Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System – Ministerial Response

Scroll down for the Minister’s response, or click here to discover more about how we’re working for Wendouree.

Original adjournment matter from Juliana Addison MP to Parliament –

I direct my adjournment matter to the Deputy Premier in his capacity as Minister for Mental Health in light of the final report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System being handed down this week.

Issues of mental health touch all Victorians either directly or indirectly. That is why I strongly welcome that this government has already committed to implementing every single recommendation.

Can the Minister for Mental Health please provide me with a detailed update on what constituents in my electorate of Wendouree can expect following the final report being tabled and how my community of Ballarat will benefit from the final report?

The royal commission is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix the broken system and save and improve the lives of so many Victorians, as well as supporting families and carers.

The Andrews Labor government made a historic election commitment ahead of the 2018 state election to undertake a royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system. The interim report of the royal commission was handed down in November 2019, providing a range of immediate recommendations that are already being implemented by this government.

As we recover from the COVID pandemic, we know that there are going to be many social, economic and health impacts, including mental health. That is why it is so important that we focus on the welfare and wellbeing of our families, friends and community members.

Last year’s Victorian state budget 2020-21 provided $868.6 million to get underway with delivering the interim recommendations ahead of the final report and ensure that services were supported post pandemic. This was in addition to the $215 million coronavirus pandemic mental health support package also provided last year.

I wish to thank the Premier for his leadership on this most significant issue, as well as the former Minister for Mental Health, the member for Albert Park, for his tireless work over the last two years. By acting on the outcomes of this report, I know that we will save lives.

I look forward to hearing from the Minister for Mental Health and reporting back to my community.


Response from the Hon James Merlino MP, Deputy Premier, Minister for Education & Minister for Mental Health (12th March 2021) –

I thank the Member for Wendouree for her question.

I acknowledge your enthusiasm about the release of the final report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System and echo your sentiments about the once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild the system and improve the lives of so many Victorians, including constituents in your electorate of Wendouree and the community of Ballarat.

The Royal Commission final report contains 65 recommendations that establish a blueprint to transform mental health support and care to make it accessible, flexible and responsive – free of stigma and discrimination. The Andrews Labor Government will implement every single recommendation so that Victorians will be able to get the treatment they need sooner, and closer to home and family.

We know the experience of poor mental health and wellbeing is different in rural and regional areas, and that the future mental health system must address long-standing disparities in service access and mental health outcomes between metropolitan and regional communities.

People living in rural and regional areas can face a number of challenges when accessing mental health treatment, care and support, including stigma and a lack of local services, as well as limited availability of specialist expertise, private mental health care or services for infants, children and young people. Compounding this, workforce shortages experienced across the system are more pronounced in rural and regional areas. Most concerningly, self-harm and suicide rates are higher in rural and regional Victoria than in the city.

Importantly, the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System makes recommendations that will deliver improvements in rural and regional Victoria, including:

  • Recommendation 3, which calls for the establishment of a responsive and integrated mental health and wellbeing system, to ensure that all Victorians receive most services locally.
  • Recommendation 4, which calls for the introduction of Regional Mental Health and Wellbeing Boards as new regional governance structures to:
    • support mental health and wellbeing services to be planned and organised in a way that responds to community needs and improves outcomes
    • provide a platform for greater integration across services beyond the mental health and wellbeing system
    • commission Local Mental Health and Wellbeing Services and Area Mental Health and Wellbeing Services, ensuring that these services respond to the needs of local communities and recognise the unique strengths and challenges of each region.
  • Recommendation 11, which calls for new models of care for bed-based services, including residential respite services that are informed by local priorities.
  • Recommendation 15, which calls for the establishment and recurrent funding of ‘community collectives’ for mental health and wellbeing in each local government area, to lead local efforts towards improving social connection and inclusion.
  • Recommendation 17, which calls for funding for evidence-based initiatives to assist schools in supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing, with priority to be given to schools in rural and regional areas.
  • Recommendation 39, which calls for more resources to enable mental health and wellbeing services in regional Victoria to meet the needs of small or geographically isolated rural communities. This includes calling for the Victorian Government to trial new digital service delivery initiatives in two sites in rural and regional Victoria by the end of 2022.
  • Recommendation 40, which calls for new incentives to support the attraction and retention of the mental health and wellbeing workforce in rural and regional areas.

Since release of the report on 2 March 2021, the Andrews Labor Government has fast-tracked the delivery of six new local Adult and Older Adult Mental Health and Wellbeing Services, a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. These services will help Victorians access help in the community earlier – before they need to access a hospital or reach a crisis point.

The six sites will be the first of up to 60 across the state, providing a ‘front-door’ for anyone in the community to access mental health support including a range of therapies and expanded wellbeing treatment. While the rest of the locations of these services have not yet been decided, I will keep you updated on the location of your closest service as implementation progresses.

In addition, Regional Mental Health and Wellbeing Boards will have a critical leadership role in providing rural communities with mental health and wellbeing services and enabling localised decision-making.

The Royal Commission’s recommendations set out a 10-year vision for a re-balanced system where mental health and wellbeing treatment, care and support are provided in the community, hospital and other residential settings. It seeks to rebuild the system from the ground up, with communities, like those in the electorate of Wendouree, at the centre.

The ambitious agenda set out in the final report will take time, but these new localised mental health services will provide better coverage and easier access to services for Victorians, no matter where they live.

I trust this information is of assistance.