Senate debates

Thursday, 26 June 2014


Youth Mental Health

12:43 pm

Photo of Penny WrightPenny Wright (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes:

(i) the findings of the Youth Mental Health Report by Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute, which states that 60 per cent of young people with a mental illness are not comfortable seeking information, advice or support from community agencies, online counselling or telephone hotlines, and

(ii) the judgement of the High Court in Williams v. Commonwealth of Australia (no. 2), which found the Commonwealth's National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program to be unconstitutional; and

(b) calls on the Federal Government to bring legislation before the Parliament supporting access to professional mental health support in schools by redirecting funding allocated to the National School Chaplaincy Program from 2015 to qualified mental health workers.

12:44 pm

Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is granted for one minute.

Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

The ALP is not supporting this motion. Schools are best placed to determine the needs of their students in the community. Unlike the government, we are firmly of the view that students should come before ideology and that principals not politicians are in the best position to know what their school community needs. If a school determines that a chaplain would be the best use for their school, the Commonwealth should not stand in their way. For Australian school students, access to support, including from qualified mental health professionals, is extremely important. The prevalence of mental illness is higher among young Australians, and we absolutely acknowledge the barriers many young people face in knowing where to access support and assistance.

Labor is deeply concerned by the government's announcement of the $245 million for religious-only chaplains. The impact of this decision will be that many, many schools that currently use federal money to employ youth workers, welfare workers and mental health professionals will lose funding for these vital services. The government's moves to stand in the way of schools determining what is best for their community by restricting funding only to religious chaplains cannot be justified.

12:45 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—The government will not be supporting this motion. The government is committed to building a world-class mental health system that delivers appropriate services to young people experiencing mental ill health. The 2014-15 budget delivered on our commitments to find new and innovative treatments to support young people who experience mental illness, including establishing a National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health, costing $18 million over four years from 2014-15. Once established, the centre will undertake clinical trials; invest in research; provide training, support and information to mental health practitioners; and develop new ways to treat people experiencing mental ill health.

The 2014-15 budget also included development of a comprehensive e-mental health platform to make it easier for young people to access advice and support 24 hours a day, and delivers a further 10 headspace sites, which extends the total number to 100 across Australia. The government has also tasked the National Mental Health Commission to review existing mental health programs. The government wants to ensure that mental health services are delivered to those most in need and that funding is provided to those programs that have proven to be most effective on the front-line. The review should identify gaps in service delivery, inefficiency and duplication and ensure that services are being properly targeted.

In 2014-15, the Department of Health is continuing funding for 150 mental health services, suicide prevention and postvention programs while the commission's review is being undertaken. This ensures continuity of services for people who experience mental ill health while we are working to improve the system. To conflate these two issues of the chaplaincy program and youth mental health is misleading.

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that notice of motion No. 311 standing in the name of Senator Wright be agreed to.