Victorian Collaborative Centre For Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill 2021 | Bill

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan): I am delighted to rise to make a contribution on the Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill 2021. This bill tackles one of the most significant and landmark reforms in Victoria’s history. The mental health issue is challenging for the community and the government. It is an issue that transcends borders; every state, national or international border has to tackle it. There are so many people whose lives were cut short due to their struggles with mental health. Mental health issues can impact anyone, be it a school student, a young adult or a middle-aged or old-aged person. We all probably know someone who is struggling with their mental health. That is why we are making sure that we take a proactive approach. Victoria has become one of the most progressive states in Australia when it comes to making mental health a priority. The pandemic has shown to us how important mental health is. We cannot take it for granted. As I grow older I realise even more how important a healthy life is.

It has been about 260 days since the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System final report was released. There was a historic joint sitting of the Parliament. The Andrews Labor government has proven that the mental health of Victorians is a major priority for us. We proved it by providing the single largest investment into mental health in Australia’s history. The $3.8 billion commitment will build a new mental health system from the ground up, a system which supports mental wellbeing and the health of Victorians, a system where Victorians can seek help without any judgement. This is why we have shown a commitment towards implementing all the recommendations. We have been committed to it since the day we established the royal commission, and we are delivering on them. We are getting on with implementing these monumental reforms.

Today I am so proud to be contributing to this bill. This legislation will enshrine the Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing. This bill is vital because it gives us an approach to tackle and deal with these issues directly in a considered and thoughtful manner. This Melbourne-based purpose-built facility will be conducting research and training and providing a full suite of mental health services to adults and older adults. The objectives of the collaborative centre are transparent. It will exhibit Victoria’s transformed mental health and wellbeing system.

The characteristics of responsiveness, collaboration and continuous improvement will be actualised by this centre. It will draw upon the expertise and experiences from across Victoria and internationally to research, develop and distribute effective practice to effect large-scale positive changes across the system. The centre will integrate the participation of people with lived experience across all functions and governance levels. The proximity of cutting-edge research with innovative service provision within the collaborative centre will ensure research priorities are set by mental health consumers, carers and practitioners and ensure new knowledge is relevant to and translated into practice. In delivering on these objectives the collaborative centre will be held to many guiding principles, which were highlighted by Dr Kieu in his contribution today.

There are eight functions of the collaborative centre. Firstly, the centre aims to provide, promote and coordinate the provision of mental health and wellbeing services. This will include providing a comprehensive range of multidisciplinary services to adults and older adults in their local community. Secondly, this centre will also provide or arrange the provision of specialist support services and care for persons who have experienced trauma. This provides for the establishment of the statewide trauma service, which will improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes for people of all ages with lived experience of trauma. Thirdly, the centre will also conduct, promote and coordinate interdisciplinary translational mental health and wellbeing research, including developing and implementing a broad research strategy, disseminating knowledge through a formal statewide network and delivering a clearing house for research output and best practice guidance.

Additionally, the collaborative centre will establish links and service access pathways between mental health services and the centre by performing a coordination function for statewide services and supporting service improvement. The centre will provide, promote and coordinate activities that support the continuing education and professional development of service providers and persons who work or conduct research in the field of mental health and wellbeing. It will also develop and implement research strategies that address priority needs in Victoria’s mental health and wellbeing system, including through collaboration with the mental health and wellbeing sector, workforce development organisations and academic and research institutes and entities. The collaborative centre will collate and disseminate best practice, advice and guidance to be applied across mental health and wellbeing settings. Finally, it will report to the minister and secretary on its functions. These functions will help to complement wider reforms in the mental health space. The centre will also support the Andrews Labor government’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the royal commission in full.

It is important to have a robust governance structure. The critical feature of the centre is its leadership. This bill will make sure that people with lived experience of mental illness or psychological distress are represented at every level of the collaborative centre, including on its governance board. This is part of an innovative co-director model of executive leadership throughout senior management. By forging ahead with standalone legislation for the collaborative centre we can get started as soon as possible on the priority actions to establish this landmark entity, including the appointment of a board by March 2022 and commencement of capital planning by early 2024, with a bricks-and-mortar site expected to be up and running by late 2026. The governance board has four dedicated positions for people with lived experience, two with a consumer background and two with a family, carer or supporter background. These positions aim to reflect some of the diversity that exists across people with lived experience of mental illness or psychological distress and to promote active and full participation at all levels of the mental health and wellbeing sector.

The bill provides for the board to establish two key partnerships: one with a health service and one with a research partner. Once both partners are selected they will have dedicated positions on the collaborative centre’s board. This will help with creating greater integration between research and service delivery. It will also nurture and establish a wide range of partnerships across the academic and health sectors. This is crucial for the collaborative centre to fulfil its functions at the centre of a network and adaptive mental health and wellbeing system.

The centre will also feature an innovative joint executive leadership model with co-directors working collaboratively to facilitate the centre’s operations. One of the co-directors will be a person with lived experience of mental illness, and the other director will come from an academic background. The co-directors will have joint executive authority over the operations and strategy of the collaborative centre, similar to the more traditional role of a chief executive officer in a single executive leadership arrangement. This approach is intended to foster cooperation and will ensure that traditional power structures identified by the royal commission that place greater emphasis on clinical academic expertise are adjusted to incorporate greater agency for people with lived experience.

In establishing these governance arrangements this bill aims to hold fast to the centrality of the experience of and outcomes for people with lived experience. That means their voices and perspectives must be part of any solutions within the system. This board will oversee not just the centre’s functions but the vision of the royal commission for innovation and transformation and importantly genuine lived experience leadership to steer our mental health and wellbeing system into the future.

As I mentioned earlier, the 2021–22 Victorian state budget has committed a record $3.8 billion to create a new mental health and wellbeing system based directly on the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. Our commitment to mental health and wellbeing ensures that people can access appropriate care and support when they need it, and close to home. In the most recent budget we provided $842 million to rebuild mental health and wellbeing supports for children and young people under the plan set out by the royal commission’s final report.

The Andrews Labor government continues to closely monitor the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of Victorians. We know how tough the last 20 months have been for the community and recognise that the mental health effects could long outlast the pandemic itself. To ensure Victorians get the care they need during and well beyond the pandemic more than $247 million in additional funding has been provided to support our mental health services.

In conclusion, the Andrews Labor government is committed to Victorians’ mental health and wellbeing, and it is delivering on it. We want Victoria to become the best place to develop and disseminate mental health research, and this centre is a key part of that agenda. I commend this bill to the house.