Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet the Yuggera, Jagera and Ugarapul peoples and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
I extend that respect to First Nations people with us today.
I am proud to be part of a Government committed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in full. Voice. Treaty. Truth.
I would also like to take a moment to recognise the stark gap in health outcomes of First Nations people, and not just in remote communities, but across Australia.
It is just one of the reasons that I support the Voice to Parliament. So that First Nations people will have a say on policy that impacts them.
I would also like to acknowledge those here today with lived and living experience of mental-ill health.
You are seen, you are heard, and your voices are welcome.
We are proud of the cooperation we have with the sector, with researchers and with practitioners, and we also acknowledge that the people who are most impacted by health policy have for far too long been left out of the conversation.
The Albanese Government is putting people with lived experience at the centre of policy development, leadership and decision making.
And that doesn’t just mean those who have experienced ill-mental health themselves, but those vicariously impacted.
That’s why we are standing up two peak bodies to represent those with lived experience in mental health policy making.
One for consumers, and the other for carers, families and kin.
It is through discussion that we’ll find the best solutions to today’s health challenges.
Before entering Parliament, I worked as a specialist mental health pharmacist on the NSW Central Coast.
I understand firsthand the health challenges that a community like yours face.
Both Springfield and my hometown of Wyong on the Central Coast are in many ways similar.
Both rapidly growing, home to many young families, and close to a major capital city.
Greater Springfield now has a dozen schools, a TAFE, the Mater Springfield Private Hospital, and the University of Southern Queensland.
But the confronting fact is, the further you live outside of a major metro, the worse your health outcomes are likely to be.
Here in Springfield, about an hour outside of a major capital city, the reality is that it is getting harder and harder to get in to see a GP.
And when you do get in to see a GP, and you get a referral for a psychologist, you might find they have closed their books, or you wait a long time to get an appointment.
The bottom line is that those living in wealthy suburbs and those living in the heart of major cities are far more likely to be able to receive care.
That is unacceptable in a country like Australia that prides itself on its universal public health system.
That is not public health working as it should.
No matter where you live or where you grew up, you should be able to access the health care you need, when you need it.
The entire health team in the Albanese Government is sharply focused on fixing the disparity in access and equity.
We will make sure that nobody misses out.
Our Government is looking beyond the health system to focus on the social determinants of health and mental health.
The social determinants of health comes by many names, the drivers of distress, the cause of the cause.
No matter what you call them, we know exactly what they are. Homelessness, lack of adequate education, financial uncertainty, negative working environments, domestic and family violence, child trauma, and drug and alcohol addiction.
These are the precursors that are likely to increase mental ill-health.
Our government is taking a whole of government approach to mental health support. It underpins everything we do.
We’re doing this for two reasons. One, and perhaps quite simply, to make sure we address mental health issues before they arise to keep people well. And two, to reduce the pressure on our already overflowing healthcare system.
These issues in our country will not be solved overnight, nor will they be solved in a single Budget or by a single government.
These are legacy issues, and we need to make sure that we address each and every one of them in a safe and thoughtful way.
I’ve discussed three things that serve as key guideposts in how I am approaching the future of mental health.
Embracing the views of Australians, including and especially those with lived and living experience.
Addressing the drivers of distress and reducing the pressures on our healthcare system.
And the importance of improving equity and access to mental health services.
Thank you again for inviting me to speak at the at this seminar.
I have no doubt that the rest of the day will be filled with thoughtful discussion, deep debate and hopefully the exchange of knowledge to help improve community mental health outcomes.