Episode 2: Kids and the Federal Budget

We debrief the 2022 Federal Budget to explore how children are reflected in the national economic plan. Amanda Robbins and Alicia Mollaun from Equity Economics share their analysis of the implications for kids and families and explore how the Budget process could better deliver big picture reform for those without a seat at the table, or a vote at the ballot box. As some nations explore the use of child-centred budgets, what’s the best way to use this annual accounting process and public spending to inform good social policy and make real improvement to kids’ lives? 

This episode is rounded off with a catchy rap written by primary school boys in Western Sydney as part of the Respect program which focuses on educating kids about the nature and causes of family and domestic violence. Tevita Ngata, now 15 years old, reflects on his experience participating in the program run by Outloud, an intersectional, CALD-focused social impact arts organisation that creates meaningful opportunities for young people in Western Sydney. 

With thanks to: Amanda Robbins, Alicia Mollaun, Tevita Ngata, Craig Taunton and the Outloud team.

Guest: Amanda Robbins, Equity Economics

Amanda has extensive expertise in economic policy having worked as policy adviser for over 20 years in both government and the not-for-profit sector domestically and internationally.

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Amanda  worked as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Australian Federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister in the former government and has over 9 years experience with the Federal Treasury. 

Her experience internationally includes as Senior Adviser in the Treasury of Papua New Guinea from 2006 to 2008, in New York advising World Vision, as Deputy Director of Australia’s flagship economic governance program in Indonesia and most recently working with the World Bank in Washington DC.

Amanda founded Equity Economics in 2013 and has since delivered original economic costings, macro-economic analysis and policy options for governments, unions, think tanks, corporates and the NGO sector.  Amanda holds an Global Executive MBA and Bachelors of Economics from the University of Sydney, and Masters of Laws from the ANU. Amanda is also a qualified lawyer.

Guest: Alicia Mollaun, Equity Economics

Dr Mollaun has extensive experience in domestic and international public policy making and has worked as a policy adviser to the federal government for over 15 years.  

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Her experience includes working at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (including as a diplomat in New Delhi), the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, and at the Australian National University. Alicia has worked and studied in India, Pakistan, Kenya, France and the United States. 

Dr Mollaun holds a PhD in Public Policy from the ANU. Her research examined elite perceptions of US foreign aid to Pakistan.  She also has a Master of Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies from the ANU, a Master of International Economics and Finance from the University of Queensland, a Bachelor of Business (Economics) and a Bachelor of Arts (French) from Queensland University of Technology, as well as a Diploma of Sustainable Living from the University of Tasmania. 

Guest: Tevita Ngata, High school student

Tevita Ngata is 15 years old and lives in Punchbowl. He currently attends Sir Joseph Banks High School, in Bankstown, and is in year 10. In 2018, when he was in year 6, he was a participant in the RESPECT Program at Punchbowl Public School. Tevita was one of 13 students who participated in the program and released the song We are the Future, which has received almost 12,000 views.  

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The Respect program is a singing and songwriting project focused on educating boys under 12 about the nature and causes of Family and Domestic Violence. It is run by Outloud, an intersectional, CALD-focused social impact arts organisation that creates meaningful opportunities for young people in Western Sydney. Their award-winning projects address nationally relevant issues on a local level. They specialise in early-intervention harm-reduction that celebrates the strengths of socially-marginalised young people. They aim to build self-efficacy alongside social cohesion.

Episode 2 Transcript

Glyn Davis: Hello and welcome to Life’s Lottery: Backing Kids. I’m Glyn Davis.

Jeni Whalan: And I’m Jeni Whalan. Today we’re talking about the Federal Budget and how kids fit into the government’s economic plan.

Glyn Davis: We’ll look at what was announced on Tuesday night and consider what might be different if kids were placed at the centre of the budget process.

Jeni Whalan: We’ll welcome experts Amanda Robbins and Alicia Mollaun from Equity Economics onto the show to give us their analysis of the budget for the coming financial year.

Glyn Davis: They’ll also introduce the concept of a child-centred budget and ask how and why this approach could improve outcomes for Australian children. 

