Topics: $33.8 million Beyond Blue funding announcement; first dedicated Medicare item for eating disorder; Nauru; Newspoll
I’m delighted to announce $33.8 million for Beyond Blue’s national anxiety and depression initiative.
In particular this is about ensuring that people who have the greatest need, have the greatest support and Beyond Blue is something that offers hope to all Australians, at work, whether it’s at the level of Julia or Georgie, it is extraordinary, or right across the network of staff and volunteers.
These are people who provide service, support and hope; it’s our privilege as a government to ensure that Australians have access to mental health support when they need it, where they need it, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Paul, did you just want to say something briefly about what Beyond Blue’s meant to you?
I’m incredibly grateful to Beyond Blue, the involvement in my life and my own recovery and the ability to be able to tell my story, to help other people understand that mental illness – we can recover from it. We can become resilient and we can go on to lead amazing lives. Thank you.
Can I say a big thank you to Minister Greg Hunt for the announcement he’s made today of Future Funding for Beyond Blue. It does enable us to plan with certainty and to get about our all important work.
It does demonstrate continued faith in Beyond Blue and we’re very grateful for that.
Beyond Blue has enjoyed across its life, deep bipartisan support from all political parties at the federal level, at the state level and it’s fantastic to see the way in which that is continuing.
It’s been terrific to have Minister Hunt so focused on mental health as a result of his own family experience and Beyond Blue and Minister Hunt have been working together in a variety of ways.
Including improving support for people who have made an attempt to take their own lives and including ensuring that in early learning centres and schools, teachers and educators have the resources they need to try and offer the best possible help and support for their students mental health, and we’re very grateful for that too.
Beyond Blue is a well-recognised name amongst the Australian community; 13 million Australians contact Beyond Blue every year, a million engage for support.
And then there are 170,000 who contact us through our support service wanting to have their issues talked through and to be referred to the right service provider. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve reached out for help, for some, they come to us in very deep distress.
We want to be able to support the community like that, but we also want to continue to address stigma, to normalise conversations around mental health, to innovate, to create new services and to deepen the research base about what we can best do to keep every community member in the best possible state of mental health. And today’s funding will go to support that all important work.
I’ll turn now to the CEO of Beyond Blue, Georgie Harman.
Thank you Julia and thank you Minister for your vote of confidence in the work that we do. It is incredibly important that we have petrol in the tank so that we can keep being there for all Australians.
Two million Australians live in an anxiety condition, a million are affected by depression every single year. We lose eight Australians to suicide every single day, these are shocking figures.
Beyond Blue wants to be there for everyone in the community where they live, work, learn and play and this continued funding will allow us to do just that.
Thank you. We’re happy to take any questions on this initiative and other than that I’ll deal with questions of the day.
Just for Ms Gillard and Ms Harman. Minister Hunt said a suicide reduction target of zero is what the government’s looking for, Lifeline is saying a reduction of 25 per cent.
What do you feel about a target for suicide reduction?
Look, I think the first thing we’ve got to say is that suicide is extremely complex, but what we know is that most Australians still don’t know what the suicide toll actually takes on our community.
So no suicide – we should be aiming for zero suicide. We should be aiming for- to be a country where know people do not feel that they are in so much pain that they see the only option is taking their life.
But let’s start by actually designing a target that we- is a stretch target, but one that we can also come together and potentially make a really good stab at.
I would just add to that by saying – I mean one thing I’ve learned being on this journey with Beyond Blue is that you can as a person who is not a health or medical professional have a conversation about suicide.
Many Australians would’ve believed what I used to believe, which is that if you use the word suicide the risk is you put the idea in someone’s head, that those conversations can only be heard by a doctor or a psychiatrist or a psychologist.
We know now from research that Beyond Blue has done, that if an ordinary person senses someone’s in distress and has a conversation with them, even a frank conversation about whether they’re thinking of suicide, as long as it’s a caring and open conversation that can be very supportive.
People who have tried to take their lives have actually talked to us about how those kinds of conversations have made a real difference to them. So I think this issue of suicide reduction, yes, of course, Minister Hunt thinks about it, other political leaders think about it, but it comes down in a practical way to all of us being prepared to reach out to others.
