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  • Writer's pictureDave Layzell MP

State Matters - 6 March 2023


MONEY REMAINS


EVEN though 3.5 million NSW Premier’s Back to School vouchers had been downloaded - there is still money available for families.


One month into the 2023 school year recent data shows more than $175 million worth of the vouchers have been downloaded.


All families are encouraged to check for any unused vouchers in their Service NSW app, and are reminded that they have until 30 June 2023 to apply for and redeem the vouchers.


The state government has expanded the Back to School vouchers to cover the cost of school excursions in Term 1 and Term 2, helping to further ease financial pressure on household budgets.


For more information visit Service NSW website: www.service.nsw.gov.au/back-to-school-vouchers


ENERGY ACTION PLAN


An estimated 150,000 energy customers are set to benefit from tough new rules to lower energy bills and increase consumer protections for people living in embedded networks.


Embedded networks are private networks which on-sell energy from retailers to households and small businesses in multiple premises like apartment blocks, retirement villages, caravan parks and shopping centres.


The NSW Government’s Embedded Network Action Plan includes introducing a maximum IPART determined price for gas and hot and chilled water supplied through embedded networks, and initiating IPART reviews into electricity prices and whether the establishment of new hot and chilled water embedded networks should be banned.


The state government will write to the Australian Energy Regulator requesting that it only approve new electricity and gas embedded networks that are in the interests of consumers.


COVID-19 WATCH


NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant is closely monitoring COVID-19 infection numbers with some indicators suggesting cases may increase over coming weeks.


The NSW Respiratory Surveillance Report for the week ending 25 February showed most indicators have remained stable but there is still a highly mixed group of variants circulating.


Hunter New England Local Health District had 936 people diagnosed with COVID-19 for the week with 24 people admitted to hospital, two admitted to Intensive Care and two COVID-19 deaths reported for the week.


Dr Chant said that whilst Influenza activity is at low levels there are signs of increasing activity with NSW Health to provide further advice when the Influenza vaccine becomes available for immunisations to commence.


CADETSHIP CONTINUES


A Cadetship Program aimed at addressing the under-representation of Aboriginal people in the state’s legal sector is being extended after a successful first year.


Additional funding will enable another 12 students to take part in the program through Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW).


The program, which launched as a one-off program in 2021, is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the final two years of a degree in law, social work or communications.


Cadetship applications will open later this year with more information available at: www.clcnsw.org.au/first-nations-cadetship-student-introductions


NEW APPOINTMENT


The first Chief Behaviour Advisor appointed in NSW will be tasked with leading improvements in student behaviour and wellbeing across the school sectors.


Emeritus Professor Donna Cross OAM is a leader in the field of children’s mental health and brings with her decades of experience in education, public health and research, having worked with governments at a state, local and international level, including with the United Nations.


Reporting to the Minister for Education's School Advisory Council, the role will support the implementation of best-practice behaviour and inclusion in education.


Catholic Schools NSW and the Association of Independent Schools of NSW have welcomed the appointment and looks forward to working with Professor Cross on strategies that minimise behaviour challenges.


Professor Cross will start in the role on 27 March for an initial two-year engagement.


ACCELERATED TRAINING


Plans to supercharge the early childhood workforce are underway to support the introduction of a universal pre-Kindergarten year in NSW and lower childcare costs for families.


The NSW Government is partnering with the University of Wollongong to develop and deliver an accelerated high-quality pathway to support current early childhood educators to gain a bachelor degree in two years instead of four.


The accelerated pathway available through the University of Wollongong, will better recognise work experience and prior learning, giving diploma-qualified educators currently working in the early childhood sector the opportunity to upskill while continuing to work.


Participants will be offered career mentoring and support throughout their studies, enabling meaningful relationships to develop between students and industry experts.


Enrolments will open in mid-2023.


NEW VETERANS EMPLOYERS


Two Hunter region councils are among the three newest participants in the NSW Government’s Veterans Employment Program (VEP) helping veterans transition from military service to civilian life.


Cessnock City Council and Port Stephens Council are the latest to offer support to veterans looking for employment, with the list now growing to ten also including Lake Macquarie City Council and the City of Newcastle.


Since its inception in 2016, the NSW Government’s VEP has seen close to 2500 veterans state-wide secure employment in the NSW public sector, smashing the original target of 200 veterans.


For more on the Veterans Employment Program visit: https://www.vep.veterans.nsw.gov.au/launch


AGSKILLED EXPANDS


The livestock sector will benefit from fee-free training to be rolled out thanks to the expansion of a NSW Government program investing in upskilling and growing the agricultural workforce.


From its inception, AgSkilled has focused on plant-based industries like cropping, cotton, viticulture and horticulture, where it has delivered approximately $9.6 million in training across the state since 2020.


Under the expanded program, training is available for producers of beef cattle, dairy, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, honey-bees, other livestock, animal management services used for commercial agricultural (food and fibre) production, and pest and disease management for these animals.

AgSkilled participants must be 15 or over, no longer at school and be living or working in NSW and have the support of a current or future employer.



RETURN TO WORK SUPPORT


Organisations with projects that empower women and reduce barriers to entering or re-entering the workforce can now apply for funding to implement tailored programs, as part of the Return to Work Pathways Program.


New funding of $2 million will allow the Pathways Program to build on and complement the successful Return to Work Program, which has already supported more than 3,700 women to enter or return to the workforce.


Organisations can apply for funding from $100,000 to $250,000 depending on the project model, the number of participants to be supported, and the level and intensity of services and supports provided to participants.


Funding applications close 11 April with information and details on how to apply at: www.nsw.gov.au/grants-and-funding/return-to-work-pathways-program


ANIMAL WELFARE INITIATIVES


The NSW Government is boosting investment in improving animal welfare outcomes with two additional initiatives worth over $20 million.


A new $15.6 million digital Pet Registry is part of the state government’s commitment to strengthening animal welfare standards and promoting responsible pet ownership.


The registry will be a state-of-the art, user-friendly portal, making it easier for vets, owners and rehoming organisations to ensure animal details are up to date and allowing delay-free transfers of ownership,


A pilot program is currently underway running until June and the first phase of the new online Pet Registry is expected to be rolled out from the end of this year.


A new $5 million grant program for animal rehoming organisations provides funding of up to $100,000 to improve rehoming outcomes and reduce euthanasia rates.



STANDARD TIME


As the March mornings get darker and sunset progressively gets earlier, many are asking -

When does daylight saving end?


The countdown to the return to Australian Eastern Standard Time is heading into the home straight with clocks turned backward one hour on Sunday 2 April at 3am.


Sunrise and sunset will be about an hour earlier on 2 April than the day before complete with more light in the morning.


And, for the diary, daylight saving recommences at 2am on Sunday 1 October – further information at: www.nsw.gov.au/about-nsw/daylight-saving

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