Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (11:24)— My question is to the Minister for Mental Health. Minister, as you would be aware, Lifeline Gippsland recently celebrated its 50 years of existence, and over that time an army of volunteers and staff have helped save lives right across the country through its telephone crisis support centre and the programs it runs in various communities. Unfortunately and despite the best efforts of many service providers, including Lifeline, our community has had a horrendous couple of weeks with multiple suicides, including that of 19-year-old Jack Strong, whom I paid tribute to in Parliament on Tuesday. Minister, can you please advise what measures your government is taking in the Morwell electorate to reduce the incidence of suicide in my community?
Mr FOLEY (Minister for Mental Health) (11:25)—Can I thank the member for Morwell for raising one of the most serious mental health issues, not just in the state but in Australia. Certainly, when it comes to regional and rural Victoria, the issues that the honourable member raises are of, literally, life-and-death significance to hundreds of communities right around the state. In terms of the support for Lifeline, Lifeline as a national organisation receives support from all levels of government, including from this government, and there have been increases in that support over the term of this government. Of course that is as part of this government’s record $325 million investment in new mental health, alcohol and drug services, which captures the work involved there. In terms of this government’s plan to halve the suicide rate—the suicide rate that in this state sees twice as many people die through their own hands than do on our roads—that strategy to halve that rate over the next period between now and 2025 is already being rolled out through a series of arrangements, including in partnership with the public health networks with the commonwealth right across the state, including in areas of Gippsland. I would add to that the complex relationship between alcohol and drug addiction and mental health and sadly suicide, and point out indeed, as the honourable member would know and certainly as the honourable member for East Gippsland would know, this government is doubling residential rehabilitation beds right across the state from 205 to over 420 during the term of this government’s investment cycle. As a part of that, over 50 per cent of those new beds are in regional and rural Victoria, including in Bairnsdale—yes, not in the honourable member’s electorate but in the honourable member for East Gippsland’s electorate—through the Hope consortium, which again I stress is one in partnership with the federal government, providing much-needed support and capital there, the community providing access and this government providing the recurrent funding and support. In terms of further measures, whether it be in the acute area of Morwell hospital and Latrobe hospital more broadly, the recent investments we have made in that community about the outreach support programs that deal with this area are very, very pertinent to the issues that the honourable member raises. I know that there is more to be done in this space, and I know that all honourable members, regardless of which community they come from, take this issue very seriously because, as the honourable member for Morwell has indicated, this is a life-and-death issue that touches nearly every family and every community right across our state.
Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (11:28)—Minister, in July 2016 the government announced some suicide prevention initiatives by way of a media release that was titled, as you just mentioned, ‘Halving the Rate of Suicide in Victoria’. I applaud you for having set such an ambitious target. In the said media release you say that you would invest in local solutions in seeking to halve the suicide rate by 2025. Minister, for the sake of an extra $135 000 in state government funding, Lifeline Gippsland could make a real difference in our community by providing additional training to increase the number of crisis support volunteers, enhancing and expanding the Connect Call Back service, and implementing local face-to-face peer support groups for people at risk. So, Minister, will you commit to providing Lifeline Gippsland with this extra $135 000 a year so they can deliver these critical services and programs and help to prevent and reduce suicide in our community?
Mr FOLEY (Minister for Mental Health) (11:28)—Again I thank the honourable member for his question, and refer him to the content of my answer to the substantive question that he asked. In those terms, again I restate the Lifeline organisation nationally and indeed at local community levels deliver fantastic frontline crisis support and have saved many, many lives. In terms of the advocacy the honourable member has made in this regard for this particular organisation, like many members make for these particularly localised embedded organisations in their own community, there continues to be increased funding from this government as part of that record investment of over $300 million in new money invested in this space. I would continue to urge the honourable member, as I would any member, to work with my department and to work with their local communities to make sure that this available increased pipeline of support, which is dealt with in a competitive way, is dealt with in the way that most impacts on that issue of halving the suicide rate over the next few years. And I would more than happily sit down with the honourable member and through that process assist him in making sure that we land that goal.
Ms Knight— On a point of order, Speaker, just with your indulgence, can I let everyone in the chamber—the visitors, the media—know that if they are feeling distressed that the number is 13 11 14