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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Page: 9118

Mr TUDGE (Aston) (21:50): I rise tonight to table a very important petition. This petition which I have in front of me has over 10,000 signatures—10,284 to be precise. This makes it the second-largest petition in my electorate, which covers the Knox area in outer-eastern Melbourne. I launched this petition with Pauline Renzow, a local resident, a few months ago. It calls for additional youth mental health services in the outer east and in Knox particularly. In particular, it calls for a headspace centre to be based in the Knox municipality.

As you would be aware, mental health is a significant issue for many Australians and particularly for young people. It is estimated that a quarter of all young Australians will suffer from a mental illness at some stage, be it anxiety, depression or substance abuse disorder. In Knox, the incidences of mental health disorders are particularly high. They account for over half the burden of disease and injury amongst 15- to 24-year-olds. Depression amongst men and women, anxiety disorders amongst women and suicides amongst men are all present at higher rates than the state or city averages. We do not know why this is the case, we simply know that it is the case.

While statistics paint a picture of the prevalence of the problem, they do not reveal the anxiety, the pain or the loneliness that many sufferers face. Nor do they reveal the sense of worry or hopelessness that a family can sometimes feel when one of their loved ones is afflicted by a mental health disorder. Of course, at the most severe end of the spectrum, mental illnesses can lead to suicide. No-one is immune from mental health issues. I have found that there is barely a family that I have come across who has not been affected either directly or indirectly as a result of a mental health disorder.

The petition itself calls for a headspace centre in the Knox City Ozone precinct, to address some of these issues. The Knox City Ozone precinct is a particularly good location because it is the central hub for young people in the outer east. Further, there is an outstanding site which is available. We want to seize this opportunity for the benefit of the young people there. The petition is a hugely powerful message from the people of Knox. Other than the petition for a rail link to Rowville, no petition in recent memory has had such support from residents of my electorate.

I thank those who signed the petition. Your voice is being heard loudly in this parliament tonight. I would like to acknowledge all the members of my Youth Mental Health Committee who have worked with me on this campaign. They include Chris Potter, Kristin Michaels, Peter Cole, David Jancik, Debbie Field, Sarah Lowenchal, Bronte Schofield, Anthony Osborne, Tony Justice, Praveen Ranjan, Anni Ross, Pauline Renzow and Prerna Diksha. I particularly acknowledged the two people who were the co-principal petitioners, Pauline Renzow and Prerna Diksha. They are both inspirational people.

In Pauline's instance, she lost two sons to suicide a month apart from each other six years ago. Since then she has been a tireless campaigner for better youth mental health services in our community. Prerna is here in the gallery tonight. Her brother Abhishek committed suicide earlier this year, in May. From all accounts he was a popular, bright man who showed very few signs of depression or any signs of mental illness. Both of these women are incredibly courageous people who have bravely talked publicly about their experiences and they proudly spearhead this petition in part in the memory of their lost family member but also to make a difference to young sufferers today.

We all know that a headspace centre will not be a panacea to all the problems but it will make a difference. As Pauline Renzow has said to us before and to our mental health committee, if all of our efforts in this regard can save just one life, then it will be worth all the effort. I table the petition.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of the concerned residents of outer eastern Melbourne

Draws to the attention of the House the high incidence of mental illness among young people in the Knox area. Over a third of young people in Knox will be affected at some stage by depression, severe anxiety or worse before the age of 25. The impact of a mental problem can be devastating on the individual affected and their family.

We therefore ask the House to call upon the Federal Government to provide additional services in Knox to assist young local people with mental problems. In particular, we request the funding of a Headspace Centre in Knox (a one-stop-shop that focuses on 12-25 year olds) to reduce some of the current gaps in service provision and assist thousands of young people in our local community.

from 10,284 citizens

Petition received.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): I thank the honourable member for Aston for his particularly moving contribution. I understand that the petition has been approved by the Petitions Committee and consequently I advise the honourable member that it is received pursuant to standing order 207(b)(iii).