The government of Western Australia has allocated AU$3.4 million over four years to develop the state’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills, as a means to “support the new economy” and “create the jobs of the future”.

The funding, handed over as part of the state’s 2018-19 Budget, will be provided under a State STEM Strategy, developed by a cross-sector panel under the leadership of the Western Australia chief scientist.

According to the WA government, the strategy will enhance STEM skills through a range of initiatives designed to prepare Western Australia’s workforce for future jobs.

“The strategy will focus on improving STEM education and identifying ways of promoting the importance of the key STEM skills of problem solving, critical thinking, and innovation,” the Budget papers explain.

Newton Moore Senior High School in Bunbury will also be given an additional AU$3 million injection, spread over two years, for the development of a STEM centre.

The government has also allocated AU$17.8 million over four years to the New Industries Fund (NIF), an initiative launched in November 2017 to support and accelerate new and emerging businesses to create WA jobs.

Of that, AU$4.5 million has been allocated to regional Western Australia. Under the NIF, support is being provided for the development of sector specific innovation hubs, the first of which was the Joondalup Innovation Hub, launched in November 2017, with a focus on cybersecurity.

AU$22.5 million has also been provided for the Regional Economic Development Grants Scheme to drive economic development in regional parts of the state.

Public sector reform

In delivering his Budget speech on Thursday, Treasurer Ben Wyatt said the government recognises that it needs to do things better in the public sector.

“There are a number of reforms that have gone unimplemented — we are more than a decade behind the other states,” he said. “The development and implementation of standardised governance arrangements for Government Trading Enterprises is a prime example.”

To that effect, WA plans to introduce data sharing legislation, including protections for personal and other sensitive information, touting it as supporting better government decision-making and service delivery.

“The changes will remove barriers to data sharing across government agencies and underpin important research on public policy issues such as juvenile offending and domestic violence,” Wyatt added.

“To ensure coordinated and sustained reform, we will set up a central implementation team and invest AU$21.8 million over the next four years to reform and rebuild the public sector.”

Health the big winner

A total of AU$37 billion will be invested in health, including AU$655 million in infrastructure over the next four years.

“We are driving innovation, integration, and culture change which will ensure our health system is sustainable for future generations,” the Budget papers read.

AU$55.9 million investment into health technology and priority infrastructure projects was allocated on Thursday; AU$46.9 million to replace medical equipment over 2018-2019 and 2019-2020; and AU$10 million to fund information and communication technology investments into clinical and corporate systems.

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