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Wednesday, 10 June 2020
Page: 3619


Dr ALLEN (Higgins) (10:13): As the world watches the carnage from the COVID pandemic unfold around the world, my constituents in Higgins have told me they are pleased and glad to be in Australia. They're pleased and glad because they have felt that as Australians we have worked together to carve our own curve and to ensure we have dodged the bullet that is the coronavirus pandemic. There have been so many important things that have been done to make sure that the health of all Australians is kept front and centre as our government deliberates, in a bipartisan way by working with the national cabinet, to close our borders, to enforce strict quarantine for people visiting from overseas or arriving home from overseas and to insist that people practise social distancing. It has had a profound effect on so many Australians, whether it has been Australians who have not been able to have the wedding that they wish they could have had, whether it has been Australians who have not been able to mark the occasion of the passing of a relative or a friend, whether it has been an Australian who has lost a job or lost their business.

There are so many impacts that are broad and general and sweeping from COVID that Australia has managed to deal with quietly, but there is one impact that Australians know is having a deep and long-term impact, and that is the indirect effect of COVID on the mental health of all Australians. Many have suffered in silence. Many have dealt with tragedies that they have not been able to share, because it's not just them that is hurting but their families that are hurting, their communities that are hurting, their country that is hurting, the whole world that is hurting. But Australians can feel that there is support coming from their community and from their government because the Morrison government has committed to not only understanding and acknowledging but delivering on the two aspects of COVID: firstly, the health aspect, which we've all heard about; secondly, the mental health aspect. I'm proud to be part of a government that is putting this at the front and centre of its response to the pandemic crisis that is causing carnage around the world.

On Sunday, the Morrison government announced a further investment in mental health services across Australia: $24.5 million will reduce wait times and fast-track access to mental health services at headspace. We know that one in four young Australians are affected by mental health issues. In my electorate of Higgins, the government is delivering on its election commitment to deliver a headspace in Glen Iris to support the young people of Higgins and surrounding areas. It aims to improve access for young people aged 12 to 25 who are at risk of mental health issues. It offers early intervention services in four key areas: mental health, related physical health, social and vocational support, and alcohol and other drug use.

But headspace is just part of a large suite of commitments for mental health services and support, which is estimated this year to be $5.2 billion. This includes an additional $500 million for mental health services and support, $64 million for suicide prevention, $74 million for preventative mental health services in response to COVID and $48 million to support the pandemic response plan. The Morrison government is also investing $4 million into a range of projects to improve health outcomes for some of Australia's culturally diverse Australians. The funding, to be provided through the National Women's Health Strategy, the National Men's Health Strategy and the Child and Youth Health grants, will particularly assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

As Australians, we know that the carnage is global, but we also know that by working together and by supporting each other we will come through this. It is imperative that in our economic response we put jobs at the centre of what we do, because having a job and having the dignity of a job provides the opportunity for young Australians to have the hope of a prosperous future that hopefully is both healthy and safe. As we begin to unlock Australia, the government's national mental health plan will be the key to ensuring the economic prosperity of getting us back on track.