Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) (13:54:31) — I rise to update the house on how the Andrews Labor government is expanding the Victorian child protection workforce. This week is Child Protection Week, and just last evening I had the opportunity to celebrate with many members of the community sector and child protection workers the incredible work that people are doing to protect Victoria’s children. On 30 August I had the privilege of attending a graduation ceremony here at Parliament House to welcome our latest new recruits — 69 men and women who have successfully completed the 2018 child protection vacation employment program. This 12-week paid vacation employment program offers tertiary students the opportunity to receive hands-on experience in Department of Health and Human Services child protection offices and gain employment. The new workers, including graduates and experienced local, interstate and overseas professionals, will be placed around the state based on workload demand.
Over the past four years the Andrews Labor government has shown strong commitment to supporting our child protection system and our community sector as we shift our approach from crisis response to early intervention and prevention. As part of this commitment the Andrews Labor government has embarked on the biggest ever expansion of the child protection workforce. In total, 610 new child protection positions have been funded over the last four budgets. This is a significant achievement, as we have increased the child protection workforce by 43 per cent. There are now more than 1900 practitioners working with vulnerable children and young people across this state. The Andrews Labor government has invested an unprecedented $858.6 million through the Victorian budget to continue the transformation of Victoria’s child and family services system through the Roadmap for Reform and the move from crisis response to prevention and early intervention.
There can be no greater responsibility and no greater calling than to create better, happier and more productive lives for children in Victoria. As the Minister for Families and Children I have been proud to see this work across the state and the vital role that our practitioners have in every community. My very strong view is that our child protection practitioners are the defenders of the defenceless, and I take this opportunity to thank them for their dedication and their hard work in protecting our most vulnerable Victorians.