But let’s start with Watergate and Deep Throat, and the advice he gave to the two journalists as they probed these extraordinarily murky events. His advice was relentless. “Follow the money”, he said, because if you follow the money, it will take you to the decision makers.

Jeni Whalan: And when it comes to our national policy priorities, follow the money might be a good way to cut through the political spin and the campaigning speak. What can, looking closely at our national budget, tell us about how we prioritise kids and their well-being? If we follow the money, what can we find out?

Glyn Davis: We’ll hear about the big ticket items education, health, childcare. But we can also see what’s come in and out of the budget. During the Covid crisis, a significant investment in household level and support for families lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. When that programme ended, poverty returned. We’ll be exploring what does and does not get funded in a federal budget.

Jeni Whalan: And then you can see some really specific policies in budgets. For more than 80 years, Finland’s government has famously handed out baby boxes to expecting parents, their starter kits of clothes and supplies and toys that come in a box that can even be used as the baby’s first bed. As I prepare to welcome a new baby here in New South Wales, I’ll join the new parents who receive a baby bundle from the state government packed with baby supplies like a sleeping bag, a play mat, a thermometer, baby wipes, books, amongst other goodies. It’s a new initiative since I had my first baby, and I’m told that the baby bundle given to new parents when they’re discharged from hospital is worth about $300. If we follow the money, the introduction of the baby bundle was worth $7.6 million in the 2018/19 New South Wales budget, and it was part of a larger package of $157 million. The parents package to support new families, including boosting midwives and nurses and investing in testing and treatment of children’s diseases.

Glyn Davis: And so to follow the money, we’re going to hand the microphones over to Amanda Robbins and Alicia Mollaun from Equity Economics, a consultancy that provides analysis and policy advice to the not for profit corporate and government sectors.

Jeni Whalan: Amanda Robbins has worked as a policy adviser for over 20 years in both government and the not for profit sector in Australia. She’s got experience with the Federal Treasury, including as deputy chief of staff to the Australian Federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister. She’s also advised the treasury of Papua New Guinea, worked with World Vision in New York and with the World Bank in Washington DC.

Glyn Davis: Alicia Mollaun has worked as a policy adviser to the federal government for over 15 years, including with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, with Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. She has several degrees, including a PhD in public policy from the Australian National University. Amanda, Alicia, welcome to Life’s Lottery.

Alicia: So Amanda what were you doing last night at 7.30, were you watching the budget or putting your children to sleep?

Amanda Robbins: So this will reveal me as a true budget tragic because right now I’m in Washington, D.C. So that means I was up at 4:00 in the morning in the cold and dark, streaming the House of Reps online to watch the budget speech. And I should say I tried to do that without waking my family, but of course, I failed. So I had my 18 month old experience his inaugural budget speech, which I should say I’m not sure he was very impressed with. Alicia, how about you? Where were you on budget night?

Alicia Mollaun: I had grand plans of sitting by myself and quietly typing out notes, but as soon as I announced to my five year old that I would be watching the budget speech, he immediately jumped on and said, I want to watch that too. So I watched the budget speech with my three year old, my five year old and my eight month old. As soon as we got past the cost of living measures, though, the eight month old cracked it and so he left. But the three and five year olds stayed for the whole speech and they were very interested in who was Mr. Speaker. So we learnt about Parliament a little bit as well as the budget process. So it was a great night.

Alicia Mollaun: So for you Amanda, were there any surprises in the budget?

Amanda Robbins: Well, this close to an election, I don’t think anyone can really be surprised by a big spending budget. So I think that was anticipated. And yet I guess I have to confess that I was still a bit stunned by what wasn’t in the budget. And so for me that was very much about the plans for the future, which really come down to plans for our children, plans for how we’re going to grapple with the endless number of challenges we have right now.  As the budget was being presented, we had New South Wales confronting flood again, facing natural disasters again, and yet there’s very little on those major challenges in this budget. We also had, we know there’s major issues confronting housing affordability around our schools and our children’s ability to cope post-pandemic. We’ve got major cost of living pressures and there was quite a lot on that in the budget. But I really think we need to talk about whether this budget really grappled with those major issues 

Alicia Mollaun: I agree, Amanda. The biggest surprises for me were the short term measures which really focussed on cost of living pressures. There was not really a lot in the budget on long term structural economic reform. When we look to challenges like the environment and climate change, looking at the forward estimates, we actually see a decrease, a 35% decrease in funding for climate change abatement measures. So that was really surprising for me. Also, there was a complete lack of focus on youth and children in the budget. It’s always good to go through budget speeches and count through the number of times certain people or interest groups are mentioned. Koalas were mentioned once. Children were only mentioned four times in this budget speech. So for me, it was a little bit disappointing.

