Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1652 ..
MS TUCKER (4.13): The Greens certainly welcome the opportunity to talk about mental health facilities in the ACT, but there is obviously too much to talk about in the time allowed for an MPI. In this debate today I want to highlight how much of this work had been identified as urgent in the past and to suggest a couple of improvements that could be made without necessarily allocating more money, although some do require resourcing.
It is true that the previous government has to take responsibility for the situation we are in. Having said that, I will, hopefully, move on to something more positive. But I do want to briefly cover the historical context of this debate. I have been closely watching the issue of mental health and services for people with mental illness, in particular since 1997, when I chaired an inquiry of the Social Policy Committee into the adequacy of mental health services. Even then, in 1997, we made recommendations which were prefaced "as a matter of urgency". That was then, and I have been saying those things in the Assembly since that time.
So it is with a sense of frustration that I find us still having to debate this issue. There is a new government here. They have an opportunity to make a difference; Mr Stanhope has said he will. I sincerely hope that we see an improvement because it is sorely needed. I am glad Mr Smyth is taking an interest now. I acknowledge he had some responsibility through his police portfolios, but he was not minister for health-I am trying to be fair here. Perhaps we will see something different, although it seems as though in opposition the Liberals have quite a different position on a number of issues.
As I said, in 1997, as a matter of urgency we asked that the ACT government, in collaboration with non-government service providers, develop an action plan to address the issue of lack of services for people with dual or multiple disabilities, especially those with substance abuse and mental health problems. We had a working group on that, but the recommendations and subsequent reviews of the work of this group show there is a long way to go and that little has been achieved.
We asked them to establish a secure facility for people with mental illness who require non-voluntary accommodation. There were recommendations to improve psychiatric care and forensic psychiatric services at Quamby and at the Belconnen Remand Centre, and we said at that point that any assessment of the need for an ACT jail should consider inclusion of a best-practice, forensic psychiatric facility, to be administered by the health portfolio. So they are not new issues.
In fact, I moved a motion of no confidence in the then Minister for Health, Kate Carnell, for her failure to adequately administer the health portfolio in two areas in particular: disability services and services and facilities for people with a mental dysfunction. During debate on that motion, I did talk about the concerns raised in the community about the decommissioning of the former Hennessy House, which you have recently seen recommissioned after much delay and, more importantly, after much unnecessary suffering.
In that debate, I brought up an example of a constituent who was looking to get care in the community for her son who had recently returned from Kenmore. I quote: