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Was the Budget good for Men’s Health?

Tuesday night’s Federal Budget included a range of funding commitments that should directly benefit the lives and health of some men and boys in Australia. 

However, compared to a wide range of other health and social issues, the funding levels suggest that men’s health is not currently a major priority for the Government. 

$16 million specifically for men's health 

The Budget included a specific commitment to provide the Department of Health and Aged Care (DOHAC) with continued support for men's health, with ongoing funding of $6.1 million for the Men's Sheds movement. There's also $2.1 million to expand education and training for health professionals to better engage and treat men, believed to be allocated to Movember-led project.

A further $3.4 million of funding is available for the Male Health Initiative, which was first funded in 2017. The initiative provides information and increases awareness and support for men and boys on key health issues. This funding is expected to run for two years (2024-2026) to extend existing support for Healthy Male, Centre for Male Health and AMHF.

There is also a focus on men as a priority population for the national skin cancer prevention campaign, which receives a further $15 million. 

According to DOHAC, this responds to the fact that our love of the sun has resulted in skin cancer for too many people. 

Meanwhile, eligibility for free bowel cancer screening under the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program will now include men and women under 45 years of age.

The Budget is silent on male suicide 

The Budget commits $888.1 million over eight years for mental health and suicide prevention. However, there is no specific focus on preventing male suicide, which accounts for 3 in 4 deaths from suicide.

One exception is $3 million to the MATES suicide prevention program for Fly-in-Fly-out and Drive-in-Drive-out workers, who are predominantly male.

Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA), the peak body for the suicide prevention sector, has welcomed the funding but expressed shock and concern about plans to absorb the recently formed National Suicide Prevention Office (NSPO) into the machinery of government. 

According to SPA: "This signals a step backward for suicide prevention efforts in Australia at a time when we know Australians are doing it tough amidst a cost-of-living crisis."

Funding to eliminate HIV transmission by 2023

Close to 90% of people living with HIV in Australia are male, with gay and bisexual men disproportionately impacted by HIV. 

The Budget continues to further Australia's goal of eliminating HIV transmission by 2030. It supports the implementation of the HIV Taskforce's recommendations ($40.3 million), including expanding access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Some good news for new dads

The Women's Budget highlights the benefits to women and children of supporting dads' involvement in their children's lives. With this in mind, the Budget provides $4.8 million over two years from 2024–25 for the Fathering Project to continue providing targeted parenting support for fathers, building their confidence in being primary or equal caregivers.

The Budget also supports reform of the Paid Parental Leave scheme, with the aim of assisting more fathers in playing a more active role in the day-to-day care of children.

According to the Women's Budget Statement, fathers taking leave following the birth or adoption of a child has positive impacts on women and their families. Under the new scheme, parents can take a portion of PPL simultaneously, which will increase to four weeks from 1 July 2025 (up from two weeks currently). 

The Government says this move will support parents in optimising their health, family, and work obligations. It will allow fathers to undertake child-rearing duties and support mothers during recovery from childbirth, leading to greater shared care over a child's lifetime.

Boys benefit

According to the Department of Education, the Government will invest $32.8 million to extend Commonwealth support for the Clontarf Foundation for the 2025 school year. The foundation supports more than 12,000 First Nations boys and young men to improve their engagement with school.

Long-term commitment to men's health research 

The Department for Social Services (DSS) has confirmed that under long-term contracts with the DSS and the Department of Health and Aged Care (DOHACrespectively, the Ten to Men (TTM) longitudinal study of male health in Australia will continue to be funded through the Australia Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

TTM will continue to build an evidence base with new data for its existing cohorts. The next wave of TTM will also include a top-up of participants, making it the largest longitudinal study on male health worldwide. The DSS says the study will continue to produce policy-relevant research on men, drawing on the unique aspects of longitudinal data.

Strong focus on Women and Girls 

According to the Minister for Women, Kay Gallagher, the Government's latest Budget puts women and gender equality at the centre of Australia's economic plan and makes women's lives safer, fairer and more equal.

She said: "The 2024-25 Budget makes key investments in women's safety, economic security, health and measures that ensure women can take advantage of the opportunities of a future made in Australia."

The Government's Working for Women agenda invests in five priority areas: gender-based violence, unpaid and paid care, economic equality and security, health and leadership, representation, and decision-making. 

More than $160 million was targeted to improve women's health in the 2024-25 Budget, and the Albanese Government has invested more than $3.4 billion to support women's safety in its first term. 

FURTHER READING

Budget 2024-2025: A fit and healthy Australia

Suicide prevention stunned and concerned by Budget

Minister: "A budget that works for women"

Women's Budget Statement 2025

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