By Dustin Halse

26 October 2021

Acting Speaker McGuire, it is good to see you in the chair and, as always, attentive to the contributions of people in this chamber on a particularly important piece of legislation that is being debated this afternoon. It is a privilege to talk about mental health in this place, and it is a privilege to follow on from many fine contributions. I was listening to the Member for Clarinda and his passion for this area of public policy and his work with his constituents in his electorate.

As has been noted, the Bill will launch the Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing, the Collaborative Centre. The Centre will be established in line with recommendation 1 of the interim report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System and recommendations 23, 24, 48, 58 and 63 of the final report of the royal commission. This Government, as has been the mantra of the last 18 months, has said that it listens to the experts, and it has done so on this occasion in the establishment of the Collaborative Centre. It has been guided by their advice, by their research and the need for reform within our community with respect to our mental health system.

In November 2019 the interim report of the royal commission into mental health was released, as we know, and its first recommendation was to create the Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing to bring together expertise in lived experience, research and clinical and non-clinical care, disseminating the practice of evidence-informed treatment, care and support across the state. It is really important to note the integrated nature of this centre, and at the very forefront we are talking about integrating the lived experience of people who have suffered from or who experience mental ill health or mental distress.

The final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System tabled earlier this year at the Royal Exhibition Building paints a detailed and comprehensive picture of a reformed mental health system in Victoria and what that could achieve for the citizens of our state and those who are in need—a reformed system in which people living with mental ill health or distress and their families and carers can be at the forefront, where they can be listened to and valued as active, as opposed to passive, contributors and leaders within this centre. Central to this reform is of course the purpose-built collaborative centre for mental health and wellbeing, and it is wonderful to see the term ‘wellbeing’ attached to this centre as well. It is not simply a case of addressing the very real issues of mental health, but we increasingly—as a society and as a community as we move out of the pandemic’s acute phase—need to talk about wellbeing within our communities and within our families and school settings and all of those settings within our local districts.

The centre will provide comprehensive mental health and wellbeing services to adults over 26 and older adults in its local community, including home-based and community-based treatment services provided in outpatient clinics and inpatient care and other non-hospital settings and crisis responses.

I want to touch on the importance of having access to community-based and in-home care. It is a very confronting thing for so many people to access the hospital system when they are dealing with mental health issues. It is testament to the way in which mental health has been managed and dealt with over generations, but we need to increasingly look at innovative and evidence-based approaches to care, and care in the home often is the very best way of addressing and supporting people with mental ill health. People living with mental ill health or distress, their families, their carers, will have access to comprehensive treatments, care and support delivered by a skilled and diverse workforce through this centre. They will have access to a system that responds to the changing needs of those who live with mental ill health and distress and those who are closest to them and care for them, because it is not just the case that we address the individual with mental ill health. We know that there are more than 60 000 people who are caring for an individual, often a family member, who is experiencing and has been diagnosed with mental ill health. They will have access to a system that responds to the changing needs of those who live with mental ill health and those closest to them. They will have also the opportunity to join the collaborative centre as board members, co-directors or staff. They will be able to get involved in a range of ongoing co-designed activities through the actions of and design of this innovative centre. The new system is a broad-based system, one that is based on connection and collaboration, and this bill enshrines this mantra, this theme of care into legislation.

I note that a number of my colleagues have gone through the historic commitments that this government made in the previous budget with respect to mental health service provision. The recent budget allocated $2.2 million for the early design and establishment of the collaborative centre. A further $3.8 million was allocated in the budget to support the early operations of the collaborative centre, with a total of $18.5 million over four years. Since the start of the pandemic, as the member for Clarinda has just noted, nearly $250 million in additional funding has been provided to support our mental health services across Victoria.

I just want to conclude by reflecting on October being National Mental Health Month. Mental health month encourages all of us to stop, pause and think about our own mental health and wellbeing, regardless of whether we may have had a lived experience of mental ill health or not. It also gives us the opportunity to understand the importance of good mental health in our everyday lives and encourages seeking help when needed. It does not matter if you are a politician, it does not matter if you are a schoolteacher, it does not matter what profession you might be in, it does not matter your age—you could be young, you could be old—we are all in some way touched by the widespread issues of mental ill health.

We know that in any given year one in five people will have experienced or been diagnosed with a mental health condition. We know that during the course of an individual’s lifetime nearly 50 per cent of people will be diagnosed with a mental health illness. It is imperative upon us as politicians to make sure that we continue this grain of reform that we have set ourselves on, led by the Premier and this government, to make sure that we have the best mental health system that we can create, and that is a system that is going to set us up for generations so that more people can receive the care that they need when they need it. It would be remiss of me in the final few seconds not to send a particular shout-out to our mental health workforce and the ongoing work that they do to look after us, to look after those in our community, and I thank them for their work.