Page 273 - Week 01 - Thursday, 11 December 2008

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People with mental illness are a particularly vulnerable group and one in which services and assistance have not kept pace with their needs. Before I was elected I was acting as Director of Policy and Projects at the Mental Health Council of Australia, and before that worked with health consumer groups at the Consumers Health Forum of Australia. My work with these organisations has greatly influenced my understanding of what we can achieve and what we can reform.

One in five people will experience a mental illness in any given 12-month period. The ACT is one of the highest funders of mental health services in Australia. However, there is still a great need for services and to adopt a person centred and consumer centred approach to the way services are delivered to people.

We have an opportunity in the ACT to achieve change in the way mental health services are delivered. It will require a great amount of commitment and political will to create this change. However, the issues affect far too many people and families to ignore the fact that change is desperately needed. There would be very few people in the ACT who do not have a family member, friend or work colleague who has a mental illness.

As a part of the ACT Greens agreement with the ALP there is a commitment to continuing to increase the proportion of the health budget spent on mental health, with a goal of reaching 12 per cent of overall health funding. By 2012, 30 per cent of mental health funding should be allocated to the community sector for the delivery of services. While this may be seen as an aspirational goal, it is achievable and we need to make progress towards this goal not only to improve the delivery of mental health and other services to people with mental illness but also to make a difference to the overall impact on the health system. Preventative health is an important area in many areas of the health system, including mental health.

Educating people about mental illness is also extremely important, to remove the stigma associated with mental illness, which is why we also have in the agreement with the ALP recurrent funding for mental health training for emergency services workers and teachers, commencing in 2009-10.

The Greens will also be working to ensure that the human rights aspects of the Alexander Maconachie Centre are upheld, as many people with mental illness end up in the prison system. We will be working to ensure that, along with the operation of the AMC, the ACT has strong programs in place to prevent reoffending while people are in prison and upon their release. As a part of the ACT Greens-ALP agreement we also included consulting with and providing additional resources for the ACT Magistrates Court Forensic Mental Health Team.

Policies around social inclusion are important in all aspects of policy development, including health, housing and transport, so that we consider the interests of all people in the community and work towards the aim of not excluding people from the benefits of policy programs, no matter what their circumstances are. This is something I will be carrying into the portfolio areas I am a spokesperson for.

Protecting the interests of future generations is an essential part of the way we work as elected representatives in the ACT. Creating a city and future that future generations

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