional health workforce; $149.5 million to boost regional patient travel and accommodation assistance; $4.5 billion for 10,000 new full-time positions at hospitals and health services over four years; almost $3 billion for mental health initiatives; $5.2 million to extend postnatal mental health services: $32 million aimed at returning women to the workforce; and $15 million over the next four years for women in small business to access TAFE courses and professional advice.
CWA of NSW State President Joy Beames said the announcements for healthcare were particularly welcome in the wake of the damning recommendations released last month in response to the NSW parliamentary inquiry into rural and regional health care.
“The inquiry exposed enormous problems around health care and services in non-metropolitan NSW communities and heard harrowing testimony from dozens of people, so we’re hopeful the millions of dollars announced for health in today’s Budget will go some way towards addressing this gap between city and country residents,” she said. “These concerns were a key focus of last month’s CWA of NSW State Conference where a number of motions around urgent health care improvements were endorsed by members and will be the focus for future advocacy efforts.”
Joy said today’s Budget also had some potentially pleasing initiatives aimed at helping women who want to return to the workforce.
“We know there are many women who have stepped back from the workforce for a variety of reasons, who are now looking to get back into full-time or part-time work and face many challenges in doing this. It’s a great investment in NSW women and also for the state’s future economic prosperity.”
One of the main impediments to family caregivers going back to work was access to childcare, both for young and school-aged children, Joy said, so it was gratifying to see the Budget also acknowledge the need for more resources in this sector.
Included in the Budget is $5 billion to create an extra 47,000 childcare places across NSW by funding private operators to expand or build new centres over a decade, targeting areas of need; $37.9 million investment in before and after school care (BASC) services with more than $20 million to expand BASC in regional schools; and $281 million to support 18,000 prospective early childhood teachers and carers to enter the sector or boost their skills.
“There are critical shortages related to childcare right across NSW, including in rural and regional communities, which is stopping caregivers, who in many cases are women, from taking on a job, or committing to additional hours. This sector is crying out for greater investment in new centres and more places, and tied to that is encouraging more people to consider childcare as a career where you can earn not only a high degree of job satisfaction, but also a decent living,” Joy said.
Women’s and children’s safety and wellbeing have also earned substantial budget allocations, with $100 million to improve women’s safety and $69 million to establish and advance measures aimed at addressing the impacts of domestic and family violence. Greater assistance and protection for victims of violence was highlighted in the 2020 CWA of NSW Awareness Week campaign, the association partnering with White Ribbon and Domestic Violence NSW.
The commitments announced by the Government today, Joy said, recognised the high level of need across many sectors and the CWA of NSW was now hoping they fulfilled the promise they offered on paper.
“We also want to acknowledge the efforts of Ministers Bronnie Taylor, Sarah Mitchell and Natalie Ward, responsible for women and regional and mental health; education and early childhood learning; and women’s safety respectively, when it comes to the priorities identified in this budget. We’re optimistic the measures announced today will fulfill their promise and start to make a difference where it’s needed most, but we’ll also be watching closely and holding the Government accountable if it becomes apparent they’ve taken their eye off the ball.”
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