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Thursday, 1 August 2019
Page: 1818


Mr LLEW O'BRIEN (Wide Bay) (13:43): Libby Packer, a constituent of mine from Marcus Beach, represents just one of the countless Australian families devastated by mental ill health and suicide. Following the tragic death of her nephew, Libby set out to boost mental health services in regional areas by starting a petition to improve access to life-saving specialists and inpatient care. She then set out, quite literally, to walk 1,000 kilometres from Warialda in New South Wales to Canberra, collecting signatures to present in parliament. She walked tirelessly through all kinds of weather, passing through towns like Bingara, Gunnedah and almost to Gulgong. Libby heard stories about people in desperate need of help; families sending their children to Sydney for expensive private hospitals, as happened to her nephew; and needless deaths that may have been prevented if the services were available locally.

While Libby's physical health forced her to stop during her walk, she covered some 415 kilometres to drive this message home, and her resolve remains. Almost half of all suicides occur outside major cities, but people in remote and rural areas struggle to get specialist services. We must do more. I congratulate Libby, who was in the gallery with her family today, and everyone who supported her. I present her petition to the House and her paper petition for consideration by the Petitions Committee.

The petition read as follows—

Department of Health records show that between 2010 and 2017 the rate of suicide in rural and remote areas was almost two and a half times greater than that of major cities. In 2017 the Royal Flying Doctor Service ( RFDS) counselled 24,500 patients suffering from depression. Dr Martin Laverty, CEO of RFDS stated, " We could double or triple that service tomorrow and still not touch the surface." The Senate Report into 'The Accessibility and Quality of Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Australia' (2018) identified serious deficiencies in both areas. We are one of many families who have lost a loved one as a result of mental health illness. Before my nephew's death we realised that mental health services in country areas were totally inadequate. Specialist medical professionals' visits were irregular and did not provide the essential continuous care he required. Our only alternative was to seek treatment in expensive private clinics in Sydney. This is not a viable alternative for many people in rural areas.

We therefore ask the House to consider the development of a national rural mental health strategy ensuring: 1. Improved access to psychiatrists, psychologists and trained healthcare workers in rural communities. 2. Residential accommodation is provided in rural communities while patients receive support from these professionals.

from 565 citizens (Petition No. EN088)

Petition received.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The document will be forwarded to the petitions committee for its consideration and will be accepted subject to confirmation by the committee that it conforms with standing orders.