NSW Deputy Premier and Education Minister Prue Car,
NSW Education Minister Prue Car says regional communities need extra schools and building upgrades. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Regions benefit with budget boosts to health, education

Maeve Bannister September 15, 2023

Support for regional schools and teacher salary bumps will be part of big-ticket spending for education in the upcoming NSW budget.

The Minns Labor government will deliver its first budget on Tuesday, promising to rebuild essential services while battling growing state debt.

The budget will allocate $1.4 billion over four years to upgrade or build public schools across regional NSW. 

Nowra and Thurgoona in Albury will have new primary schools while Medowie, Googong, Bungendore and Jerrabomberra will have new high schools.

Major rebuilds will include Gillieston, Jindabyne and Lennox Head public schools, while schools in Bomaderry, Hunter River, Irrawang, Moruya, Ulladulla, Murwillumbah, Milton, Vincentia, Wollumbin, Murrumbidgee and Yanco will get upgrades.

More than a billion dollars has also been found in savings to fund a historic pay rise for the state’s public school teachers.

Premier Chris Minns said Commonwealth funding that previously had to be used in other areas of education due to teacher wage caps would be used for the salary increase.

He said it made sense for that revenue – worth about $12 billion over four years under a state and federal schools agreement – to go towards salaries rather than ancillary projects.

“That’s going to attract more people to the profession, we’re going to get more school leavers studying education at university and, perhaps most importantly, we’ll encourage teachers that are in the profession today to stay,” he said.

The starting salary for NSW teachers will increase from $75,791 to $85,000, while those at the top of the pay scale will go from $113,042 a year to $122,100.

Education Minister Prue Car said budget savings had been found by redirecting funds for programs that left teachers burdened with administrative work, as well as from renegotiating commercial contracts in IT, telephony and travel.

The opposition accused the government of taking credit for projects that they had already assigned funding for.

“Of the 20 ‘new’ school projects in the bush that Labor is announcing today, 17 of them were already funded in last year’s budget by the Liberals and Nationals,” shadow education minister Sarah Mitchell said.

“Labor needs to tell the truth to the people of regional NSW.”

The budget will also include more than $430 million in funding for an extra 500 paramedics in regional, rural and remote NSW.

The additional health workers are expected to help improve ambulance response times for life-threatening conditions and ensure patient outcomes and experiences also improve. 

A NSW parliamentary inquiry heard there were longer ambulance response times in the regions because of a lack of skilled paramedics.

Health Minister Ryan Park said the extra paramedic roles were permanent, full-time positions to be rolled out over four years.

“I fought very long and hard to establish the landmark inquiry into health services in regional and rural NSW and that showed very clearly that when it comes to paramedics, we needed to do some significant investment,” he said.