Eight minutes of non-partisan politics - 'working to zero'
Yesterday afternoon there was a unique anomaly during Question Time in the House of Representatives of the 46th parliament of Australia: eight minutes of non-partisan politics on two key issues.
First, and following the meeting between the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday, was the issue of Indigenous recognition within the constitution, a potential future referendum, and following up on the Uluru Statement from 2017.
A timely topic ahead of NAIDOC celebrations next week, a conversation that is well and truly overdue, and clearly something all sides of politics want to, and need to address.
Answering the question from Anthony Albanese, Scott Morrison acknowledged the shared intent on the issue of an indigenous voice in the constitution, and then quickly pointed to the pressing issue of Indigenous youth suicide, particularly in remote Australia.
In his own words, Prime Minister Morrison said:
The Leader of the Opposition and I will follow that same pursuit. But I will also say that, as important as this issue is, the priority for my government, right now, is addressing the terrible curse of Indigenous suicide in remote and Indigenous communities. This is heartbreaking. The rates of Indigenous suicide in remote and regional communities is just unthinkable, but it is real. The program we have announced to address that and funding that we have provided in the budget, I know, are supported by the opposition. I also thank the former Leader of the Opposition for his support on these initiatives. We will continue to work each and every day towards zero. That must be our goal. The fact that young Indigenous Australians see taking their life as the way forward is heartbreaking for every member of this chamber.
When the Prime Minister finished, the Opposition Leader rose to congratulate the Government on its commitment to reduce suicide and ‘work each and every day towards zero’.
I thank the Prime Minister for his answer and thank him for the spirit in which he's reached out to the opposition to work, particularly, with the new minister.
Enter Minister for Health The Hon Greg Hunt MP, answering a question from colleague, Member for Fisher, Andrew Wallace MP.
My question goes to the Minister for Health. Would the minister please outline to the House what this government is doing to address the tragedies in relation to youth suicide, mental health and eating disorders?
I want to thank the member for Fisher, who has been a passionate and tireless advocate for action on mental health, youth suicide, and in particular eating disorders. Born of his own familiar with this challenge, he has helped deliver the first national eating disorder centre, endED, which we're supporting with $6 million. But that has become a pilot for a network of eating disorder residential treatment facilities around the country…..
We know the challenge: 404 young lives were lost, in the last full year for which we have figures, to their own hands, tragically. One in four young Australians suffer some form of mental health challenge in any one year. More broadly, over the course of our lives almost half of Australians will have some form of mental health challenge, whether it's anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia or so many other conditions. These things are of profound importance and, to take the Prime Minister's lead, they bring together this chamber, this parliament, our parties and all of those whom we represent.
So, yes, we're supporting that, but this challenge brings this whole parliament together. We can save lives and protect lives, and we have to work towards zero.
And once again, the Leader of the Opposition was quick to rise, respond and carry on in the non-partisan vain.
Just briefly, we stand with the government on addressing this terrible scourge facing young people with regard to mental health issues, and I congratulate the government on a range of its initiative, including the increased funding for headspace.
What does this all mean? And why is it important for our advocacy efforts as a sector? For me, it’s all about timing, as clearly there is intent on all sides of politics to work together ‘towards zero’, their words, not ours.
For months we’ve been saying the timing is right for real reform. The Productivity Commission Inquiry will land right in the middle of this 46th Parliament, and it’s our job as a sector to ensure it lands in a political environment that is ready to listen, but more importantly ready to turn words into action.
Or in the Prime Minister’s own words…
… continue to work each and every day towards zero. That must be our goal.
Chief Executive Officer
Sign the joint statement on LGBTI mental health
Mental Health Australia has recently joined 42 other organisations in signing on to the Thorne Harbour Health, Rainbow Health Victoria, and Switchboard Victoria initiated joint statement calling on the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System to consider LGBTI mental health, and outlining six key areas for action. The joint statement will be attached to Thorne Harbour Health, Rainbow Health Victoria, and Switchboard Victoria’s joint submission to the Royal Commission.
Read the statement here
Congratulations to Dr Gabrielle O'Kane, CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance
Congratulations to Dr Gabrielle O'Kane on her appointment as CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance, succeeding Mark Diamond. We look forward to working with Dr O'Kane, and wish Mark all the best.
Congratulations to Robert Fitzgerald
More congratulations to Robert Fitzgerald on his appointment as the inaugural NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner. He has completed outstanding work as a Commissioner on the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Veterans Compensation and Rehabilitation, and we wish him every success in his new role.
Join the Mental Health Australia team
Mental Health Australia has an opportunity for a passionate Policy Officer to join our team in Canberra, on a full-time basis. Reporting to the Manager, Policy and Projects, you will be responsible for the drafting of policy documents and project materials. This will involve analysis of existing data sources to inform strategies, policy, and programs on a range of mental health issues in consultation with Mental Health Australia members and other relevant stakeholders.
Read more about the job description here