Weekly CEO Update: Mental health reform has become a key budget priority… and rightly so.

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As we await next week’s Federal Budget and the anticipated announcements of future funding and program development for our mental health ecosystem, we do so with the recommendations and reports all complete.

In recent years Federal Budgets have been handed down while major inquiries and reports have been pending.

Sure, there have been some good and large investments made during that time, as you’ll see from the quick reflection summary below, but this year’s Budget has the opportunity to define and steer our reform path for the next decade or more.

Reform that has to start with a detailed national agreement as recommended by our Charter 2020 and the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, which is due in November of this year.

Reform to ensure the increasing number of Australians who need mental health care will receive it in the right place, at the right time.

And reform that listens to lived experience, innovates beyond established programs and builds accessibility for people not already connected to the system.

As always, the team at Mental Health Australia is looking forward to providing our members and stakeholders with a quick summary of the mental health initiatives in the Budget next Tuesday night, and then further opportunities for deeper analysis and discussion over the following days and weeks.

But before we get to Tuesday, we thought it might be useful to reflect on some of the past budget announcements around mental health and the journey we’ve all been on over the last few years to improve our system through systemic change.

Have a good weekend.

Leanne Beagley

Budget Reflection Summary

In last year’s October 2020-21 Federal Budget, and before the release of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, Treasurer the Hon Josh Frydenberg used his speech to talk about mental health and suicide prevention as a national priority, announcing extensions to telehealth services and that doubling of Better Access through Medicare from 10 to 20 sessions will continue to tackle the increased need as a result of COVID-19.

Minister for Health the Hon Greg Hunt said in his annual Budget video message to our members and stakeholders that night, these times call for new supports and new ways to build and sustain hope and dignity:

We have a nation that needs new support. And we know that for so many people the other great element of this budget, of job creation, of getting people back to work, isn’t just about economic support, it’s about mental health support. It’s about dignity, it’s about confidence, it’s about helping to reduce anxiety and to give people all of the hope which comes from employment or the prospect of employment.

In the 2019-20 Federal Budget, well before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Black Summer bushfires, the Treasurer highlighted the importance of mental health reform when he said “It is a national tragedy that we lose so many people to suicide and that so many people live a life of quiet desperation… This issue demands our ongoing attention and resources.”  It was also a budget that saw announcements of some $736.6 million for mental health and suicide prevention in two key areas across 25 specific initiatives over the following seven years.

In the 2018-19 Federal Budget, $338 million of new investment was announced. This represented 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.

The 2017-18 Federal Budget 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.

The 2016-17 Federal Budget included a number of welcome new initiatives for mental health but left uncertainty about how existing reforms would be coordinated and integrated. There was a $40 million 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.

For the 2015-16 Federal 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. 

In the 2014-15 Federal 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. 

Call to scale up climate action to avoid escalating health threats

Mental Health Australia was this week pleased to be able to support an Open Letter to the Prime Minister, along with more than 60 organisations, calling on the Federal Government to scale up emissions reduction strategies to prevent premature deaths and declining health outcomes associated with climate change.

The Open Letter calls for three key actions from the federal government:

  1. Prioritise health in Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement;
  2. Commit to decarbonising the healthcare sector by 2040, and establishing an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit; and, 
  3. Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia. 

The Open Letter also coincides with Mental Health Australia releasing our own position statement on the relationship between mental health and climate change.

We are proud to sign the health sector's Open Letter to the Prime Minister to reduce emissions and save lives. #climate health. A list of logos of organisations who are signatories to the letter is included below the text.



On Monday we have an all-staff planning day looking at developing our operational planning for the year ahead, especially in relation to our valued membership base. I am also going to be meeting with the Thera Farms team from Tasmania.

On Tuesday we have the Mental Health Australia Board Meeting and then I will be heading into the Treasury briefing/lock-up for the Federal Budget.

On Wednesday I will be launching a local Framework for working with children of parents with a mental illness at the Central Coast Family Support Service in Newcastle.

On Thursday I will be attending a briefing about the health budget components with Minister for Health the Hon Greg Hunt MP and on Friday we have a meeting with the team at the Society for Mental Health Research.


Member Benefits and Profiles

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Mental Health Australia members are invited to send us news, announcements, events or other notices for inclusion in the Weekly CEO Update newsletter. To do so, simply fill out this form by COB each Wednesday for your notice to appear in the newsletter the following Friday.

Member Profiles

Logo. Flourish Australia: where mental wellbeing thrives

Flourish Australia
Flourish Australia supports people with a lived experience of a mental health issue to live, learn and work in the community. We strive to support people to find and create a home, find a job they love, make friends and have a sense of belonging in their local community, and to learn new things. 

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WayAhead - Mental Health Association NSW
WayAhead We work towards better mental health and wellbeing through: mental health promotion activities, WayAhead Workplaces and Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week, free anxiety support groups throughout NSW, the WayAhead Directory, mental health factsheets, education seminars, and professional development workshops.


Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia Workshops
We are pleased to announce that we are holding new workshops on the Framework in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. These free and newly expanded workshops will offer participants an opportunity to learn more about the Framework and hear how services have applied the Framework to their workplace. 
Registrations can be made using the following links:

Due to the developing restrictions in Sydney as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken the precautionary decision to postpone the face-to-face Framework Workshop that was planned for next Tuesday, to a date still to be confirmed.

We hope to be able to hold this face-to-face event in the coming weeks or months, and we thank you for your interest and support of the Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Project and the delivery of the Framework. For further enquiries, please contact multicultural@mhaustralia.org

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and Department of Health updated COVID-19 advice and information

ATAGI have reinforced their recommendations on the use of the COVID-19 vaccine and the Chief Medical Officer has also issued a statement on the ATAGI advice. In response, the Department of Health has updated its vaccine information on the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as information for vaccine providers, disability service providers, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Embrace Australia logo (a rectangle with a light and dark purple cultural stripe pattern with "embrace" and stylised outline of the Australian continent in the lower right corner).


Mental Health News

Monash to help deliver mental health action program in Australian schools

Australia’s first mental health literacy and action program, which seeks to address the mental health and wellbeing needs of young people at school, is set to be delivered by researchers at Monash University. In addition, the Monash research team involved in the project is seeking expressions of interest from schools across Victoria to take part in this program.

Read more

Centre to help kids traumatised by homicide

Work has started on a new multi-million-dollar residential trauma centre to support children who have lost loved ones through homicide. Grace’s Place will provide counselling to children and young people to help heal their emotional scars. The centre is named in honour of the late Grace Lynch, the mother of murdered nurse Anita Cobby. Grace became a powerful advocate for victims of crime following her daughter’s 1986 murder.

Read more

ACTU, mental health groups and academics call on Cash to back reforms to protect mental health

The ACTU has joined with mental health advocates and academics, releasing a joint statement calling on Minister Michaelia Cash and all Work Health and Safety Ministers to vote to support key reforms recommended in both the Boland Review of Model WHS Laws and the Respect@Work report on sexual harassment in the workplace at an upcoming meeting of state, territory and federal WHS ministers. Both reports, commissioned by the Work Health and Safety Ministers and the Federal Government respectively, recommended the inclusion of a psychological hazard regulations in the Model Work and Health Safety Act. 

Read more

Upstream community-led actions reduce suicide rates by up to 17%

Suicide deaths leave families, friends, workplaces and communities devastated. But a new study conducted by the University of Melbourne for Wesley Mission demonstrates the effectiveness of community Networks to reduce the rate of suicide by seven per cent on average. Longitudinal analyses of national suicide data showed that this pattern of effects was most pronounced nine months after establishing the Network with a significant reduction of 17 per cent in suicide rates. 

Read more

Budget must address mental health crisis

The Greens say fixing Australia’s mental health crisis must be a budget priority. “At the moment mental health care is not accessible, it’s unaffordable, not available and people’s needs are not being met,” Greens spokesperson on Mental Health Senator, Rachel Siewert, said.

Read more

We need to look through a humanitarian lens on India crisis, says psychiatrists

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has called on the Federal Government to consider all options to help Australians stranded in India. RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan, has urged the government to look at this crisis as an opportunity to help Australian citizens. “There needs to be a humanitarian and compassionate lens placed on this disaster by this government, with urgent action on facilitating assistance to these Australians and bringing them home”, said Associate Professor Allan.

Read more



Stories of RAP Impact

Reconciliation Australia invites you to register for their upcoming free webinar series, which will explore the results of the 2020 RAP Impact Report. Each webinar will feature guest speakers from the RAP network sharing their stories of brave and impactful action. You can register to attend one of three sessions. Wednesday 12 May at 11am, Tuesday 18 May at 11am, or Thursday 20 May at 11am.

Shining a light on maternal mental health

World Maternal Mental Health Day draws attention to essential mental health concerns for mothers and families. 1 in 5 new mums will experience perinatal depression and anxiety in Australia each year. Gidget Foundation’s theme for this year highlights the need to invest in maternal mental health, while we emphasise that investment is not limited to financial donation, but can include investing your time, your expertise or simply a reminder to invest in yourself. Please visit Facebook and Instagram to find and share their messages this World Maternal Mental Health Day or donate now to support mums in need. 

Oi, let’s catch up - thanks to the team at Movember

“The last 12 months put us all through the ringer. As we inch our way back to normality, there’s no better time to reach out and reconnect with mates. 1 in 5 Aussies haven’t seen a close mate in 6 months or more. And we know social isolation and loneliness are troubling precursors to depression, anxiety and poor mental health. Movember is asking you to take action. It’s time to pick up the phone, lock in a time and reconnect on Australia’s official day of mateship, MAYEIGHT.”

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