An $80million Brighter Futures Fund has been unveiled at The Nationals’ 102nd State Conference in Shepparton on Friday.
State leader Peter Walsh and shadow young victorians minister Steph Ryan announced the pledge in the midst of their November state election fight against Daniel Andrews’ Labor government.
Ms Ryan said the funding was first discussed during a regional forum in 2015, involving rural education experts and principals.
The forum explored the parallels between educational attainment and health in rural communities.
‘‘Where there were poor education outcomes, there was poor health and this is obviously a problem,’’ Ms Ryan said.
The forum also identified cohesion between the two continued to widen in rural Victoria.
Results of the most recent Australian Early Development Census also showed 15 of Victoria’s 20 worst performing Local Government Areas for early childhood education are in rural and regional Victoria with Shepparton ranked ninth.
The fund will go to integrated education hubs — a one-stop-shop for allied health, early childhood, maternal and child health services and tertiary education.
Easy access to these services would make it more attractive for families to move to rural areas, Mr Walsh said
Ms Ryan added the funding would be contestable, giving local community groups, services and education providers a chance to bid.
No specific projects or groups had been identified, but Ms Ryan said the funding would target Benalla, Moira, Campaspe and Greater Shepparton LGA’s.
‘‘It’s the start of a bigger rural education strategy,’’Ms Ryan said.
‘‘We’re putting a line in the sand and we know that this isn’t work that can be done in one or two terms, it’s generational.’’
With an unwavering focus on the idea of community involvement, Ms Ryan highlighted a degree of nervousness with the Victorian Government’s Shepparton education plan.
‘‘It is disappointing that the government has only funded a fraction of the project,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘We are looking for community driven and community backed proposals in the first place.
‘‘It’s only going to be successful if it’s led by the community.’’
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack was also expected to attend the weekend conference at Kialla.