It was fantastic to see in last week's budget announcements, a large portion of funds earmarked for regional communities.
One of the challenges we have as an advocacy group for regional NSW is on budget night trawling through the budget papers picking up bits and pieces where regional Australia and NSW may benefit.
A paper dedicated to regional Australia is certainly a good sign that regional communities are getting more of Canberra's attention, and more of an opportunity to sustain, develop and prosper. However, have the right things been prioritised and will allocations be enough?
We have certainly welcomed a $5 million grant to the CWA to be distributed to farming families suffering hardship due to drought.
The CWA of NSW has already distributed more than $10 million to drought affected farmers, funds donated by the general public and corporations, and with the CWA absorbing administration costs to ensure every dollar gets to where it's needed.
A government grant along with further funding for important tools like drought hubs and maps, is very welcome, as the drought continues for many regions, even though media coverage by metropolitan outlets wanes.
Other highlights for our members include; funding for emergency housing for women and children escaping family violence; incentive programs for domestic and international students to study in regional Australia; job training specifically targeting youth unemployment in regional areas; and a community health and hospitals fund, which will include funding for upgrades to regional hospitals.
We've also welcomed significant additions to funding for Australia's aged care system and carer support services, mental health funding, as well as allocations to state and local governments to repair roads and for the Bridges Renewal Program.
Regional telecommunications also gets a boost.
There is much to be happy about with this year's budget papers, not to mention the expected return to surplus.
We are, however, cautious to say that the funds allocated for regional infrastructure and for important things like hospital upgrades, will be enough. There are many towns with sub-standard infrastructure, roads, and services and we think that what has been announced will be stretched very thin.
The opportunity was also missed for infrastructure projects such as roads linking Sydney to the regions, so our work now will turn to ensuring the project funding that has been announced will include these things.
Expanding the listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and associated subsidies were welcomed, however we're disappointed the opportunity wasn't taken to place the Q Fever vaccination onto the PBS.
Time will tell whether the allocations for regional communities are sufficient, and the CWA of NSW plans to ensure every dollar earmarked and more is rolled out to the regions.