Headspace for Sale

David Braithwaite

MONEY for a Headspace centre in Sale has been included in the federal budget.

It follows a community campaign to establish the service to provide free mental health support and specialised advice to people aged 12 to 25.

The funding was included in budget, handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night.

Sale will have one of 30 new Headspace centres, funding from the $461 million national youth mental health and suicide prevention strategy.

A petition, signed by more than 1500 people in favour of establishing Headspace in Sale, was last week presented to Gippsland MHR Darren Chester by Sale mother Sharon Hall, her father Keith Parkins, who first proposed the idea of a petition, and Wellington Shire youth councillor Charlee Vernon.

Mrs Hall said the petition was placed in medical clinics across Sale, Maffra and Stratford and secondary schools in Sale and demonstrated the overwhelming community support for a local headspace service.

“We had a conversation at home about the fact there is little assistance available for young people in our area looking for this kind of support,” she said.

“We all agreed that something needed to be done and Dad suggested we do something, rather than waiting for someone else to do it.”

Mr Chester said the announcement was the result of a strong community effort.

“I hope we can move quickly so the young people in our area who desperately need help with their mental health and other issues can get support,” he said.

“Too many young Australians are taking their own lives every year and we need to do more as a community and as a government to support them and make sure they can access help if they need it.

“Local doctors, youth groups, concerned parents and the wider community said clearly there was significant unmet demand for youth mental health services in Sale.

“They’ve told me there is an urgent need for additional support for our young people. I’m pleased to secure an additional Headspace service for Gippsland.”

Other highlights of the budget are tax cuts and a predicted surplus.

In a budget designed to kickstart its election campaign, the Liberal-National government promised tax cuts worth $158 million over 10 years.

The budget was brought forward a month to allow for a May election. Prime Minister Scott Morrison could call an election as early as Friday.

Ten millions workers are set to benefit from the tax cuts.

Workers earning up to $126,00 a year will receive a tax cut of up to $1080 for a single income family and up to $2160 for two-income family. The cut will be accessed by taxpayers after they lodge their end of year tax returns from July 1.

The 32.5 per cent tax rate will be cut to 30 per cent from 2024, affecting people earning between $45,000 and $200,000 a year.

The instant asset write-off for small business will jump from $25,000 to $30,000, and will include businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million.

The Treasurer forecast a budget surplus of $7.1 billion for the 2019-20 financial year, the first since 2007-08.

The budget also included $8 million for planning a fast rail link to Traralgon and a $1 billion fund for Princes Highway upgrades.

“In 2020 it will be 100 years since the Princes Highway opened and we will partner with all state governments along the route to improve safety and boost the visitor economy,” Mr Chester said.

More than 3.9 million Australians on government payments such as Newstart, and age and disability support pensions, will receive a one-off payment to help with their next energy bill and cost of living expenses.

The $75 payment for singles and $125 for eligible couples will be paid automatically before the end of the current financial year, subject to the passage of legislation.

The government will provide $6.3 billion in assistance and concessional loans to support farmers affected by drought.

Among initiatives to improve road safety, the government will provide $2.2 billion through the Local and State Government Road Safety Package.

This includes a further $550 million for the Black Spot Program, which targets safety issues on urban and regional roads to reduce serious crashes.

Committee for Gippsland chairman Toni Wakefield said there were lots of flow-on benefits from the budget for Gippsland residents and business.

Ms Wakefield welcomed the initiatives for small and medium business.

“The announcement that small business will get a tax cut of 25 per cent, increased access to finance through a new billion-dollar fund and more timely payments from government is good news,” she said.

“We know many regional businesses are facing skills shortages so the news that 80,000 new apprenticeships will be created for industries with skills shortages is welcome.”

The government will double incentives to employers to hire apprentices while apprentices will also get a $2000 incentive payment.

“This commitment, together with funding to assist young people in regional areas with high youth unemployment, will be welcomed by business and industry across Gippsland,” Ms Wakefield said.

St Vincent de Paul Society national president Claire Victory said the budget failed to address housing costs and below-poverty-level income support payments.

“We are worried about what appears to be an ongoing meanness in the context of ‘personal responsibility’,” she said.

“The continuing refusal to address the low level of support for people on Newstart is harsh.”