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Good morning and thank you for inviting me to join you today.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.
I extend that respect to all First Nations People who are here with us today, and pay my respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.
I would also like to recognise the disparity in access to healthcare faced by First Nations people, in remote communities and in urban communities like Sydney.
I’m proud to be part of a government that’s committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in full, including enshrining a Voice to Parliament in our constitution.
I would also like to acknowledge the individual and collective contributions of people with a lived and living experience of mental ill-health and suicide.
This includes carers or supporters of people living with mental ill-health.
This lived and living experience is vital to the future of mental health care in Australia. Bringing it together with best practice prevention and care will move us toward better care for all.
Before being elected to Parliament, I gained insights into mental health through my role as a Specialist Mental Health Pharmacist in regional Australia.
Those experiences help inform the work I do every day as a part of this Government.
Thank you to Community Mental Health Australia as the conference host and to all of you for taking the time to join in this important conversation.
This year’s theme – Improving Recovery, Capacity Building and Wellbeing, certainly reflects where we are headed as a community, focusing on growing our capacity to improve outcomes and enhance lives.
This conference has been centred largely around the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), mental health conditions and psychosocial disability, but it also provides an important opportunity to canvas the many important issues that sit underneath these such as lived experience, drivers of distress and recovery.
The Albanese Government is committed to mental health and suicide prevention.
Our vision is for a whole of government, community lead approach, so we can make sure all Australians, wherever they are born, live, work and age can access the support they need.
Almost half of all Australians will experience mental ill-health at some point in their lives.
We understand that early intervention and prevention of mental ill-health is vital, which is why I’m working so closely with our Minister for Early Education and Youth Dr Anne Aly and Jason Clare Minister for Education.
Just last month I joined the Minster Clare at Gorokan Public School to announce new funding to help kids bounce back from the pandemic.
Each school in Australia will receive on average $20,000 depending on size and need to go towards additional wellbeing support.
This support can go towards activities they’ve missed out on like school camps and excursions or extra clinical support . Gorokan plan on inviting the student leaders, P&C and wider school community to decide how they use their additional funding.
But as we know, prevention is only part of the solution.
We are experiencing increasing demand for mental health services, driven in large part by the natural disasters we have faced over the past few years.
I expect that this demand won’t slow down, as uncertainty about the future takes root in many peoples’ minds – from pressures at home, like the cost of living, increasing concern about our changing climate, to geopolitical shifts like conflict and war.
In 2012, the then Labor Government prepared to introduce new structures to better engage people with lived experience in policy and program development for mental health and suicide prevention.
Last month, our Government made good on those plans, with an investment of $8.5 million.
$7.5 million towards two independent lived experience peak bodies – one representing consumers and the other representing carers, families and kin.
Lived Experience Australia will receive $900,000 for its leadership in lived experience research and capacity building for people with mental ill-health and carers.
And $100,000 will establish a stakeholder forum to improve transparency, accountability and partnerships within the sector.
Family and carers are key to a person’s recovery. We know this.
That’s why our Government is strengthening Medicare and implementing important changes to help family and carers participate in a person’s Better Access treatment schedule.
This year we will also see increasing focus on supporting multidisciplinary, holistic care through mental health case conferencing.
We are working closely with the States and Territories and communities around the country to boost support services, reduce wait times and improve the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians.
We share responsibility for psychosocial supports, and at the Commonwealth level, as you’re aware these refer to non-clinical, recovery-oriented supports helping people with severe mental ill-health to live independently and safely in the community.
This includes services delivered through the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Commonwealth Psychosocial Support Program.
But we know there is a gap, between services and the needs of the community, and work is underway to better understand that gap and how to address it.
An analysis of unmet need for psychosocial supports outside the NDIS must be completed by March 2024, and using these findings, along with the NDIS Review, we will work with the States and Territories to help make sure people who need these services can access them.
I understand the urgency of this important area of reform.
I know that many of you here today are mental health professionals, and many are disability care professionals.
I would like to recognise and acknowledge each of you for the important work.
You know the challenge ahead of us all – you deal with the increasing demand for services and support every day.
There are challenges in the current supply and distribution of the mental health workforce, and it is impacting care and support. In regional communities like mine and across the country.
We need to have the right workforce, in the right place at the right time.
The new National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement has set all Australian governments to work, in partnership with people with lived experience, to build a better mental health and suicide prevention workforce.
We recognise we need a workforce that is culturally safe and responsive to changing needs, including a growing role for peer workers.
The National Agreement, which came into effect in 2022, will help us to achieve this.
It is an important first step towards improving Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention system.
With real cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories, we can address gaps in the system of care, improve system and service integration, and grow the workforce.
As we all know, mental health and suicide prevention is something that must be taken within the environment around us – I’ve already mentioned some of the pressures Australians are facing.
This Government also understands that addressing mental health and suicide prevention also means addressing the social, environmental and economic determinants of mental ill-health.
We need to make real progress on education, employment, housing and financial security.
Likewise, we must see the gap between First Nations people and other Australians close.
Our Government recognises that housing and homelessness is an important issue in the context of mental ill-health.
People with a history of homelessness experience mental health conditions at a rate almost double that of the general population, and people with a mental health issue are more likely to experience homelessness.
The links between the two are tragic.
That’s why a National Housing and Homelessness Plan will be established to provide a clear national strategy to address the significant challenges facing the housing and homelessness sector.
This National Agreement, together with the insights from our lived and living experience committee, will bring together best practice, proper analysis of need, and critical lived experience to make a system fit for the future and to deliver the best outcomes for all Australians.
We know there are big challenges ahead, but there are also opportunities.
What makes me optimistic, is events like today’s National NDIS and Mental Health Conference.
And, working with people like you across Australia - we know it matters and are determined to realise change.
I hope the remainder of your conference is both insightful and inspiring.