Amanda Robbins: I think the budget was blind to some of the big challenges we know people are facing right now. And even more than blind to some of the challenges in some cases from an economic perspective, it’s potentially exacerbating some of the challenges. Let me give one example. A major announcement which many of you will have already heard about and be well across is the cost of living announcement to reduce fuel excise for just six months. Now, this is a short term measure, and yet it costs nearly $3 billion. The reason it’s of particular concern is we know that there’s rising disadvantage amongst particular groups in our economy. And yet one of the major measures around cost of living, it goes to everyone. So why the major budget announcement goes to everyone rather than target those who are truly in need and address the issues that are truly needing to be confronted right now is baffling to me. I think one thing we need to think about when we talk about budgets is this is our one chance, a unique chance to ask government to account for their decisions, to actually put together what the priorities of our country and our spending and revenue policies are. So it’s the one chance to really think and look at what are the values we actually have as a nation when it comes to our financial decisions. And when we look at that in aggregate, it comes down to a cash splash with very little consideration or mention of children and very little plans for the long term structural reforms that are needed to address the challenges we face.

Alicia Mollaun: As a wealthy and prosperous nation, Australia should really be the best place in the world to be a child. But it’s not. And we look at some different metrics that account for children in Australia and we see that Australia ranks 32 out of 38 rich countries for child well-being and 35 out of 38 countries for children’s mental health and well-being. So clearly we need to do more to improve outcomes for children in Australia. So what do you think we can do, Amanda? What could we do to improve outcomes for children?

Amanda Robbins: Well, there’s so many different policies we need to think about, and one that springs to mind is we have a major housing challenge in our country around affordability, and that truly impacts on children. We know that if children aren’t living in a secure and safe home, that it impacts on their lifelong learning and their future trajectories. We need to be thinking about the million people in Australia that are under extreme housing stress and facing severe poverty.

Amanda Robbins: And yet we have a budget that really doesn’t attempt to grapple in any serious way with that challenge. Not only does it not grapple with the challenge, in effect, it potentially exacerbates the challenge by adding to demand for housing at a time when we really need to be thinking about supply. But I think when we think about children in the budget, there’s a whole range of policy issues we want addressed. But I know, Alisha, there’s some specific things that we think need to change around the way decisions are taken and the way the budget is formed. So we’ve heard of this idea of child-centred budgets. What’s your thoughts on that? What are they?

Alicia Mollaun: So child centred budgets is really thinking about children at the policy implementation and development process. And so there’s a few countries that seem to do child centred budgeting really well already including India and Ecuador. But other countries like New Zealand, closer to home and in Scotland, have also started to think about child centred budgets. So for example in Scotland they use eight wellbeing metrics to guide engagement with children and young people. And the Scottish Government recognising the real benefit of income support to child child wellbeing actually doubled the child income support payment last year. In New Zealand they’ve introduced a wellbeing budget and they’ve got a Child Wellbeing and Poverty Reduction Unit, which is actually headed by Prime Minister Ardern, who’s also the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction. And these approaches seem to be really achieving results in New Zealand. Last month, data showed that an additional 66 and a half thousand children in low income households were lifted out of poverty. 

