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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 26 June 2008) . . Page.. 2174 ..

acceptable by the national statistics that have been presented to us by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and that strengthens and supports the case that further changes and a number of improvements are still needed.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (10.53): I promise, minister, that I will not take up my full 10 minutes.

Mrs Dunne: Take up your full 20, Karin. Show your interest.

MS MacDONALD: Through you, Mr Speaker, I am interested in the subject of health expenditure. It is one of the most important things that we do in this territory—there are no two ways about it. It is one of the most significant things we do for the people of the ACT. While there is a great deal of expenditure and capital initiatives in this year’s budget for health spending, as well as for a great deal of planning in the area of health, I wanted to focus on a particular area of mental health funding.

This is an area that was sadly neglected by the previous Carnell-Humphries Liberal government. Sadly, we lagged behind the rest of the nation, so we have had a long way go to catch up. It has been covered many times before, but I particularly want to talk about the mental health assessment unit. From a personal perspective I believe that the mental health assessment unit deserves particular commendation. It is a difficult thing to go into an emergency department with somebody who suffers from mental illness who is undergoing a particular episode at the time and try to get the people in triage to understand what is happening to the person who suffers from the mental illness.

Several years ago I had this unfortunate experience. It has happened to me on more than one occasion, but several years ago I had a particularly bad experience with my mother. I had to pretty much go and rescue her from the Blue Mountains and take her down to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where we sat in the emergency department for eight hours because the people in emergency did not actually understand the nature of my mother’s illness. At that time there was a physical element to her being unwell, but it was complicated by the amount of medication she had taken, the fact that she was unwell and the fact that people who work in emergency departments are generally not trained in how to deal with mental health issues.

In spite of the undertone that is going on on the other side, I think this is a particularly important issue. I know that Mrs Dunne has spoken about assisting people with mental illness in the ACT. I think this initiative will be of great assistance to people in the ACT and I commend it to the house.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (10.56): To back up what Mrs Dunne said earlier, I want to speak briefly about the west Belconnen health initiative. Today we heard from the minister the implication that it would not be a good plan to support this great initiative, this cooperative arrangement. We certainly believe it is worth the $400,000 of government funding that is needed. We believe it is a very good use of public money. For $400,000 we will be getting significant benefit for a part of our community that is underserviced in a significant way. This initiative will provide doctors, in particular bulk-billing doctors that the people of west Belconnen are sadly lacking. We stand proudly behind that policy, and we stand

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