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Mental Health

Mental Health

Ms SPENDER (Wentworth) (14:44): My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. The senseless attack at Bondi Junction on 13 April left six people dead and traumatised my community. The perpetrator experienced severe mental health problems and had fallen through the cracks of our mental health system. Since the attack, I have been contacted by the families and friends of many others who are experiencing complex mental health conditions. They are desperately worried about their loved ones and they are crying out for more support. What is the government doing to support those with the most complex conditions and to fix our broken mental health system?

Mr BUTLER (HindmarshMinister for Health and Aged Care and Deputy Leader of the House) (14:45): I thank the member for Wentworth for her question. I want to pay tribute to her representation of a community that has been doing it so tough, particularly over the last several months. She and I, and the Leader of the Opposition, were at a gathering of I think about 10,000 members of Sydney's Jewish community, so many of whom live in her electorate, in the days after the heinous terrorist attacks on 7 October. We saw firsthand in those early days the grief, horror and trauma experienced by that community, which has been compounded by the horrific rise in antisemitism. Your representation and your compassion to your community has been extraordinary.

On top of that, your community has had to deal with the horrific attacks at Bondi Junction and the trauma that has reverberated through your community, in particular, and right through Sydney—and, to a degree, Australia as well. I've really appreciated the engagement you've shown to our government in trying to design what supports we can to help your community through this period of trauma, grief and dislocation. Obviously, this is a series of programs that has been a subject of negotiation with the New South Wales government as well.

But you're right to talk of the gaps. Family members or victims of the Bondi Junction attack have pointed to the, frankly, very large gaps in supports for people with severe and persistent mental illness. This has been an enduring discussion in Australia since the deinstitutionalisation processes of 30 years ago. Many people with severe and persistent mental illness, including psychotic disorders, receive terrific support from the NDIS, but we know that too many fall outside of that system. Many of the psychosocial programs that were in place before the NDIS were rolled into that scheme and, frankly, we're just really trying to hold that population through schemes that were intended to operate for a period of time while we designed an alternative set of arrangements. In many cases they're not cracks, they are very big chasms for support.

States are undertaking unmet needs analysis as part of an agreement with the former government that I applaud. We know this is going to number tens and tens of thousands of Australian not getting the support that they need. This will be a very big focus of the foundational supports process that the Minister for Social Services is leading with the states and territories. We're trying to do what we can through the strengthening Medicare agenda. I see that the New South Wales government made some announcements today for additional supports following Premier Minns' commitment, as part of the coronial inquest, to do better. As the Prime Minister said, it's for us to do better for a group that, frankly, has not been sufficiently supported in the past 30 years, in spite of the broad promises to do so. I thank the member for her engagement on this important issue.

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