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Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Page: 9834

Mental Health


Senator CAROL BROWN (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:06): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Mental Health, Senator Ludwig. Today the National Mental Health Commission report card was released. Can the minister provide details to the Senate about the first-ever National Mental Health Commission report card, and why it is important?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:06): I thank Senator Carol Brown for her continued interest in these important issues. The government welcomes the National Mental Health Commission's first annual report card. The Gillard government committed to producing this report card at the 2010 election and today we have delivered on that commitment. The report card is a key output for the new and independent national commission headed by Professor Allan Fels. It is an important step in increasing transparency across all mental health services and programs nationally.

The report card is called A contributing life, which refers to the many ways mental illness can affect an individual's quality of life. The report card makes recommendations for governments and the broader community across areas like physical health, housing, employment, seclusion and restraint. The Gillard government commissioned this first-ever report card to drive and guide ongoing improvement and performance in our mental health system, and there are also recommendations on other services used by those living with a mental illness, such as housing and employment. The government will look carefully at this report card and its recommendations. We continue to implement our ongoing reforms in each of these areas and we call on the states and territories to do the same.

The government and the commission realise that services for those with mental health difficulties must be far broader than simply clinical care. That is why the report card has identified six key priority areas, including physical health; connection with family, friends, culture and community; effective support, care and treatment; access to timely and quality intervention, work participation and employment; access to safe, stable housing; and suicide prevention. The report card highlights the fact that, together, these priority areas can give those with mental— (Time expired)


Senator CAROL BROWN (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:08): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister explain to the Senate why the independence of the commission is important and how it will contribute to ongoing improvement across the mental health system?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:09): I thank Senator Carol Brown for her supplementary question. Earlier this year, the Gillard government took the historic step of establishing the Mental Health Commission as an independent agency in the Prime Minister's portfolio. The government directed the commission to compile its report and further report cards annually. Today's report card has highlighted important areas for further reform to support better outcomes for people with mental illness. It reminds us of the significant need of an estimated 3.2 million Australians each year who live with a mental health issue. It highlights the importance of the government's investment to grow and improve the mental health system. Meaningful and strategic progress will require partnership between consumers, carers, all governments, NGOs and mental health professionals. The government agrees with the commission when it says that there is a long way to go and there may be many challenges ahead. (Time expired)


Senator CAROL BROWN (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:10): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister outline how the Gillard government is providing support for Australians suffering from a mental illness? How will the mental health reform package improve access, accountability and transparency across the mental health system and support carers, families and the wider community?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:10): I thank Senator Carol Brown for her second supplementary question. Labor are delivering reform over five years through better detection, better targeting and better coordination of mental health services. The Gillard government's mental health package recognises that mental health is a national priority. Supporting a person suffering from mental illness can take its toll, not only on the person but on families, friends and communities. That is why this government are investing $2.2 billion in a mental health reform package. Our mental health reform package is the largest in Australia's history and is being implemented by the government as planned across a range of areas. This is an ongoing task, but we are in this for the long haul. We are committed to ongoing and continuous improvement that gives those with mental illness opportunities to be able to truly contribute and have contributing lives. (Time expired)