CEO Update from Mental Health Australia: Are we there yet? Will 2022 finally be the turning point for mental health in Australia?
Welcome to 2022 and the marathon of living in a community grappling with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. Like many of you, my holiday break with my family was impacted directly by COVID and with home-based isolation comes enforced rest and also reflection.
Are we there yet?
Increasing investment from Governments has been very welcome, but it should contribute to a cohesive vision for integrated service responses, clearer shared accountabilities, and be informed by lived experience, scientific evidence and sector experience.
There is currently no public-facing plan to implement the recommendations of extensive recent inquiries to improve the mental health system, let alone a budgetary plan or co-design around implementation. Multiple inquiries have called for a person-led mental health system, which is community-focussed, trauma-informed and recovery-oriented. There is a large system gap between mild/moderate services and moderate/severe services in the community.
We are not there yet.
We urgently need an agreed vision and plan for a comprehensive system of integrated care. We have to better meet the needs of diverse population groups who are disproportionately impacted by mental illness. There are significant workforce shortages that need to be addressed urgently, and the peer (lived experience) workforce is under-utilised.
Our contemporary mental health ecosystem now looks for lived experience and carer leadership not only participation or as passive recipients of communication strategies. As the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health Final Report indicated, “consumers and carers should have the opportunity to participate in the design of policies and programs that affect their lives” and yet we are still awaiting the outcomes of 2021-22 Budget work to “investigate and co-design future national peak body arrangements.”
We are not there yet.
It is no surprise that a comprehensive implementation plan and accompanying budgetary plan would take time given the whole-of-government and inter-jurisdictional nature of recommendations provided by both the Productivity Commission and the Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Final Advice. Many of the recommended actions require negotiation not just across Australian Government Departments but also between the Australian and State and Territory Governments.
Mental Health Australia expects that the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement (‘the National Agreement’), recently provided with in-principle endorsement by the National Cabinet, will provide clear delineation between the roles of the Australian and State and Territory Governments.
We now eagerly await the public release of the National Agreement and the bilateral agreements between the Australian and State and Territory Governments. This is where we expect detailed implementation plans and accompanying budgetary plans to be articulated.
The 2022-23 Budget must build on this first down payment and offer sustained and significant investment in mental health reform to set Australia on a path to fully realise the vision outlined by the Productivity Commission for a person-led and community-focused mental health system. For further information on our Budget Submission for 2022-23 see below.
As we launch into the year ahead I am reminded of when our children were little and as we travelled for holidays they would ask the inevitable ‘Are we there yet?’.
Their Dad would always reply ‘Nearly. It’s just around the corner’.
Let’s work together to get around that corner!
Dr Leanne Beagley
House Select Committee on Social Media and Online Safety’s Inquiry
Matt Berriman (Chair, Mental Health Australia) was invited as a witness at the public hearing for the House Select Committee on Social Media and Online Safety’s Inquiry. His experience in the technology sector means he provides unique insights into their operations and also their ‘ways of working’ with regulators & governments. Technology is entrenched in our lives and community, especially for the younger generations - it has brought many positives including connection, information discovery, creativity and communication that otherwise wouldn’t once have been possible. However, it has also come at a cost for many – including parents, their children and their mental health due to the freedom that has allowed social media companies to become so powerful. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Committee’s deliberations in building a better future for our community and their mental health, and to ensure we have the right legislation and protections in place to govern those companies that want to operate in Australia but are not aligned to that mission. We also note that members of Mental Health Australia (Orygen, Butterfly and Reach Out) provided submissions to this inquiry.
2022-23 Pre-Budget Submission
The 2022-23 Budget offers the Australian Government the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to reforming Australia’s mental health system to one which is person-led and community-focussed.
As outlined in this Pre-Budget Submission, only significant and sustained investment in Australia’s mental health system will produce the reform required for all people experiencing mental ill-health to receive the care they need. It is now authoritatively clear that mental health requires billions of dollars of investment, not millions.
The Productivity Commission has provided a once-in-a-generation Inquiry into Mental Health, shining an uncompromising light on the deeply flawed nature of the current mental health system. Further, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve in Australia it is clear that the mental health impacts associated with it, and measures to contain it, will be ongoing and require a mental health response for some time.
The 2022-23 Budget must build on the first down payment, made in the 2021-22 Budget, and offer sustained and significant investment in mental health reform to set Australia on a path to fully realise the vision outlined by the Productivity Commission for a person-led and community-focussed mental health system.
In this 2022-23 Budget Submission, Mental Health Australia calls on the Australian Government to invest in four key priorities to sustain momentum in mental health reform. These priorities have been identified through analysis of yet-to-be implemented recommendations from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health and prioritised through consultation with Mental Health Australia members.
In the 2022-23 Budget, the Australian Government should invest in:
1 Lived experience leadership:
- formal national structures to represent the views of people with lived experience of mental ill-health and carers
2 Government leadership and accountability:
- outlining funding that will be committed by the Australian Government through the impending bilateral agreements with the State and Territory Governments and the structures which will support accountable leadership across jurisdictions to deliver an integrated end-to-end system
3 Co-designed implementation of a community focussed mental health system:
- co-design of an effective integrated system of community-focused mental health treatment and support
- establishment of a national community mental health dataset
- growing psychosocial supports to match need
- addressing the social determinants of mental health
4 The mental health workforce:
- addressing urgent mental health workforce gaps
- establishment of a national centre for evidence-based workforce development.
Submissions on revised Religious Discrimination Bill 2021
In December Mental Health Australia provided a submission on the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills to both the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry and the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry regarding the proposed legislation. While the Bills are an improvement to previous iterations, Mental Health Australia has remaining concerns about the unintended consequences of introducing legislation that while introducing protections for some people, overrides antidiscrimination protections of others. These brief submissions focussed on the potential impact of the proposed Bills to increase discrimination against population groups who already experience disproportionate rates of mental ill-health.
Work with us!
Mental Health Australia is recruiting a range of new roles in External Relations, Team Support, Lived Experience advocacy and support, and Project Management of the Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Project. Roles we’re recruiting for include:
- Partnerships Coordinator. Use your leadership, communication and strategic skills to nurture relationships and ensure that stakeholder views are reflected in Mental Health Australia’s advocacy, policy and communications.
- Policy and Project Officer. Provide policy and project support to the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (NMHCCF). Assist with project design, implementation and delivery, focusing on policy and advocacy.
- Project and Administration Officer. Provide support to mental health consumers and carers engaged in MHA and MHA-auspiced activity.
- Project Manager for the Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Project. Ensure that work is planned and managed effectively and the Embrace Project outcomes are successfully delivered.
- Executive Assistance Team Support Officer. This part-time position is responsible for providing high level Executive and administrative support to the organisation.
Closing dates for applications are between 27-31 January.
Translated information on testing for COVID-19, and for people who test positive for COVID-19
These fact sheets, developed by the Department of Health, contain important information on the types of tests available in Australia and when to get tested, and information for people who test positive for COVID-19 or are close contacts. There’s also further information for people who contract COVID-19 including guidance on symptoms, when to call an ambulance, and how to isolate.
The fact sheets are available in 63 languages: