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Transcript 40649

Address - 2016 Australian Mental Health Prize

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/12/2016

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 40649

Location: University of New South Wales, Sydney

Vice-Chancellor, Ita Buttrose, Dame Marie Bashir, Minister Pru Goward; so many distinguished friends and leaders in the Australian enterprise of dealing at long last with the challenge of mental illness.

I want to pay tribute to you all for the work you do and for being here because as you know, for too many Australians mental illness feels not only like a losing battle, but like a battle that must be fought alone.

It can affect any one of us, no matter who we are, or where we work and at some point in their life; almost half of all Australians will be affected—four million in any one year.

Our reluctance to talk openly about mental health has been a barrier in the past to the de-stigmatisation of mental illness, you cannot deal with a problem that you do not acknowledge and that has been a big issue.

We have now started to talk about it and the devastating impact it’s had on so many people. Only today I was with my friend and former parliamentary colleague, ministerial colleague, Andrew Robb, what great leadership he showed some years ago, talking about his battle with depression and the way he tackled it and conquered it.

And of course, very recently the new member for Berowra, Julian Leeser, spoke eloquently about his father when he gave his maiden speech or his first speech in the Parliament.

Julian’s father committed suicide, and Julian talked about that event. He talked about his regret that he was unable to help his father and that his father was unable to get the help he needed.

We are all grateful that Julian chose to share his story, so that others may be spared his sorrow and his loss.

So many of you have done that, Jessica of course is one among many here who have shared their stories of mental illness and have contributed to our awareness and our ability to grapple with it.

The Australian Mental Health Prize, which I commend the University, is another step towards a more open and honest national conversation.

No one is more committed to securing the mental wealth of Australia, to quote Ian Hickie who I always refer to as one of Ian’s great lines, talking about the mental wealth of nations. And I apologise to all of his fellow scientists and researchers and clinicians by always referring to Ian there. ‘I love youse all’ but it was a very keen insight.

Because what Ian did when he talked about it was he actually nailed our shared interest in the mental health of everybody else. We are in it together and the seven finalists we honour tonight understand that perhaps better than any of us or as well as any of us.

Betty Kitchener, founder of the world’s first Mental Health First Aid program that teaches us how to help someone in crisis, to Wiradjuri man Joe Williams, a former professional sportsman who is reaching out through his suicide prevention charity.

John Mendoza, motivated by the loss of his nephew, to reduce the rates of suicide, to mental health nurse Kim Ryan, who knows the power of nurses to make things better and is ensuring that they are at the very heart of our efforts.

Annette Baker’s Winter Solstice event in Albury helps people affected by suicide to deal with their grief. The tragic loss of her daughter Mary has inspired Annette in her work.

Ian Hickie, who I just mentioned, his research and advocacy have made such a difference to the nation’s understanding of mental illness and what a great partner he has in Liz as they together, work together as a great team, helping to secure the mental wealth of our nation.

And the former soldier, James Prascevic, raising awareness of mental illness among our veterans, and finding new ways to help them recover.

I am inspired by how many of you have stepped up to the cause because you have been touched by mental illness in your own lives—for some of you in the most unimaginable, tragic of circumstances, the suicide of a loved one.

You have overcome enormous challenges to shine light into what can be very dark places.

As you continue your work, governments must equally ensure that when people do reach out for support, they receive the best care possible.

I am very proud that our Government, our Federal Government is changing the way we deliver services and support - by putting people at the centre of care. Pru talked about stepped-care – and that’s a key part of our approach – of our collective approach to mental health. 

And I was pleased to strengthen our commitment further with an additional $192 million mental health package in the recent election.

Our Primary Health Networks are now at the heart of planning, commissioning and integrating mental health services at a regional level.

We must have a system that supports the mental health of all Australians, no matter who they are, where they live, or what the nature or stage of their illness is.

These are significant reforms and I acknowledge that they will take time and—for an issue as multifaceted and complex as mental health—careful consideration.

