Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention – Speech – 26 March 2024

Department of Health

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

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians where you are meeting today as well as those on the land on which I’m speaking to you from.

I pay my respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations people taking part today.

And I want to acknowledge the people who bring with them their lived experience and thank them for their ongoing guidance.

Unfortunately, Parliamentary duties mean I cannot be with you today.

But I did want to take this opportunity to offer my best wishes for the forum and thank you for your ongoing contribution and commitment for improving our mental health system.

Mental health reform is a significant priority for the Albanese Government.

Gaps in health services remain for some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities – people from rural and remote regions, and our young people.

*check against delivery*

With good low-intensity and early intervention services, we know that we can better support Australians who are in distress.

We’ve made significant progress in our first 18 months in government.

The 2023-24 Budget invested $586.9 million to expand and upskill the workforce, extend critical services across the system, address urgent gaps and lay the groundwork for future reform.

We have opened headspace and Head to Health centres across the country and grown funding to digital and phone mental health services.

Major investments are rolling out to grow the mental health workforce.

And work is underway to make it easier for people to navigate mental health services, particularly online, where there are some valuable resources but where people can struggle to know where to start.

But I know – and you know – that more work needs to be done so that all Australians can access the mental health care they need, when they need it.

This has been the central focus of the Mental Health Advisory Committee, bringing together leaders from across the mental health policy and service delivery spheres.

We are considering solutions to a range of complex issues – from how to make services more accessible and affordable, to the best ways to deliver comprehensive care for people with severe and complex needs.

We’re focused on equity of access, making sure people can access services based on their needs.

The committee has met regularly to provide advice to the government on reform options, including only a couple of weeks ago.

Under the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement, all governments are working to finalise the further analysis of psychosocial supports outside of the NDIS.

This will help to inform the collaborative work we’re doing with NDIS Minister Bill Shorten and state and territory disability ministers on foundational supports.

It presents significant opportunities to improve access to services for people needing psychosocial support in Australia.

As the government pushes on with further reform and improvements to the mental health system, we are committed to listening, taking feedback, and working with people with lived experience across the country.

I wish you well for the forum and look forward to hearing about the outcomes.

Thank you.

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