This is what people are talking to me about:
TAFE and training cuts, state of our schools, regional infrastructure including telecommunications, forest industries and the environment, health services, particularly mental health cuts and supporting rural hospitals, bushfire recovery, regional development , particularly small business and tourism, supporting CFA and the SES, stretched and inadequate ambulance services, public transport
Frequently asked questions:
What is your history in the community?
I have worked in our community for 25 years in health, education and community services. I have been in my role as CEO of Upper Yarra Community House for the past 23 years, and I have overseen the development of children’s services, accredited training and skills for work, aged care services in the home, and alternative education programs for young people. In my time at UYCH, it has gone from a small neighbourhood house to a multi million dollar community based business, and one of the largest employers in the region. I have seen first hand every day the damaging changes inflicted on our community by this government, and this is why I feel compelled to take a stand.
I have been the Secretary of the Yarra Junction Football Netball Club for eight years, as well as a founding committee member for ECOSS and other committees over the years. I am one of three Victorian Directors of Community Colleges Australia, a former member of the Local Aboriginal Educational Consultative Group and I’m also on the Outer Eastern Local Learning and Employment Network.
History in politics:
I come from a family whose long history in politics and social enquiry is on the public record, and I have worked closely with government at all levels for many years.
Public transport needs to be more accessible and more affordable. A lot of people travel to Melbourne to work, and in the district of Eildon there are initiatives that will hugely assist individuals to do this. The extension of the rail link to Mernda will make a massive difference to the people of Kinglake West, the commitment by Labor to capping Zone 1 and 2 fares at Zone 1 prices is important and will make a huge difference to regular travellers from Healesville and Upper Yarra areas.
Labor’s commitment to ensuring local community involvement in the development, improvement and delivery of local bus routes will mean that local people get a say in how local services are developed.
There is also a $1 billion commitment by Labor to improving country roads, making road travel safer for those areas where public transport is limited. Every member of the community has a right to affordable, accessible public transport, and they have a right to feel safe at any time when travelling.
Healthcare – including mental health services:
Health care has taken a real battering under the Coalition. Services need to be locally based and reflective of community need. Many support services have been cut back or fused together which makes access very difficult, particularly for people with complex needs. Losing 1500 jobs in the public sector early in the life of this government has resulted in the loss of so much knowledge from the health sector. Ambulances services need urgent attention, with worsening response times putting live at risk; cuts to Eastern Community Legal Service threaten services to women experiencing violence in the home; one school in a particularly vulnerable part of the community told me that from July next year at least 60% of services supporting their families won’t exist any more as a result of funding cuts;
It’s a matter of public record that hospital waiting lists have grown rapidly during this government’s term of office, and are currently unacceptably high; Labor will conduct a state-wide census of hospital bed and theatre capacity, and provide recommendations and strategies to improve the capacity of our hospitals, in order to reduce the elective surgery waiting list, free up overcrowded emergency departments and reduce the time ambulances spend in hospital carparks.
I fully support the independent business case being conducted for Healesville Hospital, and have assisted in the process by personally asking the Shadow Minister for Health to ask the question of the Minister for Health in Parliament about why the data needed for the business case continues to be withheld, which he has done and to which the Minister has not replied.
Eastern Health’s performance is also under significant pressure. The health service is facing $74.9 million in Liberal cuts over the next four years. The Federal funding cuts include the loss of 300sub-acute beds across the state.
Climate change and the environment:
Climate change is the single most important global issue of our time, and urgent action needs to be taken now so that our grandchildren and great grandchildren have a planet. The reduction of emissions needs to start in our homes and in the practices of industry, and there is a very important role that governments must play in facilitating this. Australia is in the top thirteen world polluters, and we should be leading the world in the provision of renewable energy. All the historic records now show that the world is gaining heat, with most of it going into the oceans. It’s hard to argue with history. The effect of this at a local level for the people of Eildon, according to the CSIRO, is that by 2050 there will be virtually no snow on Mt Buller and a hugely increased Forest Fire Danger Index.
I am personally and politically committed to working with members of the community, the science community and government to continue to design and develop local solutions to this global issue.
