Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Delegation Reports

Australian parliamentary delegation to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden and Canada

6:27 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden and Canada which took place in October 2017. I seek leave to move a motion to take note of the document.

Leave granted.

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

First of all, I'd like to articulate the purpose of this delegation, which was to examine mental health practices and policy perspectives in the selected countries. In particular, the delegation was focused on hearing about the different issues and treatment approaches for mental health care services generally. We were also looking at eating disorders, children and early intervention services, young people with mental health issues and, where possible, Indigenous people's mental health issues, suicide broadly and post-traumatic stress disorder among Defence veterans. Our aim was to examine, listen and develop an understanding of how the respective countries were approaching mental health issues and the examples or practices could possibly be considered for Australia.

I would urge members to read this delegation report, because we covered a huge range of issues. I just articulated the theme and aim of the visits we made. We did in fact cover all those issues. We learnt a great deal. I would like to acknowledge and thank all the people we met with. I think that we had over 35 meetings and we met with a range of government committees, government officers and community organisations. We were very keen also to get the perspective from government and non-government organisations. So I'd like to thank all of the people whom we visited and just touch on some of the highlights of our visit.

We learned a lot about the issues around mental health and the way that those issues were covered. One of the key things that we identified was that, everywhere we went, funding spent on mental health was the same as here—not enough was being spent. But, in England, in the United Kingdom, what we learned was that they have actually committed to, and are very keen to meet, what they call 'parity of esteem'. In other words, mental health is treated at the same level and in the same degree that other broader health issues are. So, parity of funding in terms of the spending proportion in health; the health burden of illness matches the amount of money that's spent on that particular issue. It also includes equal access to the most effective and safest care and treatment; equal efforts to improve the quality of care and the allocation of time, effort and resources on a basis commensurate with the need; equal status within healthcare education and practice; equally high aspirations for service users; and equal status in the measurement of health outcomes. For me, that resonated a lot, in making sure that, as a system and as a country, we acknowledge that we need to meet parity of esteem. I was very impressed by that particular approach. I think the UK is leading in that particular area. They're not there yet, but they seek to address parity of esteem.

What we also learned was that there are different ways that different countries are approaching the specific issues. One of the key themes in all the countries we visited was the degree to which local government provided community services, aged-care services and mental health services. I know that varies across Australia, but I think that no states in Australia provide the level of services through local government that we saw in all the countries we went to. Very importantly also, every place we went to had done the same as Australia had done, which was to deinstitutionalise mental health care but then not provide the same level of services on the ground, and so there have been big problems with that. But some of the places that we visited are making more effort to address that.

The issues around social isolation play out the same here as there, but there are some really good ways of addressing that in some of the examples. For example, in the Netherlands—

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