I rise to inform the house on how the Andrews Labor government is giving Victorian children the best start in life and leading the nation with innovative programs. This year’s budget delivers a $135.9 million boost to early childhood education, including the single largest state investment ever in the kindergarten infrastructure Victoria needs, with a record $42.9 million boost to build, upgrade and equip kindergartens right across the state. This brings our total investment in kindergarten infrastructure since coming to government to $123.6 million — more than tripling what those opposite put in their budgets.
We are changing the way we fund kindergartens, with a $58.1 million commitment that makes sure children who need more support get it. From next year 25 local government areas will start to roll out the school readiness funding, a new and permanent part of the Victorian kindergarten system that will represent a 10 per cent increase in total funding when fully rolled out. I am pleased to say that this year’s budget has provided additional school readiness funding.
We have a plan to help children prepare for an increasingly connected world, with a $17.9 million program to deliver language classes in up to 120 kinders across the state, with another 10 moving to a bilingual model, and we are continuing to build a highly skilled early childhood teaching workforce with $8 million in scholarships to attract new teachers and support educators who wish to upskill to a teaching qualification. Free or low‑cost three‑year‑old kindergarten will continue, with $4 million for children who are known to child protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. This will also see the expansion of the Lookout model to include kindergartens for the first time. Tailored Aboriginal maternal and child health services will also continue, with opportunities for Aboriginal maternal and child health nurses to undertake further studies in midwifery. We are also continuing to ensure that children with additional needs who are ineligible for the national disability insurance scheme do not miss out on early childhood intervention services.
I am proud of the investment that our government is making in supporting our littlest Victorians, but I was very disappointed to see this week that the Turnbull government’s budget provides no funding for four‑year‑old kindergarten beyond 2019. They also have walked away entirely from the joint commitment to quality by ripping away funding to Victoria to regulate what is largely their federally funded child‑care sector.