Future looking brighter for mental health patients and carers

Future looking brighter for mental health patients and carers

I am very pleased that Premier Daniel Andrews has acknowledged that we have a broken mental health system. Congratulations to him and his team for instigating the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System and agreeing to implement all of the recommendations this lengthy document has acknowledged need to be made.

I, as one of many who made a lengthy submission to the commission, was listened to, and will continue to lobby for equality for the full implementation of the findings for the forgotten people in our stressed health system. The future is looking brighter, hopefully for carers and their loved ones.
Name withheld, Mount Martha

Lack of coverage of findings disappointing
I watched the broadcast of the handing down of the findings from the royal commission into mental health on Tuesday. It was a significant, moving and important occasion. I am a worker in mental health but, like many, I have friends and family who use mental health services.

After reading some of the report I looked forward to taking in some of the media coverage but was perplexed at the lack of coverage of the findings on my usual news sources. I felt it ironic that the story predominantly covered was the allegation of rape by a federal cabinet minister. An important story no doubt but actually quite linked to the royal commission into mental health. The person at the centre of the story so sadly died, it seems, by suicide. The royal commission heard many stories from people who had experienced sexual assault and how the mental health system had failed them.

I think all of us are let down by insufficient coverage of important news stories.
Naomi Halperin, Bentleigh East

Health workers’ commitment needs to be recognised
As a public sector psychiatrist for more than 30 years, the royal commission has provided opportunity for defining and lasting change, which I celebrate. However, listening to the summary points I was struck by the messaging, which felt blunt, diminishing the tireless commitment and endeavour of many in Victoria’s public mental health sector. This messaging leaves us silenced, even shamed, while we remain loyal to our cause.

This system was never built for the “missing middle”, falling between public mental health and private sectors. Victoria’s public mental health service, rather than being broken, was intended for the seriously mentally ill, many of whose voices were not represented, leaving echoes of gratitude of our existing clients largely unheard.

The messaging has defined a monumental moment in history, though continues to reverberate, potentially critical of much of the positive collaboration that has and will continue to occur. I feel compelled to offer these comments on behalf of my peers and allied health colleagues who may be feeling a mix of confusion and shame about their work, which needs to be recognised and appropriately celebrated within the commission’s messaging. After all, we are the people who will be instrumental in the delivery of these changes.
Dr Nicolas Mims, consult psychiatrist, St Kilda

Properly funded services the only solution
Headlines about aged care and mental health services, and problems with private contractors dealing with the logistics of the pandemic, provide a clear message that the system is broken. The story behind the headlines is that the market, which successive governments have asked us to trust, will not provide. The lesson is that only properly funded government structures to oversee and ensure services will maintain the bare minimum of a safe and dignified life. Unless we mandate government to provide basic services and we are prepared to pay for it, then the stories will continue.
Juliette Borenstein, North Fitzroy


Stark contrast
Two caring systems crying out for reform. Aged care (Commonwealth) inaccessible, substandard, dangerous and abusive; mental health (in Victoria) broken, reactive, disconnected and inadequately responsive to individuals and families. Two royal commissions and governments respond. The Commonwealth accepts a handful of the 148 recommendations and avoids answering any probing questions from an informed media.

The Victorian government provides a space for the Commissioners, the people affected, the scientific experts, the Opposition to speak publicly and online to affected Victorians and then faces an informed media to answer questions about its commitment to implement all 65 recommendations in full.

Two royal commissions, two examples of systems underfunded and failing Australians and two government responses, a Commonwealth managing the politics and a Victoria intent on getting the reform done. What a contrast.
Anne Hartley, Balwyn North

Pious platitudes
Sean Rooney in his capacity as CEO of Leading Age Services Australia gives us some interesting reactions to the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (“Our chance to make a difference”, The Age, 2/3). Not only does he write that the report must “drive Australia and our governments to come together to achieve overall world-leading care”, but after this motherhood statement he gives an apology.

