Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (12:26): My question is to the Minister for Mental Health. Minister, on 20 September last year in question time I asked about the government’s commitment to its target of halving the Victorian suicide rate by 2025, and more specifically to the battle of suicide prevention in my electorate where we lose too many people to this terrible mental health issue. At the time you responded that:
… when it comes to regional and rural Victoria, the issues … are of, literally, life-and-death significance …
Minister, I subsequently ask: what additional measures have been put in place since I asked that question in 2018 to support groups and organisations who are delivering suicide prevention and mental health services in the Morwell electorate?
Mr FOLEY (Albert Park—Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Equality, Minister for Creative Industries) (12:26): I thank the member for Morwell for his question. Whether it is the district of Morwell, or in fact the district of every single member in this place, suicide continues to be the main cause of death for Victorians between the ages of 14 and 45 and disproportionately so for young men. It is a terrible national scourge impacting on communities right across our state, let alone our country. In terms of the specifics for the district of Morwell these are the same kinds of principles that apply to all electoral districts.
We have in fact many, many drivers of the many pathways into mental illness and its most extreme form of activity—self-harm and suicide. Whether it is the changing nature of alcohol and drug addiction, or whether it is the issues around homelessness, family violence, family support or economic dislocation, the causes are well-known to many members, I am sure, and particularly to those rural areas which continue to be overrepresented in the bad outcomes of mental illness and suicide in particular.
In relation to issues around our allocation in the previous budget for a youth residential rehabilitation facility in the honourable member’s electorate—serving not just the honourable member’s electorate but more widely—my friend in the other place Ms Shing has made some announcements since the honourable member asked me that question last year around the delivery of that project, and I look forward to further work in that area.
In relation to the support in the honourable member’s area when it comes to the rollout of the support post the bushfire in the honourable member’s community and more broadly in the Gippsland area, there are many programs that are underway there.
In terms of activities, the honourable member would be aware of Latrobe Regional Hospital, through its hospital outreach post-suicidal engagement (HOPE) program, where the state in partnership with Latrobe hospital and a variety of non-government providers in the valley and surrounding communities is looking to support people who survive a suicide attempt, but more importantly once they are discharged from hospital to provide them with support in the community to deal with the causes of why such suicide attempts were undertaken.
That is a program that is delivered in partnership with the PHN, the primary health network system, and in its early days it is going through some success. There are a variety of other programs, some dealt with by the commonwealth, most dealt with through the state, that are also delivered in a competitive tendering process throughout the valley.
Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (12:30): Minister, a number of organisations within the Morwell electorate are delivering critical mental health and suicide prevention services, such as Barrier Breakers, Lifeline Gippsland and Life Education Gippsland. Each have stated the need for additional state government funding so they can continue to deliver or enhance the important services they are providing for people of all ages right across the Gippsland community. The reality is that mental health advocacy group Barrier Breakers is at serious risk of shutting its doors if funding is not urgently found. Lifeline Gippsland could increase the number of calls it takes from people who are in crisis. Life Education Gippsland could deliver its programs across all Gippsland schools rather than just those schools who are able to raise the necessary funds.
So, Minister, given these facts, I ask: why won’t the state government adequately fund and resource organisations in my community such as Barrier Breakers, Lifeline Gippsland and Life Education Gippsland, who are delivering these critical services to those vulnerable and at risk?
Mr FOLEY (Albert Park—Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Equality, Minister for Creative Industries) (12:31): I thank the honourable member for his supplementary question. Just a few weeks ago I was actually in the valley and met with Lifeline in Morwell, where we did in fact announce a program of continuing and expanded support for the fantastic work that they and other community-based organisations in the valley do deliver.
Lifeline in Morwell is one of the oldest Lifeline branches in the country. I think it was the second in the country to be established, and the team there do an outstanding job. In terms of the wider support that this government brings to mental health advocacy in particular, frankly we go above and beyond the call of any other state around the country. Honourable members will be aware that this is a complicated process whereby the national disability insurance scheme, through its Information, Linkages and Capacity Building program, had some $2.5 billion allocated under the Napthine government, a deal that this state government has maintained and supported— (Time expired)