Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1654 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Another issue that has been raised over and over again is the role of carers in the psych care unit. They need to be consulted and kept informed. That needs to be done sensibly, not marginalising the person with the condition but making sure everyone who is concerned with the person's welfare is kept up to speed on what is going on. There are other issues being raised about the psych unit and current and past coroners inquiries.
In the general submission that came to the government and to the health committee from the Mental Health Advisory Council there is a very comprehensive analysis of what needs to happen-which I understand Mr Stanhope is looking into-and a very clear list for action and for progress. There were still concerns about complaints and the following up of problems, including deaths. In that submission from the Mental Health Advisory Council that I just referred to, there was a proposal that we look at all the recommendations that have come out of coronial inquiries and check what has happened with them. I have an idea that you will see duplication in a lot of those recommendations and that they have not in fact been acted upon.
The reality is what parents have said to me, "We have lost our child, we have gone through this coronial process, we have seen the recommendation and we want at least to know that the loss of our child-young adult-is not going to happen to someone else for the same reasons." That is the painful reality of discussions that I have had with people in Canberra. I asked them to talk to Michael Moore and say exactly the same thing, and they said it. I was there at the meeting.
It seems to me incredibly disrespectful that we have had to go through this many years of seeing people dying, with no real sense in the community that it is being picked up. This is an extremely serious matter of public importance, and I cannot stress that enough. It is one of the things that I am desperately hoping to see this government pick up because, as I said, it has not been picked up in the way that it should have been over the last seven years.
I understand that the complaints commissioner is doing his own inquiry at the moment, so that is under way as well. Services must be run in a way that places the needs of people with mental illnesses and input from them and their carers at the centre of the treatment and at the centre of respite care. Further, their feedback and complaints need to be incorporated into the system, and this needs to be responsive.
I cannot speak any more on this now, although there is a lot more I could say. I want to stress again that we do need to see this area given serious attention by the new government and I look forward to seeing how they do that.
MRS CROSS (4.23): The growth in awareness of mental health issues within the community has been gradual but encouraging. Thanks to community education campaigns in recent years, those with a mental illness are better understood. Sufferers are becoming less stigmatised as being grossly abnormal or a danger to society. Rather, those with a mental illness are increasingly being seen as having a medical condition that is treatable. Thankfully, the old asylums have long gone and medical science has overtaken superstition and old wives' tales.