Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 October 2018) . . Page.. 4526 ..
an opportunity to speak in this place about the government’s ongoing commitment to improving mental health services for the Canberra community.
As Mrs Dunne’s motion notes, October is Mental Health Month, and this year’s theme in the ACT has been identity and growth. The theme was suggested by the mental health student action group at Hawker College and means knowing who you are, accepting the past and growing into your future. The students wanted to share the message that mental illness should never define us. It is one small part of the person we are.
I want to thank all the volunteers and staff who were involved in organising the more than 20 mental health-related events that took place in Canberra over the past month, a number of which I was pleased to attend and participate in. This included the Mental Health Month official launch, the lived experience showcase, the Mental Health Month awards, Belconnen Community Gallery Pieces of Mind exhibition, Mind Blank’s walk with Wardy fundraiser, Vinnies community inclusion program launch at Oaks Estate and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Expo. There were many others. Those were just the ones I was able to get to.
I did note—I was not quite clear about the point—that Mrs Dunne made an observation that in a press release I had failed to acknowledge the community organisations. I apologise for repeating some of what I just said, but I actually made similar remarks in an adjournment debate just last week.
I would note that in the ACT the government deeply values the role of community organisations. Around 23 per cent of ACT government expenditure in mental health goes to community organisations, and this is about double the national average. There is a very extensive engagement, a deep engagement, by community organisations in mental health service delivery in the ACT. Whilst I acknowledge that the one press release Mrs Dunne was referring to probably did not have that in it, there is no doubt that we acknowledge that. In fact, I meet with all those organisations pretty regularly. If there are particular concerns there I would be happy to hear them, but no-one should underestimate how much we value those community organisations.
We know that mental health issues are becoming increasingly common as we work to break down the stigma and encourage people to come forward and ask for help. Mental Health Month is a yearly reminder of the responsibility we all share to reach out and support those in the community who may be suffering in silence. While mental health is everyone’s responsibility, the ACT government does play a significant role through the provision of public mental health services and funding for community organisations. I am committed to improving both the availability and the accessibility of mental health services for our community, and I believe the government’s record of investment in mental health in recent budgets demonstrates that commitment is more than just lip-service.
Of course I accept that we have more work to do, but I do not accept Mrs Dunne’s characterisation in her motion that mental health services in the ACT are lacking or inadequate. I also fundamentally reject Mrs Dunne’s assertion that there have been long delays in the development of mental health policies, particularly the office for