CENTRAL Victorians made their democratic voices heard at a community forum on Monday night chaired by the Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine.
Most prominent was a vocal group of about 25 ambulance employees, who protested with placards outside the venue at La Trobe University's Bendigo campus over pay parity, work stress, and a lack of ambulance vehicles.
Supporter Graeme Moffatt drove up from Melbourne to support the protest in a black hearse bearing a sign "Napthine government ambulance service".
Mr Moffatt said he was not a paramedic, but wanted to help the Ambulance Employees union's cause, citing the 10 suicides of Victorian paramedics from work stress as a key motivating factor.
AUE secretary Steve McGhie said the point of the Bendigo protest was to let the government know "we are still here, and this is not resolved after 12 months of negotiations and 32 meetings".
Inside the community forum, Bendigo ambulance employee Richard Marchingo asked why, when he began working in 1985, there were nine ambulances over 24 hours when today there were eight.
Dr Napthine said the government had increased funding to ambulance resources to $662 million in the recent Budget, which was 17.3 per cent higher than when the Coalition came to power two-and-half-years ago.
He said he trusted that through the conciliation process now begun with Fair Work Australia that "we will find a way forward for a fair outcome in terms of pay and conditions."
Other issues raised included support for people with a disability and children with autism, rural medical training, climate change, train services, infrastructure funding, and jobs in industry and the rural sector.
Earlier in the day the premier announced more than 150 new jobs would be created in Bendigo connecting industry and organisations to La Trobe University.
Melbourne IT consulting firm e-Centric Innovations is establishing a SharePoint Factory in collaboration with Microsoft Australia and the La Trobe University Bendigo campus, with support from the Victorian government.
Dr Napthine said the Sharepoint Factory would deliver highly skilled jobs to the Bendigo region while providing valuable learning experiences and career pathways for students.
"This is an exciting new opportunity for the Bendigo region," he said.
"Sharepoint software development skills are in short supply globally so this initiative presents significant long-term advantages for the local economy."