There will be challenges as they are rolled out. But my Government is committed to working with the sector and communities - listening and if necessary adapting to ensure we get this right. We cannot do this without you. We depend on you, your insights, your experience, your passion.

Many of you have told me that these are the right reforms - putting care and support at the local level. So we need to get it right for people, their families, carers and communities.

Our reforms recognise what the experts have known for a long time, that a stepped-care model works best and is what we need. And when it comes to suicide prevention, it is clear that what is needed is a completely new approach.

About 65,000 Australians attempt suicide each year and, in 2015, more than 3,000 of those attempts resulted in a death.

Just one suicide is one too many.

As I know many of you have heard and have said, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

We must more about suicide and its tragic cost. But while we need to recognise the prevalence, the normality if you like of mental illness, we cannot normalise suicide.

Moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach will make a lasting impact and our 12 Regional Suicide Prevention Trial Sites will, with time, help us to see what actually works on the ground - what can be done to change these shocking statistics.

We are determined to discover where we can have the biggest impact and which interventions are most effective at saving lives.

I’d like also to talk about how we can better support the mental health of our veterans. I know this is very close to James Prascevic’s heart and the work that has brought him here as a finalist.

We have to do a better job at meeting the mental health needs of our service men and women, and helping them overcome the challenges of the transition to civilian life after deployment.

I’ve been fortunate to have an insight into that at a family level through Daisy’s husband, our son-in-law, James Brown, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has introduced me to many of his generation of young ex-service men and women including John Bale, the founder of Soldier On, and many others involved in the RSL including at the North Bondi RSL in particular.

We are taking a collective, comprehensive approach to doing a better job to support our veterans. I firmly believe that in these centenary years of the Great War – we best honour the diggers of 1916 by supporting the service men and women, the veterans and their families of 2016. That is what we must do.

You would have seen the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program, again as with so many of these things, it’s a question of awareness. One of the best ways to ensure that veterans transition from service – service men and women transition out of the ADF into civilian life - is to make sure they’ve got a good job.

They bring such extraordinary skills, really quite unique skills of leadership, adaptability, of grit and determination and of course operating in challenging environments that for most of us would be barley imaginable. Those skills are of enormous value. Again we want to make sure more employers understand that.

We’ve also announced our National Mental Health Commission will undertake a review of the effectiveness of the self-harm and suicide services accessible by ADF members and veterans.

We are establishing one of the Suicide Prevention Trial Sites in Townsville. It’s a very large service and veteran’s community, to test and tailor services there. And we are committed to providing a whole-of-person approach that gives the right support to veterans at the right time. And as you have seen, we’ve announced that from this year, from July in fact, Australian service men and women, anyone who has served only a day in the ADF will have thenceforth access without charge to mental health services for mental illness and indeed for substance abuse and alcohol abuse conditions.

So we are throwing everything we can at this issue of the mental health of our veterans. We owe it to them as I said, this year and next year and the year after, we will be remembering the sacrifices in the First World War, the Great War and the heroism of our forebears there. We best honour them by looking after the service men and women, the veterans and the families of today. That’s how we best honour them and we will.

Mental illness costs the Australian economy almost $60 billion per year, so it is estimated. That is a big number but it really understates the scale of the issue. It robs people of relationships, of chances to study, of experiences and employment - at its most cruel it robs them of the chance to lead a happy, productive and fulfilled life; and, indeed, for some as we noted a moment ago, life itself.

Acknowledgement, recognition, awareness is absolutely key to dealing with the problem. So this inaugural Australian Mental Health Prize creates another forum to talk about mental health.

It pays appropriate tribute to the people, all of you, who are making a different and to each of the finalists tonight, I want thank you again for your dedication to improving the mental wellbeing of our nation. For burnishing the mental wealth of Australia. You are great Australians, you are making a mark in a field that is absolutely critical to our future. You are helping secure our future.

Each one of you would be a worthy winner but there can be only one winner tonight. So please join me in congratulating Adjunct Associate Professor Kim Ryan.


Transcript 40649