Advocating to get mental health reform back on the political agenda
On Wednesday I was proud to lead my first Parliamentary Advocacy Day, alongside Mental Health Australia Chair Matt Berriman, who officially launched our 2023 Report to the Nation, which is our annual independent benchmark survey conducted by Ipsos.
The 2023 Report to the Nation shows that more than one in two Australians are finding the rising cost of living is having a major impact on their mental health, with one in five saying cost is a barrier to accessing mental health support. A summary infographic can be viewed here.
At Parliament House in Canberra 80 delegates representing 55 of our member organisations from across Australia joined us with a united voice to call on the government to put mental health reform back on the agenda.
It was a special opportunity for our members to advocate for ongoing reform and communicate to our elected officials about how imperative it is to fund a multi-year mental health reform roadmap, so collectively we can change the trajectory of Australia’s mental health. While we have seen many improvements to the mental health of Australians, there are still glaring disparities which urgently need to be addressed.
In particular, we called on the Government to make sure all people in Australia:
- Can get support for their mental health early, before problems snowball – by increasing access to early intervention and digital mental health support
- Can access appropriate support regardless of their income or postcode – by funding psychosocial services outside the NDIS to meet community need, and designing alternative support options for people with complex needs
- Have increased access to timely care by building the mental health workforce – by releasing and funding delivery of the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy.
Importantly, this call was highlighted by strong media coverage on Wednesday, including Australian Community Media in the Canberra Times, News Corp (news.com.au, the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun), and Nine Entertainment (the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age), with our Chair also interviewed by the ABC.
The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler MP delivered the keynote address of the day, with speeches from the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, the Hon Emma McBride MP, Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Melissa McIntosh MP.
Working with the inevitable challenges a busy sitting day brings, we were grateful for the time Minister Butler, Assistant Minister McBride and Shadow Assistant Minister McIntosh were able to give. We appreciate Greens health spokesperson, Senator Jordan Steele-John, for also attending but who regrettably was called to a division before he could take to the stage.
At our advocacy day we were reassured by the government’s commitment to improving equity in access to mental health services following the findings of the Better Access review, and I am pleased to be a member of Minister Butler’s Mental Health Reform Advisory Committee.
Throughout the day our delegation members attended over 40 meetings collectively with Parliamentarians to reiterate that the sector demands mental health reform to make supports more affordable, easy to access, effective and empowering. Event highlights can be watched here.
Thanks to our members who really make the day what it is. To ACT Mental Health Consumer Network (National Mental Health Consumer Alliance), Australian Association of Social Workers, Arafmi Ltd, Australasian Confederation of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies (ACPP), Australian BPD Foundation, Australian Counselling Association (ACA), Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation, Australian Psychological Society, Batyr Australia, Being - Mental Health Consumers (National Mental Health Consumer Alliance), Beyond Blue, Blue Knot Foundation, Butterfly Foundation, Carers Australia, Centre for Muslim Wellbeing, CoHealth, Communify, Community Mental Health Australia, Eating Disorders Queensland, Flourish Australia, Grow Australia, Helping Minds, Independent Community Living Australia (ICLA), Lifeline Australia, Marathon Health, Mental Health Community Coalition ACT, Mental Health Coordinating Council, Mental Health Council of Tasmania, Mental Health First Aid Australia, Mental Health Victoria, Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia, Micah Projects, Neami National, the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum, Occupational Therapy Australia, One Door Mental Health, Orygen, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA), Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA), Queensland Alliance for Mental Health (QAMH), Relationships Australia, Sleep Health Foundation, Stride, SuperFriend, TeamHEALTH, The Institute of Clinical Psychologists, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), Victorian Mental Illness Council (National Mental Health Consumer Alliance), Wellways Australia, Western Australia Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) for attending and standing as a unified voice with Mental Health Australia.
CEO, Mental Health Australia