News Parliament


 I rise in support of the motion of the member for Fisher and I thank him for raising the issue of mental health in this House.

Mental health issues affect Australians from all walks of life and, as the member for Fisher has noted in the text of this motion, one in five people currently report having a mental health or behavioural condition. This can have a particularly serious impact on people living in country communities, and this is because the tyranny of distance in country Australia can mean that accessing mental health services can be more difficult, and it also adds to the sense of isolation that people dealing with mental health issues face. As a country, it's vital to continue the national conversation on mental health issues and, in so doing, to help remove the remaining stigma that can still be associated with them.

I note also that issues of mental wellbeing and mental health are more, not less, prevalent among our younger population. Children, teenagers and young adults, who are expected to make their way in the world, can sometimes bear an enormous burden that they shouldn't have to shoulder alone. In Lithgow, there have been some tragic cases of young people taking their lives in recent times. This has deeply affected the Lithgow community and has left it with a profound sense of loss. The community has been united on the issue of securing better mental health services for the city, and it was vitally important to the extent that the Australian government recently announced the establishment of a headspace outreach service for the City of Lithgow. This will provide mental health support for the young people of Lithgow and its surrounding districts. Working with the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network, interim services are already up and running, and these will be expanded and built upon as the premises are secured. That is underway at the moment.

I'd like to acknowledge the important and valuable work of many community representatives. The whole community has been behind this, but I'd like to acknowledge particularly Katrina Prescott; Frank Thorvaldsson; Lizz Reay, who is the CEO of Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network; all the Lithgow city councillors who supported this new service; Stephen Jackson, who is the CEO of Marathon Health, which is tasked with delivering the new service; and also Greg Hunt, who is the Minister for Health and who has taken a personal interest in getting this service up and running for the City of Lithgow. It's an important service, because it will let our young people know that they don't have to bear this burden alone and that there is help there when they need it.

Another organisation in the Calare electorate providing critical mental health support is, of course, Lifeline Central West. These people work tirelessly; they give up their time—it's volunteer based. In Calare, it's based in Bathurst, which is at the centre. They work around the clock in difficult circumstances to provide people in country Australia with the support that they need in what can be their most difficult hour. I'd like to acknowledge the executive director, Alex Ferguson; the centre manager, Stephanie Robinson; and all the staff and volunteers at Lifeline Central West for their vitally important work. I know that the budget has delivered Lifeline a $33.8 million funding increase, which has been warmly welcomed.

The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health in the Calare electorate is another wonderful country community organisation providing valuable community support to people in rural areas. I'd like to acknowledge the wonderful and important work being done by Professor David Perkins and Trevor Hazel; by the researchers Dr Hazel Dalton, Dr Scott Fitzpatrick and Dr Donna Read; by Vanessa Delaney in the centre; and by the rural and remote mental health team members, Di Gill, Camilla Kenny and Tessa Caton.

As I said at the outset, mental health and the discussion of it need to be things that we keep shining a light on. It's going to take a national effort to overcome mental health issues and it's vital that this light continues to shine on them, particularly in country areas. So I thank the member for Fisher for this motion and I commend it to the House.