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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5190

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (12:36): I am very pleased to be able to make some inquiries this afternoon in relation to the mental health portfolio in particular. I know that there has been tremendous work done by the ministers and their parliamentary secretaries and colleagues in this area, particularly in view of the very significant—in fact record—investment of more than $2.2 billion in mental health by this government.

I have taken particular interest in this portfolio because mental health is raised with me quite regularly in the context of the growing areas of my electorate, particularly those areas in which there is quite a youthful population. Indeed, there have been events held in my area quite recently such as Stride4Life, initiated by students of one of the local schools in my electorate. It is geared up to provide a bit more awareness of youth mental health in particular. A great deal of work has been done throughout the term of this government to focus very much on raising awareness of youth mental health issues and also then responding to those issues and providing appropriate research, funds and support to inquire further into the causes of youth mental health concerns and to provide for the best ways of responding to those concerns.

I note, particularly in my part of the world, headspace. It has been rolled out right around the country, but headspace has certainly been very well received in the south-east of Melbourne. I was very pleased to attend not so long ago, with Minister Butler, the opening of the headspace unit, which will service the needs of greater Dandenong but also provide outreach services to Casey and Cardinia in my electorate. In addition to that, it does very fine work in schools programs, providing schools with appropriate support in incidences of youth mental health concerns at those schools.

I should say, since the Minister for Health and Ageing has been reflecting on Medicare Locals, that the people at the South Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local have done an extraordinarily good job of bringing together headspace in the south-east. I have the utmost confidence in them. They do excellent work, both researching the health needs of the community in my part of the world and doing extraordinary work making the correct connections between health services providers, including mental health services providers, throughout the region—that is precisely what they were intended to do, and they are doing it.

In recent weeks, I have also had a chance to visit Mind Australia, which was recently the beneficiary of just over $600,000 from the federal government to provide assistance in the way of mental health respite services and carer support. It is an absolutely marvellous initiative, particularly in our area. I had a good opportunity to speak with them; there is a very enthusiastic group of people on the staff down there. They have recently established the office in Narre Warren, around Fountain Gate. It is precisely an area in which these services are needed. So much of what is being done throughout this portfolio is about reaching out to people who perhaps have not felt the need or the capacity to come forward with either mental health needs, broader health needs or with their families and carers to seek appropriate support. So it is marvellous to see the expansion of so many services and I know there is much more on the agenda in the context of this budget. I will certainly be seeking some particulars about that. For instance I know about arrangements in relation to the expansion of early psychosis centres and additional funding in relation to aspects of mental health research which is contemplated in some of the measures this government has focused on.

The question I would particularly like to ask is about the government's creation of Australia's first national mental health reform package, which sought to address the fact that less than half the number of people affected by poor mental health receive professional help for treatment. Are there initiatives or strategies within the reform package and funded in the budget that address the need to have a wider reach for services and specifically to encourage and facilitate access to these services by groups in our society that have traditionally been hard to reach?