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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 13 May 2021) . . Page.. 1493 ..

The letter which this Assembly is called on to write will express our view that additional federally funded quarantine-specific facilities are needed. It will express our concern at the insensitive approach with which the federal government has treated the Indian and South Asian communities. It will also iterate the desire for the federal government to affirm the commitment of citizens’ fundamental right to return home to Australia.

Finally, I hope that the government moves quickly to work with the community and its leaders to provide measures to help those in need or distress and, additionally, to encourage not only the ACT government but also interstate and federal colleagues to provide assistance to those on the ground in India during the worse phase of this pandemic to date.

MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Seniors, Veterans, Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health and Minister for Mental Health) (4.09): I thank Ms Orr for raising this important issue in the Assembly today. As mental health minister, I am acutely aware of the toll that COVID-19 has taken on the mental health and wellbeing of our communities. As a member for Murrumbidgee, a vibrant multicultural community, I also recognise and am saddened by the tragedy occurring in India and in many parts of the world due to COVID-19. The grave situation with COVID-19 in India reminds us that the mental health and wellbeing of our communities here in Canberra can be impacted by what is happening abroad. That is what I love about our multicultural community, that we are necessarily connected to places geographically far away.

I can assure the Indian community in Canberra that we are by your side as the tragedy in India unfolds. We share your sadness at the COVID-19 tragedy and we vow to support you. As mental health minister, I hope that our Indian community will find some comfort in the range of services available for people who are experiencing distress due to the situation impacting their loved ones in India. I would be pleased to spell out a range of services available to our community in this place today and I urge anyone experiencing distress or with mental health concerns to please reach out for support.

In the February 2021 ACT budget, the ACT government invested over $19 million in the mental health system, including investment for child and adolescent mental health services, the PACER program, grief counselling and a range of community-based mental health programs and services, including those through Mental Illness Education ACT and Menslink.

The Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing and the Chief Psychiatrist also continue to work closely across the ACT government and the community sector to ensure coordinated and connected whole-of-community planning. In a conversation that I had with them earlier this week, we talked about taking care of mental wellbeing as well, making sure that we are eating healthily, that we stay active, that we stay connected to friends and family wherever possible and that we get enough sleep. The Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing meets regularly with peak mental health and non-government organisations to identify the emerging and ongoing issues impacting consumers, carers and community service providers.

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