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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14061

Mental Health

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister please outline the government's plans to improve the care provided to people suffering from mental health issues? What has been the reaction of the sector to these reforms?

Ms LEY (FarrerMinister for Health, Minister for Sport and Minister for Aged Care) (14:28): Can I thank the member for Solomon for her question and acknowledge her interest in the area of health generally, particularly in mental health. We do know that one of the areas of concern is the mental health of the fly-in fly-out workforce, and the rationale behind these key reforms is that it will not be one-size-fits-all delivered from Canberra, but that individual locations across the country will be able to pick up the policies they need—the consumer-driven, person-centred initiatives that will make the real difference for individuals.

I have been pleased with the response to the government's reforms, which I announced last Thursday with the Prime Minister, Professor Allan Fels and Professor Ian Hickey. I would like to pick up on a couple of further comments that have been made by people whom we take very seriously in this sector. One comment is from John Mendoza, who was Labor's former chief mental health adviser—a person of influence, an expert in his field and, above all else, a passionate advocate. He described this as the most significant shake-up to mental health services funded by the Commonwealth since the beginning of the national mental health plans. It is bold. It is brave. It is visionary. Mr Mendoza said:

What was announced today responds directly and decisively to the core problems in mental health care identified in a continual 10-year public critique and published in truckloads of reports to government.

That captures it, because the most important thing we did in announcing these reforms was to listen: listen to the sector, listen to consumers, listen to families, listen to advocates and to understand that, in designing a reform that works for them, we have to, and we had to, hear their voices. John Mendoza goes on to say:

… we will see an end to the sort of 'mental health care system' that mirrors the old Soviet automotive industry—the one car, in one colour and only available after an eternal wait!

Others have been similarly encouraged. Mental Health Australia welcomed the response by saying that 'reform starts today'. Beyond Blue, the Black Dog Institute, the Psychological Society, the Consumers Health Forum—and today, in The Age newspaper, I was delighted to see its editorial headline, 'Government gets it right on mental health.'

As I said, this is a key reform, and it is designed first and foremost to add the services, the professional expertise, the tailor-made, individualised care packages for people who either suffer in an episodic way with mental ill health or who experience a lifetime of differences—if I could describe it like that—in mental health and need ongoing, special support. I am delighted that, from here on, so many will be on board with this key reform, and I look forward to the support of all my colleagues as we go forward.