Thursday, 24 October 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister please outline to the House how the Morrison government's budget—its strong and stable and certain budget—is supporting Australians who are suffering from eating disorders and other mental health conditions?
I want to thank the member for Fisher for his passionate advocacy for those with eating disorders and other mental health challenges, as well as for his support—along with the member for Fairfax and other members from Queensland, as well as members across the House—for the Day for Daniel Morcombe and the emphasis on child safety.
In terms of the ability to support patients with mental health challenges around the country, we know that it's absolutely critical that we have a strong investment regime which provides for strong employment, which therefore gives us a strong and stable budget, which allows us to make these investments with certainty. In particular, one of the areas which this government has focused on—and I want to acknowledge that the member for Fisher has been a leading national advocate in this space—is the support for patients with eating disorders. There are up to a million Australians who suffer from some form of eating disorder. Every person in this chamber will be associated with, and will have been touched by and involved in some way with, patients facing the challenge of eating disorders.
A little while ago I had the pleasure of joining the member on the Sunshine Coast, where we were able to turn the first sod for the first residential eating disorder clinic in Australia to be supported by the government. That will be the first of a network of residential eating disorder clinics, with over $63 million invested around the country. That will provide patients with options which have never previously been available. Whilst we were there we met Millie Thomas. At age 12, Millie had the first signs of anorexia and battled for 15 years. She told us how she had even been at the point of palliative care. She had been taken to the Sunshine Coast for what her mother thought would be her last days, and, through the care, attention and support of those around her, she was able to make a recovery.
What was evident, though, as Millie said, was that the support was not there in terms of access to services. In eight days from now, on 1 November, the Medicare Benefits Schedule will be changed and patients will be able to access 60 treatments and sessions for eating disorders. That will include 40 psychological sessions and 20 sessions with dieticians. It is part of a much broader national plan which includes the residential centres; the Medicare treatments which will be available, as I say, on that scale for the first time; and the support for research, with $5 million recently allocated to the University of Sydney and Deakin University.
Ultimately, all members of this House have come together in support of patients with eating disorders, and we are changing lives, saving lives and protecting lives as a parliament.