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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Friday, 8 October 2021) . . Page.. 3051 ..

or not. We need to continue to monitor the effects of the pandemic on young people and I think a position statement is a good way to encapsulate that.

I am also calling for the ACT government to develop an ACT mental health workforce strategy. I think all of us have heard stories about long wait times to access mental health services in the ACT. What I think it boils down to is that we do not have enough mental health workers. The most jarring stories are the ones where families call through a list of mental health service providers in the ACT and they struggle to find one with their books open. This then leads to the stories you hear about families travelling interstate to access mental health services. This must be so incredibly frustrating for families in crisis. But to compound the frustration, on the other side of the fence, I have heard stories from mental health workers that are overworked and underfunded with no reprieve in sight. They want to see more funding and they want to see more workers too. Tighter margins and the trend towards replacing ongoing long-term funding with short-term program-specific funding have resulted in increased workforce casualisation in the mental health sector, and I think that is a bad outcome for everyone. It is often then difficult for the sector to attract and retain staff but, in particular, the skilled staff who work the most complex of cases.

I think that an ACT mental health workforce strategy needs to be developed and implemented which covers both clinical mental health workers and the specialist psychosocial support workforce employed by the not-for-profit community mental health sector. This is important because the federal government’s draft national mental health workforce strategy has a particular focus on the clinical workforce.

I know that the government has been working in different ways over the years to address the workforce shortage. To be very clear, it is not just an ACT shortage. But I know the sector and the community want a concrete plan for how the ACT is going to address this problem. We cannot help young people with their mental health if we do not have the work force to do it.

I take this opportunity to talk about Mental Health Month, because we are in October, and World Mental Health Day, which is fast approaching. They present an opportunity for all of us to talk about mental health. Approximately 45 per cent of Australians will experience issues with mental health in their lifetime. All of us will have friends and loved ones who have struggled with these issues before, and many of us will experience mental health issues ourselves at some point. As a society, we need to continue making efforts to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

This year, the Mental Health Month theme for the ACT is “navigate your mental health”. The 2021 theme will explore maintaining positive mental health, access to services, talking about mental health and how to support each other on this journey. Mental Health Month is a fantastic initiative and so timely this year. That is why today I am calling on the ACT government to continue supporting it and celebrating it.

Front-line workers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep us safe, and often in very difficult and challenging circumstances. I think we all owe them an immense debt. Now more than ever it is essential that governments properly fund and

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