PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: Earlier in the year I launched a campaign to get more youth mental health services in the outer east of Melbourne. I did so for two reasons: (1) the mental health statistics are particularly poor in our area and (2) I was concerned about the paucity of services in the outer east of Melbourne. A key part of the campaign was to convene a youth mental health public forum in my electorate in order to gather views from the broader community. I hosted the forum on 4 April at Fairhills High School. It comprised a panel of experts consisting of Kristin Michaels, Chris Potter, Peter Cole and Dr Geoff Broomhall. Over 150 members of the public attended the forum.
It was a very worthwhile forum. It was at times very moving, particularly when some people spoke about their own personal experiences or the experiences of their children. One person, Pauline Renzow, spoke very passionately about the loss to suicide of two of her sons. There was rich discussion about the nature of the problems, and some very constructive solutions were put forward.
Part of my commitment to the forum was to report the outcomes to the parliament; hence the nature of my speech today. A number of broad themes were raised. First, there is still a significant issue of stigma associated with mental illness. We as parliamentarians can have a role in overcoming this by talking openly about the issue. Second, there is a need for better education at the school level and at the community level about what mental illness actually means. Third, there are gaps in the current provision of services, particularly services catering for young people. Fourth, there is a lack of information and coordination of existing services. Finally, there was endorsement of the concept of a headspace centre in Knox, in my electorate.
Many of these issues require additional federal or state resources. I am pleased that the federal government allocated additional funds to mental health in the budget, which of course followed the coalition’s commitments in this area. The additional funds will make a difference. At the local level we have taken a number of actions already to progress some of the issues raised in the forum. We have established a youth mental health committee. We are working on getting better information out to service providers. We are talking more openly about the issue, including through the media and we are strengthening support groups. We have raised funds to support eating disorder services through the Butterfly Foundation, and we have ramped up our campaign for a headspace centre in Knox.
Thousands of families in my electorate are impacted by mental illness. Indeed, there is barely a family that is not touched by it either directly or indirectly. Hopefully, these actions we are taking will make a difference to those families and indeed to families right across our community.