CEO Update - Our pre-Budget submission summary... Please provide funding for the commitments the Government has made to mental health.

Lachlan Searle

In 1852 Lord Ripon is said to have uttered the now famous words “judge me by what I do, not what I say”.

He was Viceroy and Governor-General of India, so I presume he had quite a challenging task to convince the Indian people that the British presence was in their interests!

None the less, he was inviting judgement on the basis of his actions, not his intentions, or his rhetoric.

For governments, perhaps we could adjust the saying to read ‘judge us by what we fund, not by what we announce’.

Next week we will publically release our pre-Budget submission.

Each year, the pre-Budget submission process sees a diverse range of interests listing their hopes for the forthcoming Federal Budget. Shopping lists of the sorts of action governments would need to fund in order to achieve progress in one domain or the other.

This submission process is the prelude to a Budget night crescendo, when usually a small sub-set of those diverse interest groups celebrate, and a much larger group express their disappointment and retreat to fight again in another year’s time.

When we prepared our pre-Budget submission this year, we were sorely tempted to make it a single sentence:


Please provide funding for the commitments the Government has already made to mental health.


The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan lists many of the commitments that the Government has made to mental health reform, but which are mostly not yet funded.  According to the government’s own summary, these commitments include:

“The Fifth Plan seeks to establish a national approach for collaborative government effort from 2017 to 2022 across eight targeted priority areas:

• Achieving integrated regional planning and service delivery.
• Effective suicide prevention.
• Coordinated treatment and supports for people with severe and complex mental illness.
• Improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention.
• Improving the physical health of people living with mental illness and reducing early mortality.
• Reducing stigma and discrimination.
• Making safety and quality central to mental health service delivery.
• Ensuring that the enablers of effective system performance and system improvement are in place.”

Even this list leaves more to be done, but wouldn’t that provide a great start for the year ahead?

The Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, has spoken many times about the “mental wealth” of Australia, and the critical role mental health plays in both building community and strengthening the economy.

The Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, has spoken many times about mental health’s role as one of the four pillars of the nation’s health.

I see no reason to doubt the sincerity of this rhetoric; both speak about mental health with reference to their own lived experience.  Both have made themselves available to the sector and to those we serve, and have immersed themselves in the experience of those who so often struggle to gain access to appropriate, timely, evidence based services and programs.

But governments cannot be judged by words alone. Governments express their priorities in their budgets. In their actions.

Budget 2018 will give us the chance to judge the government by what it will fund, rather than by what it says.

Warm regards.

Frank Quinlan
Mental Health Australia

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