Amanda Robbins: So I’ll confess that I was fairly cynical when I first heard the term child centred budgets, and in part that’s because we’ve worked for so many years around gender responsive budgets. So we’ve also got ideas around green budgets that capture and reflect the needs in terms of environmental change. So there’s any number of different budgets that are being proposed and pursued. And in reality, I want a really sound budget that reflects the needs of the entire population and deeply considers the distributional impacts, the varying needs of different groups, different areas and different parts of our society. So my cynicism, though, is probably being a bit tested with this budget because there is actually some evidence that we’ve come some way when it comes to gender budgeting. The budget does include some really positive measures around childcare, which is long overdue and long needed, and there’s much further to go, but there’s some important improvements there around paid parental leave, finally giving joint choices for parents to choose who takes that leave between the father and the mother and single parents. Families having access to the same amount of paid parental leave. These are good positive moves and I think they reflect that Australia is potentially making some progress towards truly adopting gender centred budgeting, because one of the challenges with these types of proposals is that you don’t really change the policy making process or the decision making process, what you end up with and I know this having worked on gender budgets and I know with my team we’ve all worked on budgets over many years that you’re often at the end of the day, once the budget’s decided, asked to literally search for where women and families are mentioned and compile a glossy document, and that seemingly is somehow changing the way decisions and policy are made in the country.

Amanda Robbins: I think we’ve come away from that. And so this budget reflects that after much testing, in fact, after last year’s performance, where when asked why the budget was so blind to women, the response from the Families Minister, you’ll recall, was women drive on roads as if that was an adequate way of assessing the needs of women in a budget. My concern with child centred budgeting is that we’ll get a response, ‘children go to school and they’re funded.’ Well, the reality is the funding of schools has major challenges and we need to be thinking more deeply about whether it’s meeting the needs of children in different places from different backgrounds with different needs. And that is an ongoing discussion that a child centred budget approach would attempt to grapple with. So my cynicism is being revised, and I think that there is real scope for improving how we think about children.

Alicia Mollaun: I think we also need, when we’re thinking about children, need to think about children into the future. I think the way children are mentioned the most in the budget now. It’s often to fix underlying problems with negative impact on children. So in last year’s budget, there was a lot of money on childhood cancer, child sex, child sexual abuse, illiteracy and other problems. But we really need to have funding that looks to the future for children and to have positive funding that prioritises areas. And we can think about policy in new ways. So, for example, I was reading last week that scientists recently detected microplastic pollution in human blood for the first time, finding these tiny plastic particles in almost 80% of people tested. So what would that mean for children in the future? And so what can the government and the community do about plastics regulation today? So I think taking a much longer term view of children and how we see children in the budget process would be a great first start. But as Amanda and I have already reflected, we both said that this is a very short term budget and you can tell it’s an election year budget because there’s not really a lot of long term thinking baked into any policies that were announced last night.

Amanda Robbins: Unfortunately, there’s endless examples in this budget of that short termism. In the face of a need for a long term plan. And another one, those relates to our children and education. We’ve just come through a pandemic. We’ve had not enough time to think about and reflect on what we really need in this country and what our children really need. We all grappled with children at home and homeschooling, and we saw the challenges that teachers are having to confront in school. And it’s really stark how little discussion of the needs of children, the developmental delays that they’re potentially experiencing post the pandemic, but the known rise in mental health challenges that are being experienced. So. There is a budget measure, $547 million over five years, in fact, for mental health measures. And I think, of course, that’s welcome. And it’s another great investment in a serious area of need in our society. But after two years of pandemic, do we not think that we want a broader conversation, some broader reflection on whether that 500 million is really enough to address the extent of the challenge felt by our children, felt by our schools, felt by our communities, our teachers, and any other numbers of groups that really go to the core of whether our stock of funding in the education system is being spent as well as it can be. And whether we’re doing education as well as we can in Australia. And in fact we know we’re not. We know that we’re actually declining on any measure of Australia’s educational outcomes, whether it’s the international PISA scores and NAPLAN results. So we have the evidence to say we need to be doing much more. We’re just not seeing it in policy making processes. So potentially asking our policymakers, asking our leaders to actually take a more child centred focus to their decision making is needed to change that.

Alicia Mollaun: That’s right, Amanda. And I think child centred budgets are just not about money. It’s about better policy processes and the quality of spending to improve outcomes for children. So it was estimated in the last decade that public school funding increased by about $400 per student and non-government schools increased by about $2,000 per student. And as you mentioned, Australian children are about one whole year behind where they were in the year 2000 in reading literacy and numeracy, according to those international PISA tests. And there are about three years of learning separating the most advantaged kids from the most disadvantaged kids. 

