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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 14 February 2018) . . Page.. 209 ..

We on this side are hoping that the office for mental health will be worth waiting for. I would have thought that a budget appropriation should be based on something more than a nebulous concept taking nigh on a year to evolve into a 10-page conversation starter.

The funding for the first year of the $2.9 million budget allocation for the office for mental health is $507,000. I am not sure whether any of it has been spent on mental health rather than on talking about mental health. My calendar head tells me that we are more than halfway through 2017-18, and still Mr Rattenbury has not unlocked the door of the office for mental health. Only now have we just finished the conversation.

No doubt Mr Rattenbury will now spend some time sitting around waiting for his consultant to tell him what he should already know and having a bit more of a contemplate about what should happen and what and how elements of the office for mental health should be put together. We on this side will be very surprised, very pleasantly surprised, if he unlocks the doors of the office for mental health before the end of this financial year. In the meantime, not one dollar of the half a million dollars allocated in the 2017-18 budget has been spent on its purpose, which, I remind you again, Madam Speaker, is to “enhance coordination of mental health services and work towards closing gaps in care for people with mental health conditions”.

The ACT’s mental health services continue to be so uncoordinated as to be impossible for patients to navigate. They continue to create gaps—gaping chasms, some would say—through which some of the most vulnerable in our community plunge to states of despair and hopelessness.

I call on Mr Rattenbury to put aside the cogitation and explain to this community, through this Assembly, what the office for mental health will look like and how he will bring it to fruition as soon as possible. The people of Canberra with mental health conditions and their families are sick of waiting.

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (5.48): I stand today to speak in support of the motion brought by Mrs Dunne. I specifically wish to address clause 1(c) “the shortage of mental health professionals, particularly in the field of child and adolescent mental health”. This point should not be open to debate. It is rather an established fact. The Minister for Minister Health just last month identified a lack of adequate psychologists and psychiatrists in the territory as a pressure point in the ACT’s mental health system. He also noted that to date attempts to aggressively recruit new mental health professionals had been insufficient to fill all the service gaps.

Mr Rattenbury’s assessment of the situation is backed up by data from ACT Health. These figures show that shortages of mental health workers are affecting both the public and the private sectors, with fewer than nine psychiatrists for every 100,000 Canberra residents.

Only seven months ago, the ACT secretary of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation called this shortage “crippling.” At that point nine psychiatrists had left ACT Health in the previous 12 months and the adult mental health unit at

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