What impact do you expect Christine Morgan to have as the new CEO of the National Mental Health Commission?
Christine Morgan has the potential to provide immense national leadership, we’ve been very fortunate to have a great team at the Mental Health Commission, but she will bring her experience both in the corporate world but also with The Butterfly Foundation.
One of her tasks will be to help design a 10-year national strategic plan on eating disorders but she will work across anxiety and depression, suicide prevention and all of the different areas of mental health.
I think basically she’ll be – as is Georgie and as is Julia Gillard – an inspiring leader as well as a highly competent administrator in this space.
Alright, Minister, you’re running 10 points behind Labor in the latest Newspoll, what do you need to do differently?
Well, I think the critical thing is to keep focusing on Australians, keep focusing on people.
Yesterday we focused on a landmark initiative in relation to eating disorders, saving lives and protecting lives.
Today we’re focusing on anxiety and depression.
Above all else, what is it that Australians want? Australians want a government and a parliament that’s focused on them. And I think these initiatives, whether it’s in relation to new medicines, better mental health treatment or new medical research, are squarely focused at the Australian people.
And if we’re delivering for the Australian people and if we’re focused on the Australian people, then I think that’s what they want to see.
Okay. And just finally here while I have you, less than a quarter of Australians agree that you’ll win the next election, would you count yourselves as underdogs?
Well, look, I think it’s always hard for any government to secure a re-election. Our focus is on the Australian people, and if we’re focused on them, that’s exactly what I think they want.
Is the government still locked in to having a budget in April, an election in May or could that be moved around a little bit?
I stood next to the Prime Minister yesterday when he was asked that. And he said the budget will be in April and the election will follow as a consequence.
Are you satisfied asylum seekers in offshore detention are getting the best health treatment possible? What steps have you personally taken to reassure yourself of that?
One of the things that I’ve focused on and that we’ve done is to make sure that we have a very, very high rate of extremely highly qualified medical professionals on Nauru, that’s a major focus.
We have over 60 medical professionals who are on Nauru; almost half of them have mental health focus, experience and credentials. And so, that is an extremely important thing.
And wherever medical transfers are required, then they are delivered. So, a very high rate of highly qualified people on Nauru is something that the government is doing.
And most importantly Labor put 8000 children into detention in Australia; we made sure every child was taken out.
Labor put 8000 children into detention Australia, every child was taken out under us.
But when medical professionals come back from Nauru, they tend to speak out and say that conditions there aren’t optimal for children being on Nauru. How have you- what steps have you taken to look into it for yourself?
Well, as a government and as a Cabinet member, I’ve been part of and have helped make sure that we’ve reduced the numbers of children on Nauru from well over 200 down to 10 now, and six very shortly.
So, what we’ve seen is Labor put all of these people there because they removed the protections for life and limb at sea, created the opportunity for people smugglers to exploit it and there was a terrible human consequence.
We warned about this terrible human consequence in 2008 and in 2009 and we saw the tragedies at sea, we saw 17 detention centres open under Labor and 17 detention centres closed under us. We saw 8000 children go into detention under Labor and we’ve seen every child come out of detention in Australia, under us.
And we saw over 200 children moved to Nauru under Labor and over 200 children come off Nauru so as we are now down to literally a handful of children and we’ll continue to work on that front.
So, this has been a deep personal passion. We stopped the tragedy, the carnage, the loss of life; we took the children out of detention; we’ve removed the children from Nauru.
And to compare that with the tragedy which came from proposals which are quite similar to what Labor is now proposing again, and we can see that it’s not a given – it’s not a given – that the people smugglers will be out of business, you have to provide the steps to protect the population, to provide them with the medical reassurance but also to ensure that these tragedies never occur again.
In my view, what occurred at sea and what occurred through the detention under Labor was the greatest peacetime public policy failure in Australian history.
So, when would you hope those last few children are removed from Nauru?
Well, I know that the Immigration Minister is focusing on that. Let’s remember we’ve come down from well over 200 children on Nauru down to 10 and very shortly to six. And my hope and my belief and my expectation is that that process will be completed very shortly. Something that Labor created, we’re fixing and we’re resolving.
Thank you very much.