Alicia Mollaun: The media plays an increasingly large role in our public narrative today. So what do you think the media could do about bringing children to the forefront of the budget, Amanda?

Amanda Robbins:  I think one challenge when we look at the way the media responds to the budget, they have a huge task of trying to translate hundreds of pages of documents that nobody really wants to read themselves into these kind of budget calculators and the winners and the losers. And when you look at that, you see that what they can come up with doesn’t really give children or young people an option to see themselves in the budget. It’s very limited. It barely exists in the budget and it means the media, when it comes to actually reporting what’s in the budget for children, really struggles to actually see it. And there’s a whole range of areas of the budget where transparency is really lacking. Another is really around Indigenous expenditure where there are huge gaps in services and needs and yet very little transparency in the budget around what spending is going towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in general, but certainly in relation to children. So just on that  the amount of reporting that actually happens on the budget is focussed on just 10% of government spending. They’re the new announcements, the politically attractive, what’s new, what’s news. And so that’s what gets the attention. But in fact the real heart of government, the real spending is the remaining 90% that is generally largely rolled over each year around health and education and welfare payments. Defence, most of it isn’t discussed and I think that’s what we’re calling for, is a substantive discussion around where the bulk of funding goes, not just these small spending at the margin that the media then has to focus on and that people then talk about because we’re probably missing the main game, So we need to be going back to the big stock of what we do with government funding, not just these just these marginal announcements for political purposes. And think about meeting our country’s needs now  and in the future and does it reflect the values we have of wanting to make sure children have every opportunity to thrive?

Amanda Robbins: So one perhaps exciting part of the budget that might resonate, have resonated for young people is REDSPICE, the $10 billion announcement around cybersecurity, which again is a major challenge. So we should acknowledge that the government is thinking about some of the larger security challenges that we’re confronting. But Alicia, what’s your thoughts on how we’re positioned to respond to that and what it might mean for young people?

Alicia Mollaun: So I think if, say, the media or analysts were to look at this announcement, which is almost $10 billion over ten years, you think, well, where’s the workforce going to come from? Cyber requires very technical skills in STEM and data analytics. So if we’re looking into the future, we could think about this policy from a child centred way and think, well, we’re going to need to train more and more students, particularly girls in STEM education and have them continue on to university. So what are some policies we could enact now? Would it be improving access to STEM classes in schools, special labs, having more mentors in schools? So what are some of the policies that we could bring in behind announcements like this big cyber security monolithic announcement? How do we kind of flip it on its head and think about it from a child centred perspective? And thinking about it from the education piece, talking to children about why STEM education is important and really encouraging them to go into these fields into the future. So we really have to think about training that pipeline of Australians to fill these jobs into the future. 

Amanda Robbins: I think that’s right. And the other thing I would say about thinking about the jobs of the future is that a lot of this budget hangs on the idea that debt and deficit will be in. I would really want government to take a broader approach to their understanding of what lifting productivity will take and not simply kick the can and kick the challenge of debt and deficits down to future generations.

When you look at the budget it’s almost like you really only are considered part of this discussion if you’re already in the workforce or you’re about to enter the workforce, there are some great measures and some really welcome measures that go to apprenticeships and skills and training that are really needed in Australia. But we also need to be thinking about those that are not quite yet in the workforce but will be in the years to come, because they’re going to be a critical part to driving productivity and to addressing Australia’s needs in many respects. But at this rate they’re also going to be responsible for picking up the bill for some of this spending.

Alicia Mollaun: And I think also we can take a child centred view of a lot of policies that were announced in the budget. So if we take, for example, income support, we don’t typically think about children when we think about income support in a traditional sense because children don’t receive payments. But a really high proportion of children experiencing poverty live in families who do rely on government payments and permanently increasing these payments, as we did during the pandemic, including JobSeeker, family and single parent payments, will reduce child poverty. Low income levels have an obvious first order impact on children like the impact on nutrition, but it’s obviously got other impacts too. I read a really interesting study by the British Office of National Statistics Statistics that found that if there’s a financial crisis in the family, a child’s chances of being diagnosed with attention problems goes up by 50%. So thinking of these second and third order impacts on children, I think is really important when we consider budget analysis in a child centred way.

