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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 14 August 2018) . . Page.. 2878 ..


While I note that there have been some recent criticisms of this initiative—and Ms Lee repeated that in the chamber today—it is important to point out that the investment in school psychologists is just one part of a broader suite of mental health services available to children and young people in the ACT. As I spoke about earlier, this government has provided more funding for headspace, introduced a dedicated youth assertive outreach service, expanded the CAMHS consultation and liaison service to operate seven days a week, and provided funding for Menslink to expand their services to boys aged 10 to 12, because that was identified as a new and emerging area of need. We are listening to the community about where there are gaps and areas of need, and we are responding by delivering more mental health services for children and young people across the ACT.

While I am speaking of mental health services, I want to take the opportunity to invite Mrs Kikkert to come back to the chamber and explain the figures she gave during the previous debate. She alleged there had been a nine per cent cut to inpatient mental health services in the ACT. That is not a decision that I took and it is not in the budget. I accept that in the chamber we do not always hear things correctly, so I am very happy for her to come back here, and I will give her leave to explain how she came to that analysis, because there is no basis for it. In fact, as I outlined in my remarks earlier today, mental health expenditure has increased by five per cent this year across the board, including many of those new services that I have just spoken about. If Mrs Kikkert cannot explain that, she needs to withdraw it, because it has no basis in fact.

In addition to these significant mental health investments that I just spoke about, I also recognise that there is more work to do on this issue as our population grows and we see increasing demand. This has come up in the context of Ms Lee’s comments about ratios. I invite Ms Lee to perhaps go and do some research and reflect on where that ratio came from that she cited as being recommended.

My recollection, having spent time looking at this, is that it came from a coroner’s recommendation—one coroner in New South Wales, in response to one specific incident. I do not think there is a significant base of evidence or research that indicates that that is the right ratio. I think it is more important than getting hooked on some number like that which has a fairly limited basis—if I remember rightly, one coroner in New South Wales, one time. Let us not get too hung up on that and let us look at the whole service support system.

I certainly look forward to continuing to work with Minister Berry as we seek to coordinate and link up the referral pathways between mental health and wellbeing supports in our schools, including school psychologists, and our community mental health services. School psychologists provide great support for many of our students, but for those who need help during school holidays or after hours, or who require more advanced clinical care, we must make sure that the transition from one system to another is as seamless as possible for students and their parents.

This brings me back to the one in 500 recommendation. Let us bear in mind that school psychologists are only available during term, on the whole. You can have one


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