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Monday, 21 May 2018
Page: 4034


Mr FALINSKI (Mackellar) (12:23): Following on from the previous speaker, I also congratulate the member for Grey for introducing this most critical motion. In preparation for this speech I read a 2016 report showing that youth suicide in our society reached record levels in that particular year. The report made a number of obvious observations—we are only now starting to recognise that what was considered previously to be accidental, a car accident or an accidental discharge of a weapon, is now being properly reported as what it always was: a suicide attempt or the ending of someone's life through exquisite mental agony and pain—and makes the point that the most disappointing part about the statistic is that now we know more than we have ever known before about mental health and what brings people to this most extraordinary point where they think their only option to end the pain they are suffering from is to end their lives.

The Turnbull government—and many governments around Australia—have recognised this is a problem that our community can and should do something about. I was very proud last year to help launch a $16 million initiative in my area that was dedicated towards mental health, mostly around identifying people who were at risk. That year—only a year ago—my area had suffered a series of people who were still at high school committing suicide. They had no reason to commit suicide—well, those of us on the outside looking in thought that they had no reason. They came from good families and had very good prospects. They had not ostensibly suffered bullying or any other outside influence that brought them to this point. The point was that we had not identified them as at-risk youths.

At this point I have to commend the principal of Barrenjoey High School, Ian Bowsher. At the time he recognised that this was a problem and was something that not only he could do something about but he must do something about. He took action. A number of people felt that finally they were in a place where they could openly and calmly discuss how they were feeling about these issues, so much so that they could get help and assistance. More importantly, they realised that they were not going through this alone.

My area has I think one of the great premiers that New South Wales never had—that is, John Brogden. John had a well-known public breakdown. He was put under extraordinary pressure by the media, which behaved irresponsibly. They went over stories that were not true in fact—frankly, they were fiction. John is a person of great capacity. If he had been given the chance to lead New South Wales, I know that he would have saved us from years of ineptitude and corruption. He would have made a real difference to millions of people in that state. But he was cut down because no-one thought to understand the sorts of pressures and the sorts of injustices that were being placed upon him. They never thought to reach out and say: 'How are you, mate? We're with you.' At that point he was deserted by so many who had previously pretended to be his friends.

John, to his great credit, did not slink away and did not decide that it was too much. John did what he always did—he got stuck in. He became the head of Lifeline in Australia. He has advocated tirelessly to help people who feel that they are at the point of suicide, at the point when they most need that help. I have to recognise that Julia Gillard reached out across the aisle to John Brogden. This government and other governments have provided millions of dollars in funding for Lifeline and the critical research and efforts that they make to help people.

I can only commend the member for Grey for pointing out all of these issues. I commend this motion to the chamber.