Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, speech – 15 March 2024

Department of Health

Good morning. I’m Emma McBride, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which you are meeting today, and those on which I am speaking.

I pay respects to elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all First Nations people taking part today.

I also acknowledge those with a lived or living experience of mental ill-health and those bereaved by suicide.

I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person, but I wanted to take the opportunity to offer my best wishes for the symposium and thank you all for your contributions across the spectrum of mental health policy and care.

There are some excellent speakers on the program and I look forward to hearing about the outcomes after the event.

From the Australian Government’s point of view, we very much welcome the focus on preventative mental health.

Many in the sector like to talk about it through the lens of ‘wellbeing’.

And you have a strong supporter in me in striving to improve wellbeing through the things we all know are fundamental to it:

  • stability at home and in relationships
  • financial security
  • physical health
  • sleep
  • nutrition.

These protective factors are fundamental to good mental health and I want to assure you that they are a central priority of the Australian Government.

Measuring What Matters

Last year you may have seen Treasurer Jim Chalmers release the Measuring What Matters framework, designed to track our progress towards a more healthy, secure, sustainable, cohesive and prosperous Australia.

Do take a look at the framework on the Treasury website.

It is Australia’s first national wellbeing framework, aiming to better track outcomes, not just in our economy, but also the more qualitative measures across society.

The drivers of distress often lie in these less-visible markers, and so as we track them through Measuring What Matters, I am particularly looking at them in the context of mental health and wellbeing.

This is important because it is now well-established that levels of distress in Australia have increased, and in turn levels of mental ill-health.

Mental health system reform

With good low-intensity or early intervention services we know we can better support people in distress or with moderate mental ill-health.

This is the focus of significant investment and policy work in my portfolio and of many organisations delivering services on the ground.

I think it’s fair to say that governments have so far not managed to capture the full potential of digital technology in supporting mental health assessment or treatment, and we do have an online landscape which can be difficult to navigate.

This has been a strong theme in our discussions through the Mental Health Reform Advisory Committee, and it is something I have often heard anecdotally.

That’s why in the mid-year budget update in December we announced $456.7 million to give five-year funding certainty to key digital mental healthcare service providers.

Alongside this, a sector-led consortium will develop a new national approach to help people navigate digital services to get the support they need.

This will foster more collaboration across the sector and reduce fragmentation.

It’s a first, important step in a more integrated system of mental healthcare, offering early intervention and accessible care across the lifespan and the full spectrum of need.

Equally, our investments continue in headspace, in kids and adults Head to Health and other community-based services.

And we will continue to draw on the expertise of sector leaders in policy work to strengthen these services – to increase capacity, awareness and public confidence that they are a safe and effective place to go for support and care.


As someone who has worked as a hospital pharmacist in acute inpatient settings I have seen firsthand how complex and traumatic mental ill-health can become.

We cannot prevent complex conditions or eliminate every risk factor but we must do what we can to promote wellbeing and minimise the number of people who reach a point of crisis.

I know it’s a goal we share.

Your input in this task is valuable and I thank you for your contributions during the course of this event.

Thank you.

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