In the course of my work at UYCH I’ve been actively involved in developing strategies for addressing road safety in young people, particularly around behaviour change in young drivers, and in my role have secured the P Drivers Project for delivery in our region. P Drivers Project is a large scale road safety research project to develop and implement a behaviour change program for young P plate drivers aged between 17 to 22 years.
Also in my role as Secretary of the Yarra Junction Football Netball Club we have taken seriously our Good Sports Level 3 status, and recently won the Regional Good Sports Award for our approach to alcohol and young people. Places like sporting clubs, where young people congregate, must ensure that they have good governance rules around serving alcohol to young people particular under age kids, and continuing to serve alcohol to people who’ve had enough. You might not be too popular at the time but these are the actions that save lives and set an example.
Labor’s commitment of $1billion to regional roads will also greatly assist in making country roads safer.
Endangered species (such as the Leadbeater’s Possum/Helmeted Honeyeater):
There are no circumstances where is it acceptable for individuals, industry or government to act in a way that endangers the sustainability of our native species. It is that simple.
The timber industry /Great Forest National Park Campaign:
Labor doesn’t go into this election with any plan or policy that would change the current policy settings for the timber industry nor any policy to introduce a Great Forests National Park but both of these issues do bring out strongly held opinions and emotions.
For me though, my long involvement in community leads me to approach big issues firstly through consultation with the stakeholders and talking through the issues before arriving at a conclusion.
I and my family have lived in this electorate for a very long time; I grew up with the timber industry as a natural and normal part of life. Labor will put jobs first because we understand how important they are and I will not support any policy initiatives whose consequence is the destruction of local jobs.
I have said this publicly and I have also said that if we are really concerned with the protection of our timber industry and the jobs it brings, and we want sustainability and the protection of our native species we do need to take a long term view. Nothing stays the same, the industry has already changed dramatically, public opinion, community standards and our economy will continue to evolve. That is why this industry needs to think beyond the current debate if we really do want to protect the jobs we currently have. As the local member I am prepared to play a role in this process.
Interestingly, a recent article in the Age said, “Already, there are rumblings within the Coalition ranks about the future viability of VicForests, with the issue seen as a potential pressure point between the Liberal and National parties”.
The debate about the proposal for a “Great Forests National Park” is framed by the traditional assumptions about National Parks and how they might be used. Again, I would not support an initiative that threatened our jobs our businesses and our recreational use of the area. That is why processes such as those established but VEAC are so important, because they manage the various interests of stakeholders, and ensure that everyone has a voice.
Jacinta Allen is the Shadow Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Shadow Minister for Regional Cities and Shadow Minister for Agriculture. Jacinta has said this about the possibility of new National Parks.
“My view is that any future decisions about parks, reserves or changes to the level of resources needs to be taken following and only following a genuinely consensus based approach. And that means no new reserves unless all the stakeholders including the union and environmental movement reach agreement first.”
I strongly support this position and I understand that stakeholders include our Forestry Industry and our recreational hunters and fishers.
Schools have had the heart ripped out of them by the Coalition government, including local schools who had planning approvals in place under the Building Futures program for much needed improved facilities only to have them cancelled by this government’s funding cuts. This left them with nothing. In this electorate there are school buildings riddled with white ants and asbestos, buildings that are being condemned in school playgrounds after their pleas to government for help were ignored, buildings sinking into the ground, buildings that are literally coming apart at the seams. These schools have been doing the best they can within their maintenance budgets, but this is way beyond this. Under the circumstances it’s hard to justify funding cuts of amounting to $600 million statewide. I’ve also seen schools that have progressive and energetic school councils that see their schools as community hubs, and a vital part of the linking learning platform designed to improve outcomes for both pre-school and school children. I’ve managed to secure $2million for Yarra Junction Primary School already, and I’ve identified, along with school councils and principals, many other schools with significant needs. I see a very productive future for schools under a Labor government, particularly given their longstanding support for education.
I have worked in community education for the past 23 years and I have seen firsthand how learning opens doors to opportunity. Education binds society together, aids prosperity and develops individual potential.
Labor believes every school can be a great school. We will ensure that every school, no matter what its size, sector, location or socioeconomic status, is a well-managed, well-funded, efficient, effective inclusive learning community.
