I begin by paying my respects to the Traditional Owners of the lands, seas and waters of Victoria and pay my respects to their ancestors and the resilience and enduring spirit of the First Peoples.
This is a refresh of the department’s four-year plan, released in 2021, to deliver on the government’s priorities and commitments across our portfolios. The plan is refreshed annually to adjust for changing circumstances, however our vision remains unchanged.
We want to build a fairer and safer Victoria, and to empower communities to be a part of this process. We want to create a more equitable society, one of human dignity, where all people are safe and free from discrimination or violence, and have an opportunity to flourish.
There have been few major changes since the four-year plan was developed. We are hopeful the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is past us, and we can focus on recovery for people and communities still most affected.
We know that multicultural communities, young people and women were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Multicultural communities were more likely to get sick from COVID, women to lose their jobs, and young people to self-harm because of the effects of the pandemic.
We also know severe weather events such as storms, flood and drought are a part of life in Victoria. We work to minimise the impact of emergencies on the health and wellbeing of communities and individuals, especially those most at risk.
We remain deeply committed to Aboriginal self-determination and to truth telling via the Yoorrook Justice Commission and to Treaty. Truth telling will be difficult for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff in the department, but we will face these truths honestly and provide support for people during this time.
As the new Secretary of the department my other priorities are to continue the focus on early intervention, to use evidence-based supports and interventions to improve outcomes for people, and to provide more effective support for the department’s employees and community services workforce. We recognise the importance of investing in the health, wellbeing and safety of our staff across the state.
The once in a life-generation investment in social and affordable housing – the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build – continues1. This includes the guarantee that a minimum 25 per cent of this amount will be invested across regional Victoria.
We will keep working to reduce inequality and discrimination and to promote accessibility and inclusion for all people and in particular Aboriginal people, women, children, young people, LGBTIQ+, seniors, Veterans, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
The department is still leading Victoria’s commitment to end family violence, elder abuse and all forms of violence towards women and children. We will largely complete the significant number of Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations this year.
This includes increasing frontline service delivery, building new infrastructure, improving practice and changing legislation. But we know we must continue our work to end gendered violence and to hold perpetrators to account.
Through these and our other actions, we can work together to create a safer and fairer Victoria.