Assistant Minister McBride – speech at the Mental Health Australia Policy Forum – 11 May 2023

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister McBride's speech at the Mental Health Australia Policy Forum in Canberra.

The Hon Emma McBride MP
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health

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General public

Acknowledgements omitted.

As you all well know, this week the Treasurer handed down the 2023–24 Budget.

With a $586.9 million investment in mental health, the Budget continues reforms to mental health by addressing workforce shortages, extending critical services, addressing urgent gaps and laying the groundwork for future reform.

We are determined to create a system in which all Australians – including our most vulnerable – can access quality and affordable health care when and where they need it.

We have heard from the sector that this reform work must be considered and informed by evidence. 

The Budget lays the necessary groundwork to pursue an ambitious reform agenda.

It builds on our Government’s investments in strengthening Medicare.

It addresses urgent service gaps and improves continuity of care, while working with people with lived experience to co-design long-term solutions.

There are a few particular measures I would like to focus on today.

The Government recognises we can only deliver meaningful reform with a highly skilled, capable workforce.

Improving the availability of workforce will ensure there is equity in service delivery, enabling reform.

But, we know and understand how stretched the health workforce is – this is a concern that I hear in every community I visit.

Our aim is to expand our workforce to meet current and future demands for people, no matter where they live.

We’re introducing longer consults for general practitioners, so they can provide better support for patients with complex needs, including those seeking support for their mental health.

And we’re tripling bulk billing incentives for the most common general practice consults to improve affordability of care.

We know demand for psychology services continues to grow. However, the road to becoming a psychologist is far from smooth.

The Budget addresses these bottlenecks in the psychology training pipeline with a landmark $91.3 million investment.

This will provide more funding for postgraduate psychology, 500 one-year internships for provisional psychologists, and 2,000 fully subsidised supervisor training sessions.

But we cannot focus on psychology alone to address access issues – we need to consider the entire health workforce.

Recognising when someone is in distress is critical across health care, we need to make sure that no Australian is lost in the system and falls through the cracks.

That’s why we’re investing $17.8 million in the Budget to build the knowledge and skills of the broader health workforce, so they are better equipped to recognise and respond to mental health issues.

This includes $1.4 million to ensure undergraduate nurses, midwives and allied health students receive consistent training in mental health.

It also includes $6.8 million for mental health first aid training for that same group of students, but in addition, 7,800 medical students.

We have also provided $300,000 for the development of national standards for counsellors and psychotherapists to improve their utilisation across a range of mental health settings.

The work to support the mental health workforce is not limited to investment in the Budget.

Your contributions are invaluable as we progress reform to the health system.

I also understand there will be a panel discussion later today in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the interface with the Commonwealth Psychosocial Support Program.

We’re extending psychosocial support for people with severe and complex mental ill-health who are not part of the NDIS.

This $253.6 million investment will mean more than 18,000 people can continue their recovery in the community.

The Budget also extends important mental health and suicide prevention programs for specific groups in our community, including young people, people with eating disorders, and people who are bereaved by suicide.

It provides $136 million to ensure our mental health care system is appropriate for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

This includes $1.2 million for Mental Health Australia to extend the Embrace Suicide Prevention Pilot delivered in partnership with Suicide Prevention Australia and R U OK.

These communities are traditionally less likely to access mental health support, so having services that meet their needs is critical to improving equity.

We’re also making sure individuals and communities impacted by disasters can access the support they need to recover well.

Whether it’s drought, flood or fire, we are seeing more severe natural disasters more often.

But it’s only been in recent years that mental health has become an important part of the response to those events.

The Budget includes $7.2 million to provide support where and when it’s needed the most following disaster.

The funding will go to the Black Dog Institute’s National Emergency Workers Support Service and the Australian Psychological Society’s Disaster Response Network.

Together, all of these measures under the Budget will help expand the workforce and strengthen the mental health support for communities.

As we continue to progress reforms to the mental health system, we’re committed to engaging openly with the sector.

We want to make sure the changes made are meaningful and effective, so that all Australians get the mental health care they need, no matter their postcode or income.

We want the people who know the system best to have a seat at the table when important decisions are made. 

That’s why, earlier this year, we announced $7.5 million for 2 independent national mental health lived experience peak bodies.

One will represent consumers; the other will represent families and carers.

These are 2 distinct, but equally important groups that we need to hear from.

This announcement is the product of decades of work from advocates like Mental Health Australia.

We thank you for your tireless campaigning and look forward to building on the work that has already been done. 

Establishing these peaks will be a genuine co-design process, working closely with the sector. 

I have stressed to the department how important these peaks are to me, and the need to carefully and thoughtfully implement this measure.

I thank everyone here who has contributed to the Government’s long-term mental health agenda to build a more equitable system for all Australians.

Health remains a top priority and mental health is a critical part of it.

The Budget reflects that.

I look forward to continuing to work with you towards meaningful change.

Thank you.

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