Page 3149 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 22 August 2017

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health care that meets the needs of all Canberrans, making sure that high quality care is available and accessible when and where they need it, whether that is in hospital, in the community health centres, in the home or through preventative measures to help keep Canberrans healthy and active. We will continue to work with our highly skilled clinical workforce, our private and community sector providers, organisations and, most importantly, patients and their families to deliver the best healthcare system for our community.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety, Minister for Corrections and Minister for Mental Health) (5.34): The ACT government recognises the seriousness of mental illness in our community and the need to provide coordinated and accessible services to people who need help. I am particularly pleased to rise today in this first budget where the ACT has a dedicated portfolio of mental health. This is certainly something that is very welcome. It has been welcomed by the community and has provided an opportunity to bring a greater focus on mental health, through the addition of the ministerial portfolio, than has been the case previously.

Certainly the ACT government has a strong record of investment in the provision of mental health services and already delivers and funds a range of initiatives to address the mental health needs of Canberrans. But I am pleased to say that, as part of the government’s election commitments and key items that form part of the parliamentary agreement, we are further strengthening the delivery and coordination of mental health services for those in our community who need them most.

This is demonstrated by the more than $23.8 million in new mental health initiatives contained in this year’s budget, which builds upon the record investments that have been made in this space in recent years. A part of this expenditure includes $2.9 million for the establishment of the new office of mental health, with work to progress the establishment of the new office underway, reflecting a key commitment of the parliamentary agreement.

As I have previously outlined, the office of mental health will be empowered to provide independent reports and advice to the community and government on what is working and what is not working in the delivery of mental health services. The new office will also have a role in improving and coordinating the range of existing support services provided by both the government and the community sector to ensure that nobody is falling through the gaps. I am very keen on that last part of it particularly, to improve that coordination and provide that focus, because we know that, for people who need to access mental health services, it is often at a point when they feel most vulnerable in their life and it is essential we have a well-coordinated system that is easy to navigate. We have excellent service provision in many areas at the moment, but I think we can take further steps to improve that patient experience and the navigability of the system.

As part of this year’s budget there is also a focus on providing better youth mental health programs, with $3 million allocated. We know that working with young people and their families at the earliest possible opportunity can make a significant difference

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