Minister’s Statement

I rise to update the house on the Andrews Labor government’s ‘Dan’s vans’—that is, our free school dental vans. On Sunday I visited Box Hill North Primary School together with Premier Dan Andrews; the Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, James Merlino; and the member for Box Hill, Paul Hamer, to announce the first cohort of schools that will be visited by the Smile Squad—that is, the free school dental vans that will visit in this term approximately 22 schools across Box Hill, South Barwon, Cranbourne and Wodonga. I want to particularly acknowledge and thank the really enthusiastic welcome that we had from the school students at Box Hill North Primary, who were there on a Sunday morning in their school uniforms and excited to visit a dental van. Who would have thought that we would have all these young children so excited to visit a dental van? The Smile Squad vans will provide free check-ups and treatment, including teeth cleaning, fluoride applications, fillings and other non-cosmetic treatments, to make sure our kids have healthy teeth and bright smiles. We promised free dental for all Victorian primary and secondary school students, and that is exactly what we are delivering. That is why this year’s budget invested $321.9 million for this free dental care program, and this is the biggest ever investment in public dental in Victoria. Once they are fully rolled out by 2022, the fleet of Smile Squad vans will provide check-ups and dental treatment for about 650 000 schoolkids every year. We know sadly that many kids are missing out due to cost. This is why our landmark free dental program will drive down big dental costs for families, with bills expected to be slashed by an average of $400 each year for each child. It will free up more than 100 000 places for adults in our public dental system each year, reducing wait times for adults as well. This is a convenience for parents as of course kids’ teeth will be conveniently checked and treated whilst at school, so this is a game changer for oral health for schoolchildren in Victoria and we as a government are very proud to be supporting the rollout of Dan’s vans.