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Thursday, 29 November 2018
Page: 12109


Ms O'TOOLE (Herbert) (11:26): Last week, on Thursday, 22 November, the Tropical Brain and Mind Research Foundation launched Australia's first Mentally Healthy City in Townsville, North Queensland, in my electorate of Herbert. This initiative is groundbreaking in terms of creating an opportunity for our community members to take responsibility for our collective mental health. Mental health is everybody's responsibility. I have said many times in this place that it is not possible to have a strong economy without a thriving society, and that means a mentally healthy community in my electorate and in electorates across the nation.

It was a real honour to have the former Prime Minister the Hon. Julia Gillard, chair of beyondblue, and Sir Angus Houston, retired air chief marshal, retired Chief of Defence and patron of the Tropical Brain and Mind Research Foundation, in Townsville to launch this exciting initiative. Both the Hon. Julia Gillard and Sir Angus addressed the audience at a gala dinner in Townsville. Both spoke with passion and acknowledgement that we have much to do in relation to addressing the growing challenge of mental health, not only in my electorate but across this nation. Both speakers acknowledged the importance of Australia's first Mentally Healthy City, Townsville, in reducing the debilitating nature of stigma in local communities.

I congratulate the project manager, Brendon Marty, and the board of Townsville's Tropical Brain and Mind Research Foundation: Chair Dr Cathy Day, Professor Sue McGinty, Lisa Banks, Professor Maxwell Bennett AO, Eleni Millios-Hullick, Jacqui Gillespie, Dr Lynore Geia, Alan George Newman and Matthew Keating. I also thank Professor Brett McDermott and Professor Zoltan Sornyai from JCU for their wise counsel and advice to the board.

As a previous CEO, for some 14 years, in the community mental health sector and a member of state and national boards for mental health peak bodies, I am very proud to share my support for this great initiative. A mentally healthy city addresses mental health as a comprehensive, whole-of-life health and wellbeing agenda involving individual citizens and the broader community. Townsville is a city that is willing to embrace, understand and utilise the concept of a mental health continuum. It is a city that understands and supports the need to coordinate the access to the many mental health support services that are available. It is a city that is willing to broaden its capacity to assist individuals to achieve a good life and their best mental health. Most importantly, Townsville is willing and able to play a leading role in establishing a community culture that will address the scourge of stigma.

According to Mission Australia's 2018 youth survey, almost half the young people in Townsville believe mental health is the biggest issue for this nation. More than 48 per cent of the young women surveyed in Townsville reported that they were personally worried about dealing with stress, compared with 16 per cent of males that were surveyed. For our young people in Townsville, the challenges of finishing school, finding employment, body image, financial security and housing affordability and stability are high on their list of concerns. The survey of almost 775 Townsville young people also indicated that females, when compared to their male counterparts, indicated much higher levels of concern about family conflict, suicide, financial security and social media. Placing a priority on developing a mentally healthy city will not only assist in alleviating these burdens for our young people but also go a long way to supporting our older citizens.

The objectives that I will mention now are the objectives that the Tropical Brain and Mind Research Foundation have set for Townsville's Mentally Healthy City: embracing a common understanding of the importance of holistic wellness; addressing mental illness stigma through a stigma reduction campaign; focusing on the development of mental health resilience as a high priority for the city agenda in supporting healthy children, adolescents and adults across all demographics; and for Townsville to be recognised as a national leader by having a well-developed and integrated mental health service sector. Achieving a mentally healthy city will present some challenges, but I commend the Tropical Brain and Mind Research Foundation for bringing this vision to reality. Townsville's Mentally Healthy City will not deliver face-to-face services but, most importantly, this project will coordinate existing and new local mental health services, which will certainly help the many people who are trying to navigate what is, in fact, a complex system. I was proud to secure funding through a Stronger Communities Program grant for the Tropical Brain and Mind Research Foundation to purchase equipment to assist in the establishment of their office. I was also proud to secure funding from the Townsville Hospital and Health Service to assist over the next two years in operational costs.