VICTORIAN Premier Daniel Andrews has vowed to enact all recommendations from his promised Australian-first royal commission into mental health, following on from the government’s implementation of all recommendations from the family violence royal commission.
The terms of reference for the inquiry into Victoria’s mental health system will be delivered within 100 days of the election on November 24, should Labor be returned to power, with it estimated to report after two years.
Speaking at the Kyneton Men’s Shed on Wednesday, Mr Andrews said the powers of a royal commission – the highest form of governmental inquiry – were required to investigate all issues and gather evidence from all Victorians involved in the mental health system.
“We have a system that simply can’t cope and will continue to contribute to tragedy if we don’t have a royal commission and seek those answers, and make that reform, drive that change and show that leadership,” he said.
“This is the highest form of inquiry that we can have in our political system.
“We will be accountable, not just for the process, but for delivering in full on the outcomes of that process.
“This process will allow everyone who has something to contribute to a better mental health system to be part of that process. It will be done in the most serious way.”
Labor has promised $13.2 million to deliver the royal commission, similar to the $13.5 million for the family violence royal commission. The government later committed $2 billion to implement family violence recommendations.
More than 170,000 Victorians accessed the mental health system in the past 12 months, a 9 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.
Mental health the ‘poor cousin’ of Victoria’s health system
A range of mental health advocacy and industry groups came out in support of the royal commission announcements, believing it was long overdue.
Mental Health Victoria chief executive officer Angus Clelland said Victoria had an “awful long way to go” but believed a royal commission would help to address many of the issues.
“Mental health has been the poor cousin of the health system for many, many years,” he said.
“There are incredible pressure points within the system that need to be addressed.
“In particular the pressure between hospital emergency departments and general practitioners, and other Commonwealth funded services, there’s not much out there for people.
“So having a royal commission will look at the entire system and lock the future government into funding and investment to improve the system for everyone, and no doubt this will change lives.”
Mental Health Victoria commissioned a study this year that found an additional $500 million would be needed per year to raise access to service to the national average, and Commonwealth funding would also be required.
Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive officer Emma King said it would be about “joining the dots” to integrate mental health services into all aspects of life.
“Mental health doesn’t exist in isolation,” she said.
“It is connected to housing, it is connected to education, it is connected to every part of our community and what was so fantastic about the announcement today - and what will be so fantastic about a royal commission - is that this is a genuine look at how we have a road map going forward.”
‘It creeps up on you’: Kyneton Men’s Shed member’s mental health battle
Even though 17 years have passed since his grandson took his own life, Bob Grubb says it still feels like it happened yesterday.
A member of the Kyneton Men’s Shed – an institution he says got him “back on the planet” – Mr Grubb spoke about the personal battles he faced following the death of 15-year-old Anthony.
“A lot of times you read in the newspapers where people lose unfortunately their children, and you think you appreciate what they’re going through but you really don’t until it happens to you,” he said.
“When it does come home to your door, you start to realise the hardship that those people are going through.”
Mr Grubb spoke with the Premier during Wednesday’s announcement, and said the Men’s Shed program had helped him to re-engage with the community.
But he said there were still difficult days.
“We just give up, our family was in real turmoil and I was in a state that I didn’t know what I was going to do, where I was going to go and how I was going to cope,” Mr Grubb said.
“To lose your own, I tell you, it kills you.
“I really didn’t know what depression and mental health was all about, but it creeps up on you and it gets between your ears and you don’t know what’s going on.
“There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Royal commission show government has ‘no idea’, Liberal candidate says
Liberal candidate for Bendigo East Ian Ellis says the state government should already understand the issues with Victoria’s mental health system, and action was needed rather than more talk.
He said the royal commission announcement was “an admission that they have no idea on how to fix it”.
“There’s a lot of mental health professionals, surely there can be a think tank among those,” Mr Ellis said.
“Discussing these issues with mental health professionals would surely be better than a royal commission. If people know of these things, why does it take a royal commission to come out?”
Last year, the Coalition promised to instigate a royal commission into Victoria’s fire services if elected.
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