The Victorian Government has announced it will make studying nursing and midwifery degrees free for domestic students in 2023 and 2024 in a move to address the shortage of workers in the healthcare system.
All students entering a professional nursing or midwifery degree will receive $9000 while they study, and an additional $7500 if they go on to work in Victorian health services for two years. The $16,500 payment is intended to cover the course costs for over 10,000 students, representing part of a $270 million injection into the state’s healthcare system.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews announced the program Sunday morning at the Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
“Every health system in the country is under enormous pressure due to the pandemic. The best thing we can do to support our hardworking staff is give them more support on the ground – that’s why this package will train and hire more nurses than ever before,” said Andrews.
University of Sydney Women’s Officer Dashie Prasad welcomed the changes, but told Honi that policies could go further, covering more students.
“We know there’s a really huge shortage [of nurses and teachers] and that’s necessary for filling the gap and the NSW Government should consider this,” they said. “We reckon this call should actually be put to the Federal Government to make all degrees free.”
NSW has faced long-term issues with understaffing, which have been expressed extensively by nurses in a series of strikes throughout the year. The combined pressures of COVID-19 and a pay cap lagging behind inflation have seen nurses and midwives describe widespread burnout. Similar issues are facing the education sector.
Prasad added that shortages could be further addressed by paying students to study. “Whether that looks like an increase to students getting Centrelink, or it looks like a wage rate for training nurses and teachers, we think that is a very appropriate call and there are discussions in unions to get this started as well,” they said.
USyd SRC President Lauren Lancaster agreed that the changes could go further.
“Any government decision to make any degree free is great and is a promise of what we could do to make all education free,” she said.
Lancaster added that the healthcare sector required more widespread cultural change to deal with “the deeply hostile working conditions [nurses and midwives] are confronted with… in terms of massive overworking, poor pay, cultures of sexual harassment.”