Amanda Robbins: Absolutely. I think part of the challenge is that almost all policies could be centred around children. And yet I know from my team between us, we’ve been working on budgets for the last 20 years and between us we can’t really think of many conversations that were started or centred around children. I think the Covid economic recovery package is a good example of where a child centred and a female centred approach would have really changed the way we may have gone about the economic recovery package when that crisis really began early April 2020, women were by far out of work in much higher rates than men. And yet when we look at the early response, it was a very standard economic recovery response that focussed on very traditional personal income taxes, investment incentives, and actually the direct support went to largely male dominated sector jobs in construction and energy, whereas most of the impacts was being carried by women and felt by children who are outside of school.

Amanda Robbins: So if we actually had have started from a point of the conversation that was thinking about what is the effects of crisis on a whole range of demographics, a whole range of geographies, I think we would have come up with quite a different solution. For instance, we may have actually been making sure children were going back to school before we were ensuring people could go back to the pub. When we think now about the ongoing burden that children, teachers, parents continue to face around the developmental delays, the isolation that children are feeling, there is a clear need and clear evidence of the benefit of thinking about children first as we form policy.

Alicia Mollaun: And I think there’s a really good example of that, when we looked at the research into what construction spending did as part of the pandemic, the Australia Institute did some great analysis showing that for every $1 million spent in the construction industry, 0.2 jobs were created for women and one job was created for a man. But if we were to spend this money in education, for example, this would create an additional 10.6 jobs for women and 4.3 jobs for men. 

So I think the second order effects of budget announcements are not really analysed at the time of making budgets. And it’s the work of the policy wonks like Amanda and I to kind of work these out. But often it’s too late. So I think having these conversations before the budget is constructed and thinking about children in that way would be really useful. 

Amanda Robbins: So the huge elephant in the room, Alicia, is climate change – yet another gaffe in this budget? What’s your take on that?

Alicia Mollaun:  It was really disappointing to say in last night’s budget that funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation actually decreases by 35% over the forward estimates, which is quite a surprise because children in Australia are really worried about climate change. In fact, 59% of young people consider climate change to be a threat to their safety and 71% name it as their biggest environmental concern. Three out of four adolescents in Australia want the Government to act on climate change and even adults, those research showing that three quarters of Australians believe that the benefits of spending money on policies to mitigate climate change far outweigh the costs. There’s also emerging research that demonstrates that integrating a child centred climate change strategy into community can build the resilience of households as well as children.

Amanda Robbins: The other real change that I think needs to take place for a child centred approach to even work is that we fundamentally need to change our understanding of the role of government as it relates to children. When it comes to children, it isn’t enough to just be a  safety net when a child falls through the cracks. And I think of child protection is an example of this. We’re seeing more and more children fall through the cracks. We need a universal system that reaches children and supports families before those problems and lifelong challenges really emerge. And at the moment, the way decisions are made, the way policy is made, we’re really not asking those questions early enough and ensuring that the funding is there and the systems are there to support children and families.

Alicia Mollaun:In a pre-election budget governments were really focussed on voters. But I also think they’re missing this major shift in public attitudes. So in fact, a winning election strategy might just be to reflect the values that we imagine that Australia stands for, like fairness and opportunity for all, but particularly for children. So, Amanda, do you think that is an election winning strategy? 

Amanda Robbins: Absolutely. If not now, then when is going to be a great time to grapple with these big questions rather than defer them to our toddlers? I know for you and I, Alicia, we’re raising our kids to read budget papers very young, so they’ll be ready if they have to address this. But let’s not leave it to them. The challenges are so big. I think the public are really looking for leadership around far more investment in children, far greater focus on children. And that is a major gap in this budget.

Amanda Robbins: So enough about budgets from our perspectives. We’re about to hear from 15 year old Tevita Ngata about his participation in the RESPECT program.

Alicia Mollaun: The RESPECT program works with primary school kids and it’s run by Outloud and promotes healthy relationships through creative learning, like through songwriting. 

