CEO Update - Looking back, to see that we are heading in the right direction

To know where we’re going, it’s sometimes good to look back at where we’ve come from. And more importantly, look at how far we’ve come.

Following this week’s 2018-19 Federal Budget announcements of new investment, welcomed by Mental Health Australia and many others in the mental health sector, I took a look back at some our budget summary notes over the last five years.

This served to highlight where we’ve come from, and more importantly where our consistent advocacy and drive for change has landed us… five years down the track.

In the 2014-15 Budget we saw the commitment of $14.9 million over four years to establish ten new headspace sites and $18 million over four years for the establishment of a National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health, to be operated by the Orygen Youth Health Research Centre. Funding for the Mental Health Nurses Incentives Program was extended for 12 months ($23.4 million in 2014-15) and savings from PiR – along with other savings in the health portfolio – were redirected to a new Medical Research Future Fund, which was expected to reach $20 billion by 2019-20. 

For the 2015-16 Budget our media release headline ‘Mental health awaits government action’ said it all. The Government’s commitments in mental health were made clear ahead of the Budget when they released the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Programmes and Services – indicating that they would establish an Expert Reference Group (ERG) and enter into negotiations with the states and territories to develop the Fifth National Mental Health Plan. 

The 2016-17 Budget included a number of welcome new initiatives for mental health, but left us with ongoing uncertainty about how existing reforms would be coordinated and integrated. We welcomed new $40m investment in veteran’s mental health and suicide prevention, and $800,000 for an online service to address perinatal depression, but at the same time Australia still had no comprehensive plan to guide the very significant reforms changing the shape of mental health services. Programs like the NDIS, Primary Health Networks, and Health Care Homes were of course welcome measures, but urgent work was required to link these reforms to ongoing mental health reforms, and to services providing psychosocial support to people who experience mental illness.

The 2017-18 Budget was welcomed by Mental Health Australia as it acknowledged and began to address one of mental health’s most critical issues – gaps in psychosocial support services in the community. Treasurer Scott Morrison identified $173 million to be invested in Australia’s mental health, including ‘$80 million to assist people with severe mental illness resulting in psychosocial disability who are not eligible for the NDIS.’ Encouraging the states to come on board and tip in a further $80 million. We are still waiting for that to occur.

And then this week, following on from the $173 million last year, a further increase of $338 million of new investment was announced. This represents significant investment in suicide prevention, older Australians and mental health research, as well as funding for the National Mental Health Commission to deliver on the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

Five years of budget summaries for mental health. Some years with not much joy at all, some with more, and always more to do, no matter what the result.

What does looking back tell us? The last two years have seen an important upturn, but we remain in need of substantial new investment.

The recent publication of the KPMG report Investing to Save makes the clear case that substantial new investment would not only relieve human suffering, but would have a substantial payoff for governments, the business sector and for the community.

As we head into the next twelve months anticipating both another federal election, and another federal budget, we need to ride the wave of growing community concern and expectation.

The evidence is there, the circumstances are right, we (consumers, peers, carers, professionals, community groups, advocates and others) just have to ask whether we are ready to join forces to make the case for substantial investment in the kind of mental health reform that we have hoped for… for so long.

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

VIDEO Minister for Health, The Hon Greg Hunt MP, joins Mental Health Australia CEO, Frank Quinlan, to discuss the 2018 federal budget

The mental health sector responds to the 2018-19 federal budget

The federal Government’s significant investments in the mental health of Australians announced in this year’s budget were broadly welcomed by prominent mental health organisations and sector leaders.

Lifeline described the announcement of an additional $33.8 million in funding to support its telephone crisis services as a ‘game changer’. Chairman John Brogden said the increased funding would have a direct impact on the number of calls that Lifeline can answer. He said “This massive funding boost [would] help [Lifeline] work towards being able to answer all [their] calls”.

beyondblue applauded the Government’s commitment of $37.6 million over four years to expand The Way Back Support Service. beyondblue also announced it would expand on the Commonwealth’s investment with an additional $5 million towards expansion of the service. Chair The Hon. Julia Gillard AC said these investments would save lives.

Orygen also welcomed the Government’s investments in mental health research, suicide prevention, mental health supports and services for rural and remote communities. Executive Director of Orygen, Professor Patrick McGorry, said this year’s budget was “an opportunity to build a strong foundation for the future mental wellness of all Australians”.

Director and Chief Scientist at Blackdog, Professor Helen Christensen, said the strongest and most important thing about the Budget from Blackdog’s perspective is the new Million Minds Mission, which has been allocated $125 million over the next 10 years through the Medical Research Future Fund. “From the point of view of anyone who does research within the mental health sphere, this is an absolute winner.” Ms. Christensen said. “[This is an] unprecedented opportunity to advance our collective understanding of mental illness, its causes and how we can intervene to enable mentally healthier lives for all Australians.”

Carers Australia welcomed the announcement of additional $300 million over ten years to help fund a new reformed model of Disability Employment Services (DES). Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia, said, “The capacity for the person they care for to find suitable employment is a major benefit to family and friend carers.”

SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath said the Government’s announcement of a $1.2 million investment in the organisation would be used to develop a pilot suicide prevention campaign. “We are very pleased that the government has recognised the need to invest in new and innovative approaches to prevent suicide,” Heath said.

And the Government’s announcement of $83 million for new services to address the mental health of people living in residential aged care was welcomed by the Australian Psychological Society (APS). APS Executive Director Professor Lyn Littlefield said “It’s pleasing to see the Government’s focus on mental health and aged care in this budget.”

While the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) said the Governments Stronger Rural Health Strategy worth $550 million would “make a real difference to the health workforce in rural Australia and the many rural and remote communities it serves”. RDAA President, Dr Adam Coltzau, said “this is the rural health Budget that RDAA has been waiting for”.

For a comprehensive overview investments in mental health outlined in this year’s federal budget, see our Budget Summary.


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