Ms MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (17:19): My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Mental Health following the tabling in early March of the final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
As all of us would know, the report includes many shocking observations about Victoria’s mental health system. Accordingly, the royal commissioners have identified many different avenues and recommendations for change. My specific interest this evening is in those parts of the report that deal with mental health care and treatment in my electorate of Northern Victoria.
As I have said many times in the Legislative Council, there are a multitude of problems with the relative quality and availability of mental health services in Northern Victoria. The report highlights some of the more enduring and significant of these problems, particularly the pronounced workforce shortages, the long wait times for appointments, the huge distances people often have to travel even when they can obtain an appointment and the higher rates of suicide in rural and regional Victoria compared to urban areas.
I do keenly note that on the matter of those workforce shortages the royal commissioners specifically suggest the introduction of a relocation incentive scheme, the kind of initiative for which Mr Grimley and I have been advocating in this Parliament since 2019. Clearly the provision of new and/or repurposed facilities is also an urgent priority in order to increase access to mental health treatment and the number of available beds in our regions. These are all very important issues, and I am heartened that the royal commission has highlighted them. Moreover, given the government has agreed to all the recommendations, I hope that this will also lead to the kinds of reforms that are so desperately needed.
To that end, the most pressing concern in this field for my constituents and for me right now is the question of precisely how and when these improvements will be delivered. The action I therefore seek is the provision of a list of the recommendations of the mental health royal commission that are specific to Northern Victoria, including an indication for each of these recommendations of the date by which the minister envisages the relevant changes might be implemented. As part of that response I would also be grateful if he could outline how the implementation of these recommendations will practically enable people in Northern Victoria to more quickly access mental health support and lift the number of available psychologists and beds and in which specific locations and facilities.