he apology starts with “We” and I take it that here he is either speaking for the whole aged care sector, which would unfairly include the good nursing homes, or he is referring to his own organisation. He describes the body he leads as “the largest representative organisation of aged care and retirement living”. Hence the apology, I assume, for it has become apparent that most of that aged care was shockingly inadequate, too often harmful and, in his own words, “unacceptable”. He states that “We are committed to doing better”, another pious platitude to which my response is: “Where were you while all this unacceptable stuff was going on?“
Janna McCurdy-Hilbrink, Northcote

Worrying times
China’s continued rhetoric about a desire for renewed co-operation and trust between our countries is based on a reality far from that goal. Obeisance, and conformity, is what is really being demanded. The people of China have shown that they are prepared to trade off certain aspects of freedom for economic prosperity. China is clearly expecting that our capitalist-driven society will eventually do the same. Whether we accept China’s 30 pieces of silver to betray our freedom is entirely up to our leaders, and that is a worry indeed.
Stephen Farrelly, Donvale

Urgent action, please
The ALP should immediately endorse Commissioner Tony Pagone’s recommendation for a new administrative body to over-see and regulate aged care services across Australia.

It should also promise to steadily phase out private operators of aged care facilities, overthrowing the appalling decision by the Howard government to privatise this important area. That decision has been the main cause of the horrific conditions in aged care facilities that the royal commission has exposed.

The Coalition will claim Commissioner Pagone’s recommendation will result in higher taxes. However, Labor can point to polling evidence that shows Australians strongly and consistently support taxes that provide first class services essential for public wellbeing.
Allan Patience, Newport

Make retirees pay levy
Why, when we need funds for healthcare and aged care, are tax-exempt self-funded retirees not paying the Medicare levy? Is it too hard to collect from non-taxpayers? How much revenue would it raise? It doesn’t seem fair that young working people get tax increases when the self-funded retirees are not paying a Medicare levy. They are the biggest consumers of healthcare and even getting “refunds” of tax they didn’t pay through franking credits.
Bronwen Murdoch, South Melbourne

Protect visiting rights
When discussing the aged care royal commission’s final report, the voices of government, aged care providers, media commentators, advocacy groups and concerned community members will hold the floor. The voice of aged care residents themselves, who are the people most affected by the deficiencies of aged care, is not heard so easily.

When visiting an aged care facility, the message that hits home from residents is, “I want to see my family”.
Along with discussion of the challenges of how to finance and overhaul the aged care system, we should not forget the pressing need to enact the necessary legal changes, to secure the right of aged care residents to be visited by their families and friends.
Ruth Farr, Blackburn South

Funding transparency
The aged care sector needs more money. However, the government should not give more money to aged care providers without financial transparency. Currently the public has no way of knowing how providers spend $21 billion of government subsidies. Do they spend the subsidy on providing nursing care, meals and activities for residents or on sports cars for their executive team?
Sarah Russell, co-founder, Aged Care Reform Now

Vale Michael Gudinski
Forget all the accolades and tributes from the “stars” for Michael Gudinski. I remember a youngster on P plates who would take the time and trouble to find local band talent to support Zoot, The Groop, Master Apprentices, Aztecs, etc., at Mechanics Institute dances across Melbourne – and remunerate them such that they felt worthy and encouraged.

I owe a lifelong debt of gratitude to the Gudinskis, Stivalas and Meldrums for the opportunity of a few Countdown appearance to recognise (while still young) that “Idon’t have what it takes” for professional musicianship. Countless acquaintances and friends still yearn in old age for “performance” recognition while I have “been there, done that”.

To compound the situation, our son never undertook any VCE music subjects but was trusted to accompany other kids in their exams. I was allowed to hear their assessment performances and can only say that I was delusional to think I was musical after hearing our youngsters’ creativity and professionalism. I wish Michael had been with me to revel in the artistic brilliance of our youth.
Ronald Elliott, Sandringham

We deserve better
It seems our Prime Minister has become so used to bluffing his way by planting his feet, aggressively denying and lying so often that he seems to have felt that this proven ruse would work in all circumstances. With nodding colleagues, an army of spin doctors and a largely compliant press, he has got away with it for 18 months … until the last few days. He now presents as a weak man, cornered, indecisive and paralysed. We deserve better.
Peter Barry, Marysville

Rural health solutions
Thank you Dr Skye Kinder (“Eating disorders not just a city issue”, The Age, 1/2) for drawing attention to the lack of mental health services in rural and regional areas. The concept of “innovative models of mental healthcare” makes great sense and “operationalising” this concept is both challenging and exciting. Increased access to eating disorder treatment is crucial.

