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Doorstop interview at the sod turn for the endED Butterfly House

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt talking about treatment for eating disorders at the sod turn for the endED Butterfly House in Mooloolaba. Minister Hunt also answers questions about the Penington Institute's report on drug overdose.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Well it's great to be here in beautiful Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast today. And today marks the sod turn for Australia's first residential eating disorder facility.

This has been a very long road to hoe for many, many people who have suffered from eating disorders in their families and I pay tribute to Mark and Gay Forbes and The Butterfly Foundation for their vision in bringing this to a reality.

I also pay tribute to Roy and Nola Thompson for their great philanthropy and very, very generous approach to providing funding to get this centre off the ground.

And of course I want to acknowledge Greg Hunt the Federal Minister for Health who's ultimately provided $6 million in funding for the establishment, the construction and the running of endED Butterfly House over the next four years.

Greg, do you want to say a few words?


Sure. Look, thanks very much to Andrew and to Millie who are here.

Today is about saving lives and protecting lives.

This first residential eating disorder treatment centre will be funded with $6 million of federal funding, but there's been an enormous amount of community contribution, community work.

Millie and Mark and Gay, The Butterfly Foundation in conjunction with endED, creating the endED Butterfly House. This will help people on the road to recovery.

A million Australians have some form of eating disorder and that can be agonising and as we know, in some cases it can be the highest mortality rate of any of the mental health conditions.

And so together we've contributed to this project. But this is part of a much broader national network that Millie and Andrew and others have helped create, to have residential eating disorder treatment centres around the country is a real legacy and a real step change in the way in which we treat this condition.

And then that's accompanied by the change in Medicare funding which has seen an increase to 60 treatments for people who are suffering from eating disorders.

And so ultimately, this can be an agonising challenge.

But with the support of Medicare, with the support of the residential eating disorder treatment centres we can make a real and profound difference.

And I just want to acknowledge everybody who's been involved and I will invite Millie to say a few words and happy to answer any questions on the centre or other issues of the day.


I suffered from anorexia nervosa for 15 very, very long years and it very nearly took my life. And the lack of residential eating disorder facilities close to home prolonged my battle.

When I recovered from my eating disorder I knew that I wanted to turn my pain into a passion and I wanted to create meaningful systemic change.

And when I met Mark and Gay I knew that we were going to do that. And as we stand here today, I know that we are on the precipice of creating a major shift in the current paradigm of eating disorder treatment in Australia.

This is a new chapter, a new chapter where lived experience is honoured. A new chapter where eating disorder sufferers and their families get the support and the treatment that they need and that they deserve.

There is hope, so much hope.


Well said.


Thank you. Great. Happy to take any questions on the centre and other issues.


Can I ask about the Penington Institute Report today?




So the number of people in unintentionally overdosing on drugs, illegal and legal, has skyrocketed. What's the federal government doing about this?


Firstly, I welcome the report. I think this is a very important contribution and it builds on the work of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and other research bodies. We know that opioids can be deadly.

We know that Australia is in a far better place than the United States, but nowhere near as good as we want it to be. So far we've taken these steps, in particular, we have up-scheduled codeine, which means that we have- had a mighty battle, but we delivered on putting it on prescription.

We are in the process of delivering - we've done our part - we now need the states, particularly Queensland to assist with real time prescription monitoring. Our $16 million has been invested and the Commonwealth railway tracks for real time prescription monitoring are ready to go.

Only last week we announced an increase in support for opioid addiction with very tough measures for Fentanyl and a decrease in the pack sizes for certain types of opioids.

And next week we will list a new medicine Buvidal.

Buvidal is about helping patients with addiction, get off that addiction.


Would streamlining a service, particularly a software service, which all GPs can use, that each GP can see where others have just prescribed, would that help? Would that be something you'd be interested in mandating?


That is the real time prescription monitoring system and all of the states and territories have agreed to that. The Commonwealth has invested and delivered it and we are urging the states to actually complete the part – their parts in it.

So we need a certain activity from the state. New South Wales and South Australia and WA have been excellent. Unfortunately, Queensland has been perhaps the slowest of the states to prepare itself for that, but we’re ready.

Exactly what you described is exactly what we funded and it’s ready to roll; we just need the states to complete their part.


How big a contributor is doctor shopping to many of these deaths?


There’s no doubt that doctor shopping is a part of the problem, which is exactly why real time prescription monitoring or a red flag system, so as a doctor can know if a patient has been elsewhere or a pharmacist can identify it.

And that’s a very important step forward.


Going back to the opening today, how impressive are Mark and Gay to use their personal experience to channel into something like this?


These are courageous people. Mark and Gay, Andrew and Millie have all brought their lived experience and the agonies of themselves or their families to say: we can make a difference and they aren't just making a difference here on the Sunshine Coast, they're making a difference around the country.

Over $180 million being put into eating disorders through Medicare and residential treatment centres, and you know, it's all started here.


Millie, if we could ask you, will you be a councillor here or can you take us through what your role will be once this is built?


Absolutely. Just to clarify, I'm not a- the roles haven't been assigned [indistinct] …




But I can talk to what I am …


Yeah. Yeah, sure. What do you hope to be when it's all built?


Look, what I'd really like to see is that the value of lived experience is really, really built into the model, which I have no doubt that it's going to be.

So, I'm currently an eating disorder recovery coach. I've trained in the States under the world-renowned Carolyn Costin.

And so, for me the keys are the fact that lived experience and recovery coaching is included, and then also the fact that the model takes into consideration the need for the whole healing of the individual.

So the body, the mind and the soul, because we know that that is what is going to lead to sustained, full recovery.


And we've seen with the parents everything, it affects the whole family, doesn't it? It’s not just the individual.


It absolutely affects the whole family. Look, it really, really affected my family.

My brother disowned me for a number of years because he felt that I was literally ruining my family; my parents were on the verge of divorce; my mom had had nervous breakdowns.

He felt that I wasn’t trying. And because the eating disorder was so strong it did appear that I wasn’t trying it. But look, it did. It really- an eating disorder splinters a family.

It really does. It plays off, you know, its modus operandi was to get my parents to separate so that it wouldn't have- they wouldn't have the strength, together, to actually help me fight the illness.

And I'm very, very grateful that both my parents were able to be in attendance today because they know how close to my heart this project is.


And you're very impressed with Mark and Gay too?


Oh, Mark and Gay are my adopted Australian mother and father.

I will never forget the day when I made that first phone call, we were introduced by a mutual friend, and things just grew from there.

And I knew from that moment that we were going to create something big.

I can't- probably didn't imagine that it was going to be quite so momentous and have such a far-reaching effect, but I thank my lucky stars every single day that I get to work with them and that we share such a passion for being at that grassroots level and really, really making a difference to those sufferers and parents and carers.


Now, I will have to go but I will just, if I may, finish with one thing. You asked about a possible future for Millie.

I can't think of a better candidate for Young Queenslander of the Year than Millie and a better candidate for Queenslanders of the Year than Mark and Gay.

And then finally, if today saves one life it will have been worth it, but my belief is that this will lead to hundreds and hundreds of lives being saved not just here on the Sunshine Coast but around Australia.

Thank you.


We've just had a problem with recording. Can you just welcome the report again? Just the initial part? Thank you.


Sure. Look, I welcome the report of the Penington Institute. I think it's a very important contribution. It's about saving lives and protecting lives.

It identifies all the things that we need to do, and that's why we have instituted changes to make codeine on prescription, changes to ensure that there are smaller pack sizes for different types of opioids and changes that will ensure that, in particular, we are able to have real time prescription monitoring around the country.


Thank you so much.

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