In 2010 the Federal Labor Government asked David Gonski and a panel of acknowledged experts in the field of education to examine the current school funding arrangements in Australia. The panel was required to make a set of recommendations to the federal, state and territory governments for the development of a fair, financially sustainable and effective system that would produce excellent educational outcomes for all of the 3.5 million children currently studying in this country.
Labor is fully committed to implementing the recommendations of this report. I am highly appreciative of the work undertaken by this panel and will do everything in my power to ensure that their recommendations are implemented.
The Coalition is not committed to implementing the recommendations of the Gonski report.
TAFE and University
In the 23 years that I’ve worked in education and training I have never seen the decimation to the sector that we are currently witnessing. To see 1.2 billion dollars cut from the TAFE sector, to see first hand our proud history of quality provision to learners from all walks of life shredded is extremely concerning. These have been the most savage cuts to TAFE ever seen, and have included drastic and random subsidy cuts three times since the Coalition came to government.
Changes to eligibility and cuts to subsidy rates have meant that students struggle now to find a course, and then struggle to find the fees to pay for it. It seems that it’s always the battler who gets hit the hardest, and this government has been particularly tough on young people.
The district of Eildon does not have a TAFE presence, and community based providers are doing their best to address the needs. There are however huge swathes of the region that are unserviced, and this is unacceptable. Industry and training providers have been struggling to develop initiatives in this current climate, and there are models of best practice that are being suffocated by this government’s subsidy cuts.
The first step that a Labor government will take in Eildon will be to re-open the facilities at the Swinburne campus in Lilydale for TAFE and higher education, which will greatly improve access to training for the lower part of Eildon.
Labor believes that making world-class training accessible to all Victorians is not just a matter of equality, but a matter of economic survival.
This cannot be achieved by Government alone; we must collaborate with employers, unions and professional organisations to predict areas of skill shortage and make sure Victoria is not disadvantaged.
It is also critical to the future of our economy that we create opportunities for young people to develop their vocational skills. Apprenticeships and traineeships are an important part of this and I believe young people should have confidence that the skills they learn are the ones they need to attract a quality job and do it well.
Labor understands this and will ensure that unscrupulous operators offering ‘tick and flick’ training are weeded out from the system so that all students and employers can be confident in the quality of their qualification.
In my role at UYCH I’ve been responsible for the development of comprehensive childcare services delivered locally. I project managed the construction of the first community based service in the region, a service that has since more than doubled in size and provides services to hundreds of families.
Access to locally based, quality childcare is essential to a vibrant and sustainable workforce. Without it, families cannot support themselves in the workplace. It should be recognised by government as a fundamental factor in building a strong economy, and it needs to be supported. Regulations ensure quality and implementation of the Early Learning Framework ensures activities and programs are designed to promote creativity and confidence in children that is essential for life. In our community we have children whose life experiences are greatly improved by access to childcare, and their families are supported too.
We need to continue to fight for fifteen hours of kindergarten funding, which was cut by the Abbot government. The National Partnership Agreement was a significant Labor reform designed to increase kindergarten hours and the professional qualifications of staff. It also provided major infrastructure funding to increase kindergarten hours. The commitment of funding for one more year by this government is ridiculous and pointless, and not a commitment at all.
Jobs and growth sit front and centre of the Labor platform. Unemployment has risen from 4.8% to 6.4% during the life of the Coalition government, Victoria’s unemployment rate has been higher now than the national rate every month for the last twelve months. Youth unemployment is at crisis level in regional Victoria, especially in areas of the district of Eildon where it sits at between 21% and 26%.
A major commitment by Labor in addressing Youth unemployment will the reinstatement of vital funding for Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs). LLENs are made up of a range of groups and organisations including education, training providers, business, industry, community agencies, and parent and family organisations. Labor’s commitment will see $32 million over four years injected back into the LLENs programs continuing to support young people at risk of disengaging, or who have already disengaged from education and training. The one-year roll over commitment made by the Coalition seems cynical under the circumstances.
It’s now much harder for unemployed people to re-train because of the huge cuts to TAFE and the eligibility criteria set by this government. Many local jobs require a qualification of some kind, but training is now harder to access and much more expensive.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of rural economies, including hospitality and tourism, and they need to be supported to employ their local people in a sustainable way. They also need adequate infrastructure, like mobile phone coverage and internet access. Supporting innovation will create jobs,
Labor will reinvigorate the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund to target priority infrastructure projects in the regions, and will work with communities and councils to put in place individual plans to grow jobs for regional communities. This will include where possible a boost to pubic sector employment and access to services in regional areas.
