SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING THE LEADER ON STATE AND TERRITORY RELATIONS
SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
- MENTAL HEALTH MUST BECOME A NATIONAL PRIORITY -
The statistics of mental health in Australia paint a shocking picture, yet it is an area that has been ignored by the Liberal Government for more than two years, leaving many Australians behind.
Every year, it's estimated that 3.6 million people will experience mental health problems. Over a lifetime the estimate rises to 7.3 million Australians who will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives.
Every year more than 65,000 Australians will attempt suicide with more than 2500 dying every year from suicide and it hard to accept that suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged between 15-44 years old.
These statistics are staggering.
It’s been 12 months since the government was handed a report into Australia’s mental health system and still there is no response.
The time for any further time wasting, reviews or naval gazing is over. Mental health reform must become a priority to address the crisis that is occurring right across the country.
Every day that responsibility for mental health reform is put off is another day that those people living with a mental illness, those who care for them and those who work in the sector are being let down by the Turnbull Government.
Labor has already committed to providing better support for people with a mental illness.
· A Shorten Labor government would outline priorities for reform within the first 100 days of taking office
· Lead the finalisation of the 5thNational Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan
· Ensure access to regional services through the Primary Health Care network
· Commit to a target to reduce suicide by 50 per cent over the next 10 years
· Establish 12 regional initiatives as the first stage in implementation of a comprehensive, whole‑of‑system approach to suicide prevention.
· Develop a Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health plan
· Improve the economic participation of people living with a mental illness
· Restore the independence of the Mental Health Commission
Unlike Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten has recognised the national crisis in mental health and has already outlined a number of Labor’s commitments in this area and has also elevated the portfolio into shadow cabinet.
I am very excited to be taking up my new role today as Shadow Minister for Mental Health as well as Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, and I am indebted to the significant work undertaken by Senator Jan McLucas over the past two years.
We know that some of Australia’s most vulnerable citizens are those who experience homelessness and who also have a mental illness. Finding realistic solutions for this group of people will be a major focus for me in my new role. There are many other synergies between mental health, housing and homelessness and I look forward to working with stakeholders across the country in these critical policy areas as Labor develops policies focused on tackling the current challenges and outlining future priorities.
Access to affordable housing is something that is on the minds of many Australians each weekend when they attend inspections and realise that their dream of owning a home is getting harder. I will be talking directly with the housing sector industry as well as working with state and territory government colleagues along with Labor’s economic team to develop a plan and lead the debate on this issue.
Labor believes that policies should contribute to improving the supply of housing and overcome the barriers to homeownership. Earlier this year Labor hosted a roundtable on housing affordability. As part of this process a number of submissions were received and all of this information will help Labor to develop a range of housing affordability strategies to take to the people at the next election.
Mental health, housing and homelessness are all policy areas where the Commonwealth should work co-operatively with the states and territories. Unfortunately, since September 2013 this hasn’t been the case. Looking at ways to improve the ways that Australia’s nine elected governments work together and strengthen the Federation will also be a central focus of my role as Shadow Minister assisting the leader on state and territory relations.
The Abbott/Turnbull Government has treated the states and territories like naughty children offering rewards and punishments when it suits them.
A Shorten Labor government will work in genuine partnership with the states and territories to ensure that we are using the combined effort of all governments to work in the nation’s long term best interest.
**For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au. Other services include Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467, Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 **
SUNDAY, 1 NOVEMBER