March 02, 2021 | Diane Squires
The Federation of Community Legal Centres has welcomed the State Government’s commitment to better responding to mental health issues following the release of the report of findings from the Mental Health Royal Commission.
Federation of Community Legal Centres CEO Ms Serina McDuff commended the government for committing to review the state’s response to mental health and for recognising the important role people with lived experience would play in guiding the delivery of better mental health services in Victoria.
She also welcomed Daniel Andrews’ commitment to implement “every single one of the recommendations”.
“This is a weighty and welcome report,” Ms McDuff said.
“It’s 3195 pages of uncomfortable reading that delivers our state an opportunity to ensure all Victorians are treated with dignity and respect and that they are not unfairly treated because of mental health concerns.
“It is pleasing and appropriate that the report has highlighted the importance of listening to those with lived experience in determining the way forward when it comes to mental health responses across Victoria.”
Ms McDuff welcomed the proposed expansion of the specialist Assessment and Referral Court to Victoria’s 12 headquarter Magistrate’s Courts and noted the focus on youth mental health in the report.
“This report reorients our mental health services, it provides a roadmap to ensuring early intervention and support for those who need it,” she said.
Ms McDuff also welcomed the commission’s recommendation that medically trained professionals be relied on as first responders to instances involving mental health over police officers.
“We have long advocated for a health response over a law and order response in relation to issues where mental health is a factor,” she said.
Ms McDuff also welcomed the Royal Commission’s recommendation that up to 60 community-based adult mental health services be established across the state.
“We know from our integrated services model, that early, community-based, assistance is vital to help those Victorians most vulnerable to injustice,” she said.
“Access to legal assistance is a vital part of this support. Studies show at least 20 percent of people accessing Community Legal Centres experience mental health issues, but we believe this figure is under reported.”
Ms McDuff welcomed reforms to support the mental health and wellbeing of people in contact with, or at risk of coming into contact with, the criminal and youth justice systems.
Ms McDuff said the Federation would review the report in more detail and seek further advice from the Victorian Government over coming weeks to better understand the implications for the community legal sector and the community’s access to equal justice.
The Federation of Community Legal Centres is the peak body for Community Legal Centres in Victoria. We strive for a community that is fair, inclusive and thriving, where every person belongs and can learn, grow, heal, participate and be heard.