Tuesday, 23 July 2019
I rise this evening to speak in this place about a matter that is very close to my heart, and I suspect the same can be said for every member in this chamber. Mental health affects all of us, whether it is personally, through a family member, through a loved one or through a friend. We've all got a story. We never really know what someone may be dealing with on the inside or what challenges they may be facing.
The Black Dog Institute estimates that one in five Australians aged between 16 and 65 will face a challenge with mental health in any given year, with young Australians facing more mental health challenges than any other age group. Every day, at least six Australians die by suicide. This is an extraordinary and terrifying statistic, because this means that families around Australia, families in my community and my own family deal with the constant unrelenting grief of having lost somebody who was loved, who was known, who belonged to them and who was their person. Thirty years ago I lost my aunt. Two years ago I lost my beautiful cousin. I'm not alone in this story.
Part of the reason I'm raising this topic here tonight is that there is a tragic story around mental health in my electorate, particularly on suicide and youth suicide, unfortunately, among too many young people on the Central Coast. Far too many people battle, oftentimes silently, with their own challenges. It saddens me to inform the House that suicide rates on the Central Coast are 50 per cent above the average rates in New South Wales. Data sourced from HealthStats NSW indicates that 2016 saw the highest recorded rates of suicide on the Central Coast. Sadly, rates of suicide in our local health district are increasing. This is tragic. I know that, for our community, it's not something we're proud of and that it is something we are all trying to work together to solve.
I do want to point out that we've got an amazing group of primary healthcare providers and local organisations that do an incredible job for our community. The story on the Central Coast is a story where people are bandying together to make sure that there is a pathway for young people. The Central Coast Local Health District, the Brisbane Waters Local Area Command, Central Coast Primary Care, the Iris Foundation, headspace, Suicide Prevention Central Coast, Top Blokes Foundation, Save Our Kids—led by Gosford North Rotary Club—and Trek4Vets are just some of the organisations that are doing some amazing work on the Central Coast. There are plenty more, all committed to addressing this issue.
What I would like to say is that we do know that this issue is something we need to continue to work on together. I think members on both sides would agree that this is an issue that we as a community and as a parliament need to focus on, because, as the Prime Minister has said, people matter and you matter. I think this is what has led many of us here to serve in this place. It's a big part of what drives us in our service and our representation of our communities. I know I won't be alone in this experience, but I've heard far too many tragic stories of families and communities that have been devastated by the impact of struggles with mental health and, particularly, suicide. I've heard stories of young people at local schools devastated by the loss of their peers and grappling with really tough questions about their own mental health. I've heard too many stories about young men on the Central Coast who tragically felt a sense of hopelessness and felt that they didn't really belong anywhere.
I want to give a call-out to Dan Villalard, an amazing young man in our community. In his honour, a beautiful place called Dan's Place has been set up at a local church organisation called Generatione Ministries. My parents have been longstanding pastors there and it is their hope that, through Dan's Place, in honour of Dan Villalard, there can be a sense of belonging, of community, of inclusion and of hope. For young people, and young men in particular, we know it can be hard to know where to turn to, who to turn to or even how to start talking about the challenges that people are facing.
As someone who did suffer very greatly as a result of very severe and sustained workplace bullying in my early 20s, I know the importance of being able to reach out early and I know how difficult it can actually be to do so. We are fortunate to have services such as Lifeline that can offer anyone experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour support and suicide prevention services. But this sense of a disconnection or a lack of belonging is, for me, an important part of the conversation around health, mental health and suicide and, most importantly, keeping our community safe and well. To me, it's about bringing people together to remind them of their worth and their value and to help all of us feel more connected to those people around us. To that end, I will be convening a roundtable to look at addressing this particular issue locally to see what more we might be able to do by working together and connecting together. We'll be inviting the Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt, to come up and hear firsthand from those people on the frontline.
This need for inclusion and belonging is part of the reason I advocated so strongly for a local project in Umina Beach called the Peninsula Recreation Precinct, championed by local community group the Umina Community Group. The concept of the precinct, at its core, is not just about a skate park or better infrastructure for young people; it's about helping to create meaningful connections in our community. It's about connecting the young kids at the skate park with the older generation at the men's shed, the PCYC and the local sport clubs, and it's about having a place that helps to develop those meaningful community connections that make people feel like they belong.
I'm pleased to be part of a government that backed this project with an $8.25 million commitment announced during the election. I'm proud to be part of a government that is taking action on these issues that we all face, and I want to commend the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health for their leadership and for the measures that they've recently announced, including the $500 million Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan and also the $1.45 billion to primary health networks to enable them to deliver projects that are tailored and targeted to the needs of the local area. I'm really looking forward to continuing to work with the Central Coast, Hunter and New England primary health network on this really important issue.
In my electorate of Robertson, I was also pleased to be able to announce $13 million for the establishment of a residential centre for the treatment of eating disorders. Having referred earlier to a family member who, tragically, passed away aged in her 20s, I know how challenging the battle of eating disorders can be for not only those individuals but the families that they affect for years and for decades. This centre will provide much-needed services for those affected by these devastating conditions, and it'll change the way eating disorders are diagnosed and treated by providing 24/7 intensive care and support, as well as training, education and advocacy.
We are also delivering funding for a unique homelessness outreach program, 'health on the streets', designed to take health care, including mental health care, to those on the Central Coast who are sleeping rough. This program is about taking primary care to where it's needed most and focusing on the individual and their particular issues and challenges, where they are. But there is a lot more to do. And I think we can all agree, through our own experiences or through a connection with family and friends, that this is a very complex issue with complex solutions. We know there's no quick fix; there's no silver bullet. And it really is something that is all of our problem to help solve.
I'm fortunate enough to be serving here in this place now for my third term, and I want to place on the record my commitment to people on the Central Coast, to work alongside our community to make this a priority in my electorate, and to take positive steps on this issue, bit by bit, day by day, month by month and year by year. I want to see those devastating figures reduced, and soon.
Recently, when speaking at the Stand Tall event in Sydney, the Prime Minister asked young people in the audience to do something that really struck me. He asked every single member of the audience to turn to people on either side of them and just tell them that they mattered. This was such an important reminder to me—that something quite small, like this, can actually make a huge difference.
So I want to finish by saying to somebody out there who might be listening, who might be struggling, who might need to hear this: 'You matter. People matter. Every person matters.' And my commitment this term is to do everything I can to champion in our community a greater sense of belonging, of inclusion, of connection to community, for every single person in our electorate, and to champion programs that may enable that, but, most importantly to be a champion of people and of their needs, their concerns, their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations and their value.
Order. The time for the grievance debate has expired. The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 192B. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
Federation Chamber adjourned at 18 : 04