Page 3936 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005

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Bill, as a whole, as amended, agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 12.14 to 2.30 pm.


MR SPEAKER: Before I call Mr Smyth, I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of some guests from the Ted Noffs Foundation. Welcome.

Questions without notice

Mental health

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I would like to share in that acknowledgment. I had the pleasure of meeting these people just previously in your hospitality room.

My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, yesterday you quoted the good bits out of the Mental Health Council of Australia’s report Not for service: experiences of injustice and despair in mental health care in Australia. However, you neglected to tell the Assembly that the report lists a disturbing array of problems in the ACT, including: difficulty in accessing services, even in a crisis; inadequate approach to management of forensic mental health issues; lack of basic hospital and rehabilitation services; little attention to issues of early intervention; major staff shortages impacting on quality of services delivered; the large role played by police and emergency services in acute mental health care; lack of community-based health and housing services; and inadequate responses to serious incidents. In short, minister, a horrifyingly accurate description of the disgraceful system you have created. Minister, when will you stop hiding behind words and actually do something to help the most vulnerable people in our community?

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, this government has increased mental health funding by 75 per cent since 2000-01. Of course, Mr Smyth again misrepresents my position in this place. Yesterday I acknowledged and put on the record very clearly—as I did on radio this morning and as I have done in other media outlets in the last 24 hours—that the government acknowledges there are serious problems in our mental health system. We do not resile from or walk away from those problems. They are not unique to the ACT; they are not a result of any particular administration in the ACT. They are an historical legacy that we as a community are now having to face up to. That is the message from the Not for service report that was released yesterday.

Mr Speaker, it is worth highlighting the fact that the Mental Health Council of Australia, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission of Australia and the Brain and Mind Research Institute, which were the co-authors of this report, have said very clearly that they welcome the willingness of the government to acknowledge the inadequacy. They welcome the fact that the government is working to rapidly increase funding in this area. They welcome the fact that we have human rights legislation to guide the appropriate care and the appropriate protection of the rights of those with mental illness

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