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SANE's response to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

SANE's response to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

This week I attended the historic joint sitting of the Victorian Parliament, as we witnessed the tabling of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

The mood in the room was one of hope, and expectations were high.

We met on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations, and hearing the Chair of the Commission, Penny Armytage AM, reflect on how we have much to learn from the holistic models of social and emotional wellbeing and healing held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities was an important opening to the proceedings, and a view I strongly share. As I said in my video following the event, talk of healing in the mental health sector is something we rarely hear from Governments in relation to mental health. A welcome change.

I was joined by author, poet and SANE Peer Ambassador Sandy Jeffs OAM, who had previously provided evidence during the Commission’s hearings.

As we waited for the event to commence, Sandy and I reflected on the unrealised vision of previous inquiries and reports.

We have both seen previous reforms fail to live up to expectations, stymied by lack of funding and political will. In anticipation of this Final Report and the imperative that both sides of politics commit to funding its implementation, we inadvertently developed our own hashtag on Twitter – #showmethemoney!

It was striking to hear Premier Daniel Andrews quote a passage on mental health reform – and then point out that he was reading, not from the new Royal Commission Report, but from the Burdekin report tabled almost 30 years ago. As many of us felt in the room, he remarked that the sentiments were unfortunately “achingly familiar”.

I did feel a sense of shared determination that history would not repeat itself from others in the room.

As Professor Pat McGorry AO said, “I’ve seen 50 reports surface and gather dust. Not this time”. I am hopeful that this is true, and that we can maintain political commitment from both sides of the aisle to reform. 

New into my role as SANE’s CEO, I see big opportunities for SANE to help shape this process, based on the recommendations of this report. I am committed to collaborating with the community and others working in this space to bring about bold change. SANE is also undergoing a process of transformation. If you’re able to do so, we hope that you can support our capacity in this vital work by making a donation. 

SANE has 35 years of expertise to play a critically needed and unique role in implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

SANE delivers counselling and peer support services, which are critical to rebalance the system to provide more comprehensive care grounded in compassion and healing – a key focus of the Final Report.

SANE’s digital support services are also primed to implement the Commission’s recommendation that services are offered through a range of delivery modes including telehealth and digital technologies.

SANE’s National Stigma Report Card is also referenced in the Final Report. I am pleased that the Royal Commission has heard the voices of people who contributed to the Our Turn to Speak survey, which captured the views of 1,912 adults living with complex mental health issues across Australia.

It was encouraging to see that many of the issues that SANE raised in our 2019 submission to the Royal Commission have been reflected in the Final Report – clearly we are being heard.

However, big questions remain:

  • How will government ensure that lived experience informs and leads the implementation of the recommendations?
  • How will community-led and non-government organisations be offered a seat at the table to ensure that the Royal Commission’s ambitious vision is realised?
  • How will government prioritise and sequence reform efforts?

SANE is committed to working with those with lived experience, the community, government and sector partners to seek answers to these pertinent questions. We look forward to offering SANE’s unique expertise gained from 35 years' experience to ensure that implementation is genuinely inclusive of people with complex mental health needs and their families and support networks.

And, as one of our Peer Ambassadors, Shazi Sheppard, said during our live conversation on Twitter straight after the Final Report was announced, “[Let’s] begin making swift changes wherever possible. And start today!”

Read the Final Report of the Royal Commission Inquiry into Victoria’s Mental Health System here: https://finalreport.rcvmhs.vic.gov.au/

Read SANE Australia’s media statement here.

Donate today to ensure Australians affected by complex mental health needs receive support to live long and fulfilling lives, free from stigma and discrimination.

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