Anorexia and bulimia nervosa are life-threatening; however, there is an increasing need to treat those with binge-eating disorder and less recognised eating disorders. Prevention, early intervention, acute care and support for eating disorders and other serious mental illnesses entail a multi-disciplinary approach best delivered in the public mental health arena.

In rural areas a team approach could be provided by well-resourced and staffed Community Health Centres, which are easily accessible and provide support for both the clients and staff involved.
Lesley Osenieks, Birregurra

Advice outdated
The advice given by General Angus Campbell to cadets “not to make themselves ‘prey’ to sexual predators” by sticking to the “Four As”: alcohol, out after midnight, alone and attractive, is indicative of how the leaders in a workplace are a part of the systemic problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Campbell just doesn’t “get it” and his world view is both outdated and misinformed (“Defence chief Angus Campbell tells cadets to avoid being ‘prey’ to predators”, The Age, 3/3).

Specifically, the salient point missed by Campbell is that “predators” must be held to account for their behaviour and that it is incumbent upon him – as one of the leaders of the ADF – to foster a culture of accountability, whereby sexual harassment/assault is not tolerated. Because one of the recurring themes being played out in the parliament is that if there is no code of (expected) conduct and system of accountability, then it fosters an alternative culture of “anything goes”.
Jelena Rosic, Mornington

Sensible measures
General Angus Campbell’s advice to young women to take measures to reduce the likelihood of sexual assault has met the expected criticism and calls for him to withdraw his statement. In utopia, women would not be assaulted. In utopia, anyone could walk anywhere, dress however they pleased, drink as much alcohol as they wished, all without fear of assault. But we don’t have utopia: for this reason, sensible people take sensible measures.

The women who have recently brought terrible assault stories to our notice are not to blame and they must be supported as much as possible. At the same time, all adults must understand they live in an imperfect world and act accordingly.
Pam Cupper, Dimboola



Cabinet minister entitled to presumption of innocence in historical rape case but not robo-debt victims. The Morrison government seems happy to ignore the presumption of innocence when it suits.
Rachel Ferris, South Melbourne

So ScoMo has fixed the backlog in the justice system: if anyone accused of a crime strongly denies it, no further action will be taken.
Richard Wilson, Croydon

Michael O’Brien won’t support a tax to fix the Victorian mental health system. It’ll be fascinating to see if he’ll support a new federal “levy” to fix the aged care system.
Tim Durbridge, Brunswick

ATO, I’ve decided I’ll pay my extra income tax this year (through GST) by buying Lindt chocolate instead.
David Cayzer, Clifton Hill

Memo to PM. How about cutting the 50 per cent capital gains tax reduction and negative gearing? That will solve your problem with funding aged care reforms.
Ken Finley, Mount Martha

Another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – tackle aged care using progressive taxation. Scrap the high end tax cuts.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Fuel prices
Come on ASIC, petrol up 40¢ – 33per cent – overnight. This huge increase cannot be right.
Doug Perry, Mount Martha

Petrol prices in Portland: ULP 119.9¢, diesel 123.9¢. Who is ripping off whom?
Peter Cooke, Warrnambool

The RBA says interest rates to remain historically low until 2024 without mentioning the damage to retirees and their savings.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood

As long as fossil fuel and mining industries control the government, then electric vehicle uptake will be pushed to the back of the queue.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

The cartoon, “Death doesn’t frighten me, aged care does!” (The Age, 3/3) says it all.
Anne Kruger, Rye

Note from the Editor

The Age’s editor, Gay Alcorn, writes an exclusive newsletter for subscribers on the week’s most important stories and issues. Sign up here to receive it every Friday.

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