20 June 2023

It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak on the Mental Health and Wellbeing Amendment Bill 2023 today. In I suppose a very quick summary, in starting my contribution today, this bill will amend the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022 to ensure that this act does operate as intended and can be implemented when it does commence.

Being a new member here in this place, obviously I was not here when the government introduced the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act last year, but I would like to say how proud I am to be part of a government that acknowledged that there was an issue in our mental health system. We acknowledged and said we needed to do better, and with that a royal commission was implemented and started into Victoria’s mental health system. And we did not shy away from that challenge; we did not shy away from acknowledging that we could do better and we would do better, and we have committed to delivering that real change that Victorians need. We did also commit to every recommendation in that royal commission, and then we got to work.

We did not waste any time in doing that. I would also like to acknowledge, though, there was a challenge in that time frame for the new legislation set by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. The royal commission rightly saw it as an imperative to get that new legislation passed last year and really to establish that architecture that we needed to be guiding this 10-year reform. But let us be clear too: the government agreed that no time should be wasted, and we did not have time to waste, and last year’s act marked that incredible milestone to build our system from the ground up again and tailor it so Victorians got the care that they needed and deserved.

Something that was really clear to me was that they got that care close to their home and in their communities, which is really important, as regional MP, to me as well, to make sure that that care is part of the community and that residents or local families of the Bellarine are not having to travel kilometres to get their care, that they can have it in their region.

I would like to just take this opportunity to thank all the contributions, the valuable contributions, that we have had from many people among our key stakeholders and sector and partners and, importantly, those who made presentations and submissions at the royal commission. The foundation for a better future mental health system in Victoria has been guided by people with that lived experience, and that is so important. It is one where that lived experience is at the centre, as it should be, for reform, and that is what makes this reform so world leading and so important, and I am very proud that that is the course that we have taken as a government.

These reforms, though, are huge. They are a transformation for our system. There is a lot of work to do, and they will create this fundamental shift in our mental health system. Across the time before I arrived at this place there had been work done already across many state budgets. Since the release of the royal commission we have seen record investment in getting on with that work. I would like to at least note at this point that we have commenced over 90 per cent of the royal commission’s recommendations. This has generated that real momentum that we have started and a real hope and a real sense of hope for the reimagining of our mental health system and wellbeing system. But we know there is more to do. This reform will not happen overnight. It is going to take change, but significant changes are well underway, and that is exactly what this government is renowned for doing. We get on with it. We get on with the job and we do the things that are going to make a difference.

There is already a range of activities and projects that are currently underway, and I would like to speak a little bit more about those that are either in my electorate or around the region of the Geelong region that the Bellarine residents would use. I will go through a few lists, but I am really proud the Geelong region has seen a huge investment and seeing regional Victoria have a huge investment in this space, which is absolutely fantastic. As a state we said we would commit to delivering 50 mental health and wellbeing local services by 2026, and this was to ensure that Victorians had that free accessible mental health care close to home, as I have spoken about, when they needed it, without having to jump through all those hoops of GPs and meeting eligibility criteria. We wanted to make sure that people got easy access. One of those is in the Geelong region – they call it the Geelong and Queenscliff region – and it is terrific to have one that we know that local families and residents in my area can use. This service, though, is free. You do not need to have a Medicare card or healthcare plan. You do not need referrals.

It is for people aged 26 years or older and anyone with a mental health concern or substance use issue. It is a consortium of four partners – Barwon Health, ermha365, Wellways and the Wathaurong traditional owners – and they came together to deliver this service, the mental health and wellbeing local service. It is one of the flagships recommended by the royal commission, and it will care for people who need that support.

I just want to note that at the time of developing this, Barwon Health clinical director of mental health and drug and alcohol services Professor Steven Moylan said that:

… the partnership model was underpinned by positivity, hope and inclusion.


This is a great example of building something new from the ground up that will cater to a new way of doing things. People will be able to find the support they need, when they need it.

Wellways CEO Laura Collister said that:

This is what Wellways was set up to do: develop and deliver lived-experience-led support so people can live life to their full potential in the community of their choice …

And we know that this has a positive outcome when people are connected in their community and recovery can happen. I congratulate all those that are involved in that service. It has improved our access in delivering that tailored mental health in the Geelong region. These proposed amendments, though, will ensure that this consortium situation and members and partnership within the scope of the act will be required to comply with obligations in respect of the mental health and wellbeing principles, information sharing and the use of electronic health information systems.

Another service that has been delivered in the Geelong region and can also be used by Bellarine families is a 16-bed acute mental health facility at Barwon Health, the McKellar Centre. I got to tour this facility with the Premier and the minister last year. It is an absolutely beautiful, state-of-the-art, world-class – and all the rest of it – facility in the Geelong region. It is incredible not only in terms of its design but in that it is going to provide an opportunity to deliver mental health support in a different manner. It was designed in consultation with people who have lived experience in the mental health system, including patients, carers and staff. It is a safe environment. But it is not just about the beds, it is a team being led by Barwon Health to do things differently, and that is exactly what the royal commission asked us to do.

We also have a youth mental health facility being planned at the moment for the region. We also have under construction an early years parenting centre which will help parents with new babies and up to four-year-old children with the health and wellbeing development of their children, which is absolutely fantastic. For the sleepless nights I have had with my children that service would have been absolutely phenomenal. We are also going to open up a new mental health hub right in the CBD of Geelong.

This government has invested so much into our region. It is so important for the wellness of our communities. Coming into Parliament, mental health was such a priority for me and my community. Every day I am having conversations around these issues. Whether it be residents, schools, businesses, local clubs or sporting clubs, they are all doing their very best to support those young people and families that maybe are having mental health concerns, and as a community the Bellarine community should be very proud. We do very well at looking after each other. I am really proud to be able to talk about the investments, but we know there is still work to do, and that is what this is all about. This reform is actually going to change our system for the better so those who are seeking care get the care they need in a timely manner but get it in their community, close to home. I commend this bill to the house.