By Colin MacGillivray
MEMBER for Yan Yean Danielle Green has encouraged City of Whittlesea residents to have their say on a piece of legislation that will reshape Victoria’s mental-health system.
The government announced last week it was seeking community input on the creation of a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act, with people able to make submissions until July 4.
The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, which concluded in February, recommended the state’s current Mental Health Act be replaced.
Ms Green said with the State Government having identified the City of Whittlesea as a priority mental health hotspot, it was a perfect chance for the region’s residents to have their voices heard.
“The consultation around the writing of the new act will be a great opportunity for locals to have their say about how they’d like the new system to look,” she said.
“I’d really like to see the locals, who have such great experience and such knowledge, speak up and have their say. It’s those people on the ground … who have got a lot to offer.”
Ms Green said issues affecting people’s mental health in the City of Whittlesea were varied, and that people’s input would help address them.
“We have so many young veterans in our community and a lot of serving [Australian Defence Force] personnel – they’ve got their royal commission happening now into the experience of veterans, which we know has not been good and there have been high rates of suicide,” she said.
“I know there are also levels of PTSD with emergency responders and people who were affected by Black Saturday.
“The fact that [culturally and linguistically diverse] communities can be isolated because of a language barrier is something that we’ve particularly recognised with COVID, and … there is also the obvious trauma of First Nations people.”
Minister for Mental Health and Acting Premier James Merlino said the new act would aim to help shape a Victorian mental health system that was accessible, provided a range of high-quality services, and reflected the views, preferences and values of people with mental illness or psychological distress, as well as their families, carers and supporters.
“The new act will transform the way we deliver treatment, care and support for Victorians with mental illness and psychological distress. This engagement is another step in rebuilding our mental health system,” he said.
City of Whittlesea chair administrator Lydia Wilson welcomed the government’s announcement of the new act in the wake of the royal commission.
“Advocating to the state and federal governments for more mental health services to be made available locally has been, and continues to be, a priority for council,” she said.
“We know that access to mental health services is a major barrier for our residents in getting the support they need, when they need it. This was the key focus of our submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
“As a municipality with a rapidly growing population and a significant proportion of vulnerable groups who are at greater risk of poorer mental health outcomes, we need more direct services that are easily accessible.
“We thank the Victorian Government for its investment so far and hope mental health services in the City of Whittlesea continue to be prioritised.”
Ms Green said it was her hope that the City of Whittlesea could play a key role in mental health recovery for Victorian people.
“We’ve got our beautiful green wedge and lots of trees and fresh air. That’s something that can be really healing for people,” she said.
“Through the COVID lockdown it was something we all craved. People voted with their feet, and being outdoors and walking dogs and visiting parks was what made all of us feel a bit better.
“Even though our area is identified as a hotspot for mental health concerns, I think it could be a hotspot for mental health recovery as well.”
Individuals and organisations can provide input on the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act via the Engage Victoria website at engage.vic.gov.au/mhwa. Submissions close on July 4.