Forestry Transition Program

An announcement was made on 23 May 2023 regarding a revised timeline for Victoria’s native timber transition: Delivering Certainty For Timber Workers.

Native timber harvesting in Victoria’s state forests will end by 1 January 2024 with existing supports being brought forward and scaled up.

The Forestry Transition Program is supporting the native timber industry while protecting as many jobs as possible.

  • Applications for Sawmill Voluntary Transition Packages will open in July 2023, with the first payments expected in September 2023. This will be modelled on the Opt-out Scheme.
  • A boosted worker support package will include access to the Free TAFE program to help retrain workers to get jobs in growing regional industries.
  • Harvest and haulage workers will be offered alternative work in forest and land management, enabling them to continue to work in the forests they know so well and contribute to bushfire risk reduction.
  • A Supply Chain Resilience Package will support manufacturers of native timber products to make business decisions.

Frequently asked questions

The boosted package of support includes:

  • extended payments to keep workers retained and paid until the transition is finalised
  • voluntary transition packages for native timber sawmills (for mills that have not already received an opt-out payment)
  • a worker support package including access to the Free TAFE program
  • a forest and land management package to engage all forest contractor crews
  • a Supply Chain Resilience Package for manufacturers of native timber products.

Training, employment and mental health support to:

  • native timber workers
  • supply chain workers and their families.

Worker Support Payments of up to $120,000 will be made to any eligible worker who is made redundant because of the end of native timber harvesting.

Long-term programs to support local economies to diversify into new and expanding industries are continuing through Local Development Strategies, as is the assistance for timber businesses seeking to transition from native timber to plantation fibre.

Every native timber mill will be eligible for a transition package, whether they choose to stay in the industry or not. These new packages will be similar to the earlier Opt-out Scheme. Mills that have already received an opt-out package are ineligible.

To receive a package, mills must relinquish supply contracts with VicForests. Some mills getting a package may choose to stay in timber processing and source alternative supply.

Anyone currently receiving payments from VicForests will continue to do so. This includes harvest and haulage contractors getting stand-down payments for any period of inactivity within their contracted period.

Harvest and haulage contractors will be engaged in the delivery of strategic fuel breaks, ongoing recovery works on public land and the treatment of hazardous trees in the preparation of planned burns and along critical firefighting roads and tracks.

All harvest and haulage contractors will continue to be engaged under Government contracts until they expire. If an employee of a contractor business is made redundant as a result of inactivity, they will be eligible for worker support services and payments.

ForestWorks is already providing services to impacted workers and families, as well as people working in downstream supply chains.

ForestWorks support will be delivered through 1:1 case management including for:

  • training support including free training
  • recognition of prior learning and current competencies to formalise skills acquired
  • employment support including matching workers to jobs in their local area
  • health and wellbeing support
  • referrals to other support agencies.

Sawmill and forest contractor workers whose job status is impacted by the transition will be offered case management, retraining and apply for Worker Support Payment assessment. Forestry workers in financial stress are encouraged to contact the Forest Transition Team to discuss eligibility.

The Local Development Strategy program continues. Early actions to boost local economies identified in the Local Development Strategies will be supported by the Community Development Fund, which is available now.

Timber Innovation Grants are available to mills planning to carry on operations.

The Transition Fund will become available later in 2023. It will support actions to grow businesses and generate economic activity that will create or retain jobs in towns and communities affected by the transition away from native timber harvesting.

Support summary

This summary of new support, including Frequently Asked Questions, has been prepared for businesses and workers to print out:

Updated information about the new business support includes Frequently Asked Questions and a printable information sheet.

Key contacts

If you are unsure what support is or will be available, please get in contact using these details:

Directly impacted native timber workers and families should contact:

  • Worker Support Service: 1800 177 001

Native timber sawmill employers should contact:

  • Forestry Transition Team: 1800 318 182

Supply chain manufacturers impacted by the native timber transition should contact:

Opal Maryvale Mill workers and families should contact:

  • Opal Worker Support Service 1800 177 001

Native timber workers, families and communities seeking jobs, skills and training support:

Mental health support is available if the forestry transition process is affecting your health and wellbeing, or people you know are being affected.

Ongoing Forestry Transition Program support

The Forestry Transition Program is already providing support for workers, businesses and communities to transition ahead of commercial native timber harvesting ending by January 2024.

Since 2019 there has been a strong response to the support available with a large take up of opportunities by businesses and communities.

Information about ongoing transition support is available and this includes:

More information

Page last updated: 2 June 2023