Amanda Robbins: It’s not a bad example of the value of spending on prevention rather than cures. 

MUSIC – “We are the future

Tevita: My name is Tevita. I’m from Punchbowl. I’m 15 years old. My friends would say that I’m quite noisy, bossy, here and there. My family – family would say I’m quite noisy as well. I’m not that shy with my family. I’m not that shy of anyone, to be honest. Yeah.

In the Respect program. I wrote a song with two other boys called We Are the Future. The Respect program helps young boys like me understand a respectful and healthy relationship. How you are raised as a kid is how you turn out to be as an adult. And equality is something that all people should strive for.

Each boy wrote their own verse. All verses were inspired from the lessons that we learnt through the program. Different voices, different cultures, different backgrounds. But the program brought us together as closer, like friends and stuff. 

The lessons that we learnt. Like for me, I saw it as a way, as if I had a wife or a kid. I would treat other women how I would want other people to treat them. Some boys are scared to speak up because they’re seen as weak if they do speak up. But for me, I love to express my feelings because not only does it help me, but sometimes it could help the other person that I’m talking to. Because if I open up to someone, they’ll feel comfortable opening up to me. 

When we performed, it was great to see the impact us boys had on the audience because in the audience some women were crying so we could tell that our message really touched their hearts. 

Performing it. I honestly felt like I was at the top of the world. Like that’s how it made me feel. I was proud to be spreading a positive message.


Jeni Whalan: Huge thanks to Amanda Robbins and Alicia Mollaun for that budget debrief. And thanks to you for listening to Life’s Lottery: Backing Kids, a podcast from the Paul Ramsay Foundation in partnership with UTS Impact Studios. We’ve recorded on Gadigal Land.

Glyn Davis: We’ll be back next week, speaking with paediatrician and leading child health researcher, Professor Sharon Goldfield. Sharon’s enthusiasm and bold ideas about how we can best support families during a child’s early years are really inspiring.

Jeni Whalan: And we’d love to hear from you. You can get in touch with us any time at lifeslottery.com.au

Discover more about the issues in this episode

What does a child-centred Budget look like, and does the 2022 Budget back our kids?

Children are affected by many parts of the Budget – most clearly in health, childcare and education – but also by broader measures going to improve the financial security of their families.

Coming just weeks before an election, the 2022 Budget contains a lot of short-term ‘sweeteners’ for voters, mainly focused on cost of living relief.

The budget does include changes for families, including increased support around childcare, as well as changes to paid parental leave that give parents greater flexibility to decide who takes that taxpayer-funded leave. But when children were only mentioned four times in the Treasurer’s Budget speech, how child-centred is this Budget, and what could be done differently?

Amanda Robbins and Alicia Mollaun from Equity Economics – a consultancy that provides analysis and policy advice to the not-for-profit, corporate and government sectors – cast their eyes over the Budget papers in this episode to give a closer look at how government funding priorities are backing kids and where there’s clear scope for further investment.

Season 2 Overview

Backing Kids, the second season of Life’s Lottery, explores how Australian society values children and childhood. Kids are our future, but they’re rarely at the centre when it comes to the decisions that really matter. What would it take to truly put kids at the heart of policy, of budgets, and broader public work? 

We’ll hear the voices of advocates, experts, children and their parents and caregivers with bright and practical ideas about how we can improve kids’ health and wellbeing. We’ll dive deep into the Federal Budget and explore how it does, and doesn’t, reflect the realisation of children’s rights. We’ll hear about how young First Nations voices have informed policy development to improve the lives of First Nations kids. We’ll consider how place-based, universally accessible services could better reach vulnerable families and improve the wellbeing of all children. 

Two years of the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted children’s education as well as physical and mental health and exacerbated the challenges faced by the most vulnerable. There has never been a better time to talk about how we could better back our kids and improve their odds in Life’s Lottery.  

We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas for future episodes.


Life’s Lottery is produced in collaboration with UTS Impact Studios

Executive Producer: Olivia Rosenman

Audio Producer: Nicole Curby

Researcher/writer: Jackie May

Theme Music and Sound Design: James Milsom

Production Music: Blue Dot Sessions

Graphic Design: Celia Neilson