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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 12 April 2018) . . Page.. 1393 ..

We are rightfully proud of the vibrant and multicultural community that we have here in the ACT, and the fact that people from anywhere can call Canberra home. As I have noted previously, census data shows that around 32 per cent of people in the ACT were born overseas and around 24 per cent speak a language other than English at home. My ambition as Minister for Mental Health is that our mental health service system is welcoming and accessible for everybody across our whole community, no matter their cultural background.

In an earlier speech Mrs Kikkert rightly noted that while we do not see a greater prevalence of mental health issues in the multicultural community than in the population as a whole, some of the specific challenges that the community faces are unique. These challenges can include language barriers, stigma and a hesitancy in asking for help, as well as limited cultural awareness amongst some health professionals. As minister, I am committed to ensuring that the office has the awareness of and ability to address these kinds of issues to support the mental health and wellbeing of culturally and linguistically diverse Canberrans.

We know that a one-size-fits-all approach cannot work to meet the mental health needs of people across our community. Whether it is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse Canberrans, people with a disability, LGBTIQ people, women, men and many others—each group has its unique needs and its unique perspectives on service provision. Our Canberra community is diverse, and each person’s background and experiences need to be taken into account in order to ensure that they receive the right mental health care in the right place at the right time.

I also note that within the multicultural community there is a range of different needs and circumstances that influence people’s mental health. We know that refugees, asylum seekers and people fleeing persecution have often experienced trauma both in their country of origin and in their journey to get here. Others may have come here many years ago, and their experience of anxiety, depression, PTSD and other conditions will be different.

It is also important to recognise the mental health and wellbeing needs of the children of immigrants, those born here who make up the next generations. They can also experience stress in finding their identity between their family’s traditional culture and the culture of the new society that they now live in. We need to tailor our response to the individual circumstances of each individual and provide services accordingly.

To date ACT Health and our consultant, Synergia, have undertaken a consultation process across the ACT community to inform the proposed model for the office. As part of those consultations, forums were held with a diverse range of consumers, carers and community organisations from across the ACT. I also understand that a number of multicultural organisations were approached to participate in the consultation process, including Companion House and the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum. I expect the multicultural community will continue to be engaged as the office is being established and as the model continues to evolve over time.

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