Page 275 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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Disability commenced its inquiry into affordable and accessible housing for people with mental illness.

Whilst still stigmatised, mental illnesses are becoming more recognised and accepted in our community, and last week’s COAG meeting was a testament to this. For the first time the issue of mental health was discussed at the meeting and, although no additional funding has been allocated, there is a commitment towards additional funding for the next round of COAG. This was disappointing, but for the first time mental health is firmly on the national agenda at every level of government and has been recognised as a major problem for the Australian community. It is encouraging to see that the commonwealth and the states and territories have all agreed to craft an action plan to be backed by significant resources. The governments have agreed that shared responsibility, coordinated action and investment across all jurisdictions are needed to reform the mental health system and reduce the impact of mental illness on individuals, families and the community.

Australia’s government heads recognise that three critical areas need to be addressed to fully provide appropriate care to people with mental disorders. These areas include clinical services, including diagnosis, treatment and management by health care providers such as early intervention; accommodation services, such as stable housing, particularly for those who suffer disability as a result of their mental disorders; and rehabilitation and disability services, including employment support, education, income support and community and family care.

It is positive to see that there is much more awareness about mental illness and there is better treatment and more understanding that something needs to be done. But we need action and we need to see it soon. We need a collaborative movement to make sure mental health is addressed and addressed quickly. I look forward to seeing the outcome of the action plans developed by the commonwealth, state and territory governments, and am hopeful that they will go a long way to addressing the issue of mental disorders in Australia. Serious and continued commitment is required from all if we are to more effectively manage both the extent and consequence of mental illness throughout our community.

I would add that I would like to see more focus within the area of mental illness on the issues of research into and treatment for mental illness, because there are many people who are living with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who continuously struggle with the medication that they are given. It may address their problems to a certain extent, but then it may not, and it is a merry-go-round for them while they try out the different medications, to see what will work for them and what will have a negative impact on them. This is an issue that is far too important for politics and it is important that we as a legislature, and community leaders, talk about the issue openly and frankly, without treating it like a political football.

Medical research—cord blood and stem cells

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (6.10): Last year, after my wife gave birth to our third child, she was surprised to find that there were no facilities in the ACT for the donation of cord blood, and I want to say a few words about the issue tonight. Placenta or umbilical cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord following birth. Cord

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