Vulnerable Victorian school children will receive $200 vouchers to help them get back into sport as part of a $45.2 million investment in children’s sport.
Deputy Premier and Education Minister James Merlino said the funding, which won’t kick in until next year, would target “kids most at need” and help with the cost of sports equipment, uniforms and memberships.
The first part of the funding includes $21 million in vouchers to help about 100,000 Victorian children get involved in organised sport. “This is about supporting kids getting back into their local clubs, supporting sporting clubs getting back on their feet and supporting parents with the cost of living,” Mr Merlino said.
The remaining funding will be devoted to schools, and include almost $13 million of grants for 577 schools and partnerships with start-ups to explore how technology can help to get teens moving.
“It will go towards, again, the purchase of equipment, running sport and physical activity programs,” he said. “This is a really significant announcement, encouraging community sport, encouraging kids to return to the sport that they love.”
Mr Merlino said the eligibility criteria and details would be announced in coming months.
The move has been applauded by Little Athletics Victoria chief executive Anthony McIntosh who said it positioned the state on similar footing to NSW, South Australia and Queensland, which already offer vouchers to enable children to participate in community sport.
“This announcement is great because it targets families that are at disadvantage who had suffered enormously throughout the pandemic,” he said. ‘This incentive to make community sport more affordable, or in some cases completely affordable, and will make a huge difference for those families.”
With community sport shut since March this year, Mr McIntosh said its return gives “some normality and some routine” back into the lives of children.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he was confident that indoor sport would start by the end of the year, but cautioned that indoor spaces provided a much higher risk of transmission.
“It will progressively go from outdoors to indoors, from non-contact to full contact. Across the board for age groups from children to adults,” he said. “I am confident that will happen this year and we are on the path to this.”
Cricket Australia’s head of participation and programs Stuart Whiley also applauded the sports funding.
“This will give a lot of Victorian kids the chance to play cricket where they might not have had the opportunity to, and we can’t wait for cricket to get started in metro Melbourne next week,” he said.
“Last week alone, more than 7,000 Victorians signed up to play cricket this season, and we look forward to welcoming new and returning cricketers to the game off the back of this exciting initiative.”