Thursday, 25 March 2021
Statements by Members
We need to do more to recognise the real mental health impacts of the very dangerous and taxing work performed by our first responders. I believe that we have a responsibility in this place to break down the stigma associated with mental ill health. That's why, when calling for a royal commission into veteran suicide this week, I spoke about the nightmare of suicide for victims' families and also first responders. For as long as any of us can remember in Australia, fire and rescue, paramedics, police and others on the frontline of trauma, grief and life-threatening situations have coped by masking their emotions, often using dark humour or silence and often alcohol and substance abuse. Like many major conditions, there are answers and they involve recovery but also prevention.
That is where Fortem Australia delivers an evidence based model to improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes for first responders. I met with Fortem's new chairman, Graham Ashton, and their CEO, John Bale. I welcome Graham Ashton's leadership to the board. During his 40 years of service in law enforcement, Ashton had a strong concern about the need to address mental ill health for those first responders under him. Fortem does a great job in assisting first responders, and the government has provided $6.5 million in assistance to them, but more is needed for them to continue with their great service.