Doorstop interview: 17/03/2022

March 17, 2022




SUBJECTS: Mental health services; Labor acts on the need for a Headspace centre in Box Hill; Senator Kimberley Kitching.
CARINA GARLAND, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CHISHOLM: Hi, I'm Carina Garland, I’m the Labor candidate for Chisolm and I'm so delighted to have Mark Butler visiting today for a very important announcement, which is to set up a headspace in Box Hill. I'm also joined here by Senator Jess Walsh, and the Mayor of the City of Whitehorse, Tina Liu, who has been a really passionate advocate for this project. 

It's been much needed in his community for quite some time now. And the need to look after the mental health of young people has only been exacerbated by a couple of really tough years during COVID. I'm really proud that Labor is standing up for our community and making sure that headspace is going to be a part of our community, to service the needs of so many young people. Thank you.

CR TINA LIU, MAYOR OF WHITEHORSE CITY COUNCIL: Thank you, everyone. Good morning. I'm pleased to be here to join Carina, Senator Walsh, and Shadow Minister Mark Butler as well, for the exciting announcement of a headspace facility in Box Hill and Whitehorse Council's certainly welcomes the Federal Opposition’s commitment in investing in our youth of Whitehorse. 

It's been an identified services gap, particularly around mental health support services for our younger community, and we've seen specifically through the pandemic as well how it's been challenging for many people in Whitehorse and the broader community, but in particular, young people. And I have to say that it makes perfect sense establishing such a facility in Box Hill, we’re so well connected to the schools, to our healthcare and medical precinct, but also to transport as well, and accessibility to these mental health support services is pivotal. 

So once again, we welcome this wonderful announcement and we look forward to working with the Federal Labor Government, should they be successful at the upcoming election.

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER HEALTH AND AGEING: Thank you, Mayor. And thank you for the Council’s support of this project, calling for headspace to be a place here at Box Hill. And I also want to thank Carina for her advocacy of this issue, as well as my colleague, Senator Walsh. 

Mental health is probably unique among all of the major health conditions that we face in this country in that it tends to emerge at a young age. If you are going to experience a mental disorder in your life, two thirds of people will have it emerge before they turn 21 years of age, and three quarters of disorders will emerge before 25. That's why it is so important to have services available to people that are youth friendly, that are designed by young people, and where young people feel comfortable rather, frankly, than the historical position where we expected young people simply to go to their parents’ GP. Understandably, probably unsurprisingly, so many just didn't do that. 

Over the last couple of decades, we've seen headspace grow into a really exciting network of services across the country. It was started by the Howard Government, accelerated particularly by the Gillard Government, and it has continued in its growth over the past nine years of a Liberal Government. But there is a gap here at Box Hill. It's a gap that's been identified by headspace National, with whom we've been consulting about this announcement. And it's quite clear that the community around Box Hill, the young people in Box Hill and the surrounding suburbs, need a service here, and we've seen over the past couple of years, that level of need only increase. 

I'm really pleased, on behalf of the Labor Party, to make it very clear that if we're elected at the next election, the development of a service here in Box Hill, in a location that will be decided by headspace in consultation with the Council and a range of other providers in the area, will be a priority for a Labor Government. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: We know that young people across the state are struggling with mental health - are there plans to expand services even further in different areas of the state?

BUTLER: There are, and headspace has been working very hard to identify those gaps that I talked about. We started under the Howard Government with a network of headspace services that only amounted to a few dozen, that was appropriate at the time. It was a trial sort of phase of the project, if you like, and it's been steadily expanded now to represent almost 150 services across the country, which is really an extraordinary network, providing a level of support to young people that historically simply wasn't there. But there are gaps. Box Hill is one of those gaps identified by headspace National as a high priority area. 

This is not the only service that will be built over the coming years - there will be additional services built, they will be announced in due course.

JOURNALIST: We've heard of one of the challenges with mental health reform is lack of cooperation between State and Federal governments. What would you do to fix that?

BUTLER: I think a really signature event over the last couple of years has been the Victorian Royal Commission into mental health and the response announced by Daniel Andrews and his Government to that Royal Commission. What that led to was the beginning of a really important process of dialogue, I think, between all states and the Commonwealth about some of those integration issues, those interface issues. In health, generally, probably those interface issues are as complex of mental health, as in any other area. 

There is a great need to start to more clearly delineate Commonwealth and state responsibilities in supporting the mental health needs of the entire population, including young people. So, I look forward to those negotiations continuing, they haven't yet reached a final landing point, I think as has been made clear by the Victorian Government over recent days, but it is a really important piece of work that frankly, was initiated and led by the Victorian Government's Royal Commission into mental health and the Government response.

JOURNALIST: Minister just on Kimberley Kitching, are you aware of any complaints that Ms Kitching made to either the Labor Party or an external agency in regards to allegations of bullying?

BUTLER: All I've seen is the reports over the last 24 hours. And I'll just say this, that the Labor Party, as well, obviously, as Senator Kitching’s loved ones and family in particular, are in a period of mourning. Her funeral still hasn't taken place, it’s scheduled for Monday, and I'm simply not going to comment on the various reports that I've seen over the last 24 hours in a period of mourning.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Labor should investigate claims that she was fully ostracised?

BUTLER: As I said, I’m just simply not going to comment on these reports. I think it's inappropriate to do so, it's just not right that we have that sort of discussion in a period like this.

JOURNALIST: Do you think this may undermine Labor's calls for an advocacy for better workplace culture in Federal politics?

BUTLER: I’ve got nothing further to add to my previous answer.

JOURNALIST: And did she ever address her concerns with you?

BUTLER: No, I've never had a discussion of that type with Senator Kitching.

JOURNALIST: We've also had a former Labor MP, Michael Danby, who says that her treatment was nothing short of bullying, what’s your response to that?

BUTLER: I’ve got nothing further to add to my previous answer. Thanks very much.