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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 805 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

When that committee reports, I would expect to have a number of recommendations which we can then consider. In the meantime, I have spoken over the last six months to both of the schools that you mentioned. They have expressed their concerns to me. We have discussed a number of matters in relation to that. They are also working through that particular problem. I have also encouraged a couple of other potential developments in relation to one of those colleges, which the college may wish to take up. There are a number of things that we are doing as a government, Ms McRae. I would expect a very comprehensive report and some very good suggestions to come from the advisory committee for us, as a government, to consider.

Mental Health Funding

MS FOLLETT: My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Community Care. In the budget speech, you identified a 7 per cent increase in mental health funding, and that increase included provision for the appointment of a professor of psychiatry at the Clinical School. As I understand it, the professor of psychiatry has not yet been recruited. My question is: Will you therefore release the money that had been put aside for the professor of psychiatry to be used instead in what I understand is a very cash strapped area - mental health - this financial year?

MRS CARNELL: Thank you very much for the question. It is true that a professor of psychiatry has not been appointed yet; although one almost was at one stage.

Members interjected.

MRS CARNELL: I think it must have been my fault. There was a quite extensive recruiting process which came up with somebody who would have been, I believe, very good in the professor of psychiatry position. That particular professor, from South Australia I understand, in the end determined not to come to the ACT, for a number of reasons - some of which were family; some of which were the way that the ACT operates. There were a number of reasons. I spoke to him personally about his decision, because I was very disappointed. We have decided to go back to the drawing board, basically, and we are recruiting again. It would be very unwise to spend the money for the position, when we are right in the middle of a recruiting process.

MS FOLLETT: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. I can understand that Mrs Carnell might want to retain provision for such a position; but surely, given that we are three-quarters of the way through the financial year, there must be funds there which have not yet been used and which could and should, in my view, be available this financial year.

MRS CARNELL: I can vouch for the fact that those funds will not end up outside Health. In fact, there are a number of mental health initiatives going on, not the least of them being the Warren I'Anson Memorial House. Obviously, there will be requirements for some funding for staffing of that particular facility. There has been substantial work done in areas such as the Mental Health Crisis Service and so on. We have also had a higher than usual occupancy rate of our psychiatry beds at Woden Valley.

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