Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) (12:37): My constituency question is directed to the Acting Premier, Minister for Education and Minister for Mental Health, the Honourable James Merlino. The Victorian budget has allocated $277 million in new support for our schools to ensure mental health and wellbeing. This includes establishing a new $200 million School Mental Health Fund. The proposed funding will significantly expand the mental health in primary schools pilot, reaching 100 schools. A partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the pilot enables schools to employ a mental health and wellbeing coordinator, while also supporting staff to better understand and respond to mental health and wellbeing issues affecting their students. My question to the minister is: can the minister update me on how the mental health support boost for schools will benefit the residents of the Western Metropolitan Region? The new fund will be rolled out to all regional and rural government schools as a priority from term 3 in 2022, with the metropolitan schools to follow from 2023.
The new $200 million Schools Mental Health Fund will support Victorian Government schools to select programs, staff and other support from an evidence-based Menu that best meets the mental health and wellbeing needs of their students. The Menu will provide schools with opportunities to purchase support for initiatives that promote mental health and wellbeing, enable schools to intervene early to support students, and provided targeted support for individual students.
Schools will be able to draw from a range of evidence-informed measures proven to work, from the ‘Positive Education’ model to therapy dog programs and mental health first aid training. Schools will also be able to use their funding to engage more mental health and wellbeing staff to further support their children and young people.
The Fund will be rolled out to all government regional and rural schools as a priority from Term 3 2022, and all government metropolitan schools, including schools in the Western Metropolitan Region by 2024, reflecting the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System finding that students in rural and regional areas face additional challenges accessing support.
Additional funding will also continue and expand the Mental Health in Primary Schools Pilot (Pilot) to reach 100 schools in 2022. A partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Pilot enables schools to employ a Mental Health and Wellbeing Lead, while also supporting staff to better understand and respond to mental health and wellbeing issues affecting their students. Evidence produced through the Pilot is informing larger-scale research and development of what works to support primary school students’ mental health and wellbeing. In 2021, four primary schools across Western Melbourne are participating in the Pilot – Wyndham Park Primary School in Werribee, and Mossfiel Primary School, Woodville Primary School, and Cambridge Primary School in Hoppers Crossing.
The Department of Education and Training is currently working with Regions to identity Victorian schools that would benefit from participating in the Pilot in 2022.