FRSA Preliminary Analysis – Federal Budget 2024-25

Firstly, an apology to our FRSA membership and readers that we did not deliver a Federal Budget Preliminary analysis on the night of the Federal Budget, Tuesday 14 May.  We were in the middle of the FRSA National Conference in Melbourne which required our full attention.

It was actually very interesting to be outside of the ‘Canberra bubble’ on the day – given that so much energy and activity goes into advocacy and activity in Canberra at the time of the Federal Budget being handed down.  Restaurants and cafes are full, airfares and accommodation are charged at a premium and there is of course the jostle that comes with so many groups across the spectrum of NFPs, business and government itself wanting to have their respective voices heard.

The dust from the day has settled but the announcements on that day will still form the basis of the Appropriation Bills and we thought it was still worth casting the FRSA eye over the Budget – for the benefit of our members.

Given the suite of programs and services within the remit of the Family and Relationship Services sector are currently funded through until 30 June 2026 (and at varied stages of review) we were not anticipating any program specific announcements regarding the FRS sector.

That said, we were pleased to see the extension of the First Nations Family Dispute Resolution service for a further two years – through until mid-2026 – which aligns with the program/service end date of all the services under the Attorney-General’s Department Family and Relationship Services Program.

It was also good to see the National Legal Assistance Partnership funding extended for 12 months – the short term 12 month funding commitment clearly reflects that the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments are still working through the recommendations of the Mundy Report.

It was good to see the Government commit $2.4 million over two years to further work the Department of Social Services has been doing around ‘A Strong and More Diverse and Independent Community Sector’ – working with the Community Sector Advisory Group of which FRSA is a member.

Funding to support initiatives announced as part of the Prime Minister’s Crisis response to Family Violence were inked in this Budget and it was good to see that the ‘Leaving Violence Program’ will be extended. What we need to ensure is that this funding can be accessed as easily as possible so that it can make a difference when it counts.  Coming off the back of a National Conference with a strong focus on Family Violence that emerges naturally from the scope of work done in the sector – we also know it is not enough.  A crisis response to Family Violence needs to be tackled across sectors and across tertiary, secondary and universal access points. We need to be investing in every touchpoint where we can make a difference to the trajectory of potential violence for women and their children (and men where applicable).  The FRS sector has a vital and critical role to play in this space.

FRSA had recently congratulated Minister Rishworth on the release of the Early Years Strategy which fulfilled the Government’s election commitment – but given plans under that strategy need to be developed – no surprise that Budget announcements related to that strategy were focused on extensions and funding ‘partially met withing existing resources of the department’ (ie: no new money).

As has been widely reported in the media, tax cuts went ahead.  There was no increase to the Newstart Payment.  Housing and Homelessness was also left out in the cold with a very small increase in the Commonwealth Rent Assistance.  In fairness – the Federal Government did commit to injecting some funds into the funding assistance package with states and territories in the last budget…..but it does take a long time to get those initiatives up and running and as many reflected when it was announced – it is simply not enough to meet demand.

When devising a budget there is always the challenge, in any circumstance, of balancing priorities.  The resounding messaging from those working with children, women, men and communities are that people are doing it tough. People are stretched  – financially, emotionally and mentally.  For the FRS sector, people working in the sector have consistently reported over several years now, increasing complexity in the children, families and communities they work with.  The subliminal, underbelly messaging is  that it is harder and harder to work with children, women and men upstream as they edge closer and closer to the cliff’s edge – in greater numbers than we have seen before.  We do need to see a greater investment/more dollars committed to reversing this trend.