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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7882

Mr FARMER (9:54 AM) —I would like to associate myself with those remarks made by the member for Melbourne Ports as well—very well said—and it is important that we stand up for the rights of individuals in our own country who have come from China as well.

I would like to speak about mental health issues here this morning. I want to speak about this issue because I read a report recently by the Menzies Research Institute that stated, working from the 2009-10 budget, that they believe that funding for mental health is decreasing rather than increasing, and yet the need is certainly prevalent throughout the whole of the country. In fact, what they state is: ‘When this budget is compared to the ’08-’09 budget, it appears that the government is not investing or even interested in mental health services. Last year’s budget was cut by $289.6 million from mental health programs. This year’s budget makes further cuts of $63.1 million over four years.’

I highlight that because I really want to encourage the new government—the Rudd government—to get behind people suffering from mental health issues. There is an incredible amount of stigma attached to patients with mental health issues and they fall across all ages. Recently I visited a place in my electorate called Harmony House, which is a halfway house for people with mental health issues. It supports people with mental health issues and tries to help them to integrate back into the community. I saw the people who were there. I saw the things that they were doing, like jewellery lessons, singing lessons and art and craft lessons and learning computer skills and trying to integrate back into the community. I met people who, when they were younger, had had dreams and aspirations to be politicians, to be lawyers, to achieve great things in their life but now they would be happy with a job stacking shelves at Franklins or Woolworths, if they could get one, because of the issues that they now face regarding their mental health.

There is a lot of stigma attached to this situation. As a result, a lot of employers will not take on people who have schizophrenia or other mental health issues. It has been indicated by SANE that most people with mental health issues probably receive on average around $20,000 a year. They spend around 10 per cent of their budget on medication. It is an issue that we really need to look at. These people are lost and forgotten souls that are falling through the cracks of our health system. It is most important that we increase funding for mental health patients, support programs such as the ones at Harmony House in Campbelltown and support the many and varied workers who support young people with mental health problems and indeed old people with mental health problems.