Job creation and employment opportunities can only happen if government, communities and industry stakeholders work together to develop sound policies that support regional business. It also needs investment in important infrastructure, like roads and telecommunications.
Labor recognises that under the Coalition, youth unemployment in regional Victoria has reached an unprecedented level. Coupled with massive cuts to TAFE, many people, particularly young people, have been left without a job or pathway.
Labor is committed to ensuring that regional and rural Victorians have equal access to employment opportunities that benefit individuals, families and communities. Victorian Labor’s Plan for Jobs and Growth will return Victoria to an economic powerhouse by creating jobs for Victorian families, investing in skills and training and providing an infrastructure pipeline.
Agriculture and farming:
One of the outstanding features of this district of Eildon is the diversity and depth of the agriculture and farming industries. I’ve seen some spectacular and clever examples of innovation, some on a small local scale and others with the potential to be international players. Victoria’s agricultural sector produces $9 billion worth of exports annually, higher than any other state, and 29% of all farm exports. We need to be supporting young people to think about farming as a career, and opening up the enormous diversity of opportunity that farming offers as a career. Labor will invest in the food and fibre industries, and also in research, development and extension programs to boost food and fibre production. I would support and enact the facilitation of partnerships that lead to the development of commodities, so that local industries work together to value add. There are people out there with the ideas and the drive, it’s the role of government to support them, and not get in their way.
We have state of the art cattle yards at Yea, and there is great potential to further develop this site as the benchmark of excellence for the industry. Eildon has huge diversity in farming models, from large corporate concerns right down to small cottage industries. This diversity is reflected in methods of farming as well, from traditional methods to emerging food trends like slow food. These new ways aim to preserve biodiversity, promote local produce and they situate farmers as co producers of food alongside food producers, making their role more active and participatory in the process that ends up with food on our table.
What issues in particular do you think will be the most important for the Eildon electorate in this year’s election?
There are a range of issues important for Eildon, and these vary throughout the electorate. One of the first actions I would take if elected would be to set up the Eildon Advisory Council made up of community representatives from all over the electorate. The purpose of this Council would be to ensure that all community members have equal access to their local member, that their voices are heard and that all issues are taken seriously. There are big issues like worsening ambulance response times, access to TAFE, access to health services, roads and public transport that are reasonably generic, and require urgent attention. But there are also issues that are vitally important to individual communities and these are often overlooked. I know this from my own experience working in the community for many years. An Eildon Advisory Council would ensure that there is balance, a strong community voice and would hold your local member to account. I would also establish various sub-groups of the Eildon Advisory Council to represent particular areas of importance, such as those identified by the Aboriginal community, young people, farmers, industry areas, health services, the environment and others. I would ensure that the role of the local Member of Parliament is one of advocacy and proper representation that truly reflects the needs of the communities of Eildon. I believe that an Eildon Advisory Council would assist in achieving that end.
If elected, what would you like to have achieved before the next election?
That every voice however small or isolated is heard; that there is no corner of this electoral district that is not understood and visible to government; that the Member for Eildon is known to everyone as someone who will listen, understand, facilitate and deliver; that initiatives and decision making within the electorate involve community representation and input, and that the outcomes of decisions are understood and transparent; that there is no such thing as an unimportant issue;
Do you have any specific goals you would like to achieve during your tenure (if elected)?
- To eradicate the existing levels of disadvantage experienced by members of the community in Eildon;
- To build opportunities for quality education, training and employment within local communities;
- To facilitate an enduring solution to the preservation and integrity of our forests and the needs of the forest industry.
Why should people vote for you in the 29 November election?
I have a history of success in working with government at all levels for the benefit of and in collaboration with the broader community, and have been doing so for twenty five years. I live and work locally, and I’m right across the issues that affect ordinary people. I’m a doer not a self-promoter, and I believe that whilst there are some complex issues in Eildon, success can be achieved through open and honest dialogue, goodwill and working together. I’m committed to this approach.