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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6550


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (16:45): Members will be well aware of the extent of this government's financial support for mental health services since coming to office. Those initiatives have extended to services for people experiencing mental illness, for families and carers, online mental health services and services accessible by phone. A record $2.2 billion over five years has been invested to support those services.

One of those initiatives is the very well-regarded and successful development of headspace centres around the country. I have updated the House previously on the opening of a new facility to support the needs of the Greater Dandenong, Casey and Cardinia regions. I know that currently, with around 55 centres, headspace as an organisation have helped close to 100,000 young people in total. I understand that by 2015 they anticipate that they will have around 90 centres servicing the needs of up to 72,000 young people each year, which is an extraordinary number.

A further initiative facilitated by funding from the federal government is headspace School Support. It provides support to secondary schools which have been affected by a suicide. It is designed to serve the particular needs of schools in question, and through feedback that has been provided to me at a local level I know that it is very well received at what are extremely difficult times for school communities.

I speak regularly to young people, to schoolteachers and to principals, along with other members of my community, about their concerns in relation to mental health needs. The expansion of housing in our region and the attractiveness of the area to new and young families buying their first homes mean that the Casey and Cardinia regions in particular are experiencing substantial growth. In any new region, establishing community supports and community infrastructure takes time. When mental health concerns emerge, families that have moved to a new region may struggle to seek out and find the appropriate support.

I should particularly note in making these remarks that the Minister for Mental Health has been very much available to discuss these issues and to hear from members of my local community about their needs in the area of mental health. This is, indeed, sincerely appreciated by me and by them.

Services like headspace offer an informal means for young people to seek support either with or independently of their families. This is especially important. What is also important is that young people feel comfortable attending a health service like headspace. Ideally, that means it will be in an area that they are familiar with and which is easily reached. Ideally, this would mean that the service would be readily accessible by public transport and close to other amenities that young people would be likely to visit.

For some time now I have taken soundings from my community about the availability of mental health services. In recent weeks that has also involved more detailed discussions with health and mental health professionals, one of our Medicare Locals, school welfare staff and others to understand better their needs. They have certainly welcomed the investments that this government has made, and they have made it clear to me that they feel strongly that the services directed to Casey and Cardinia—those regions of my electorate—would be extremely beneficial to support young people in our growing community.

People in my area have really come together over this, and so many young people in my community have taken the initiative to raise awareness of these issues at a very local level and, indeed, at a very young age. The ability of what is still quite a new community to come together around resourcing issues in relation to mental health—issues that are sometimes difficult to tackle and sometimes sensitive for school communities to raise—is really quite extraordinary and impressive in difficult circumstances.

This government has been very responsive to the needs of our area, as it has with other growth regions around the country. Meaningful investment in people through social supports, educational supports and certainly health supports really is the trademark of Labor.

I have been advocating for some time for the availability of further mental health resources in the regions of Casey and Cardinia in particular, and specifically for young people facing mental health concerns in those regions of my electorate. I will continue to do so, and I know that these issues are certainly taken seriously in this place when they are raised. I am very pleased that there has been the responsiveness by this government to date in relation to what is a very difficult issue. I have confidence that that will continue to be the case.