Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's Interview at the Doorstop Melbourne
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
9 January 2019
Topics: $47 million for headspace to support youth mental health; cane toads; national child sex offender register; Saudi Arabian girl in Bangkok; Labor’s attack on retiree income – franking credits.
Well, thanks very much ladies and gentlemen, thanks very much everyone.
We’d like to commence the proceedings by first of all acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we gather today, pay respects to elders both past and present.
This is a really exciting day for headspace and there’s a lot more to be said by the minister about the announcements and also Chris here and a couple of other brief presentations here today.
My name’s Jason Threthowan, CEO for headspace, the national youth mental health foundation. My first job is to welcome to you a face that’s familiar to everyone here, that’s Chris Crewther who’s the member for Dunkley, the federal Member for Dunkley and Chris's area covers headspace Frankston.
I'd just like to say a huge thank you to headspace Frankston and the team here today for hosting us on this very important announcement for headspace and youth mental health more broadly across Australia. So thank you Chris and I welcome you to say a few words.
Thank you. Well firstly thank you, thank you very much everyone for coming along today to this very important announcement at Frankston headspace.
Frankston headspace as you know does a terrific job here locally but headspace nationally does so much with our young people tackling mental health and so many other things.
I'm here with Greg Hunt and also the CEO of headspace nationally Jason Trethowan, but I'd like to also like to acknowledge the terrific work of Leisl Jackson, all the team and all the volunteers and others at Frankston headspace who do a terrific job.
Thank you for all that you do. I know that I've worked with Greg in support in Frankston headspace locally. We've increased funding for example for mental health lead site funding, but thank you very much for all that you do.
Without further ado, I'd like to pass to the Minister of Health Greg Hunt to make this important announcement today.
Thanks very much to Chris who does such an amazing job locally; to Jason and to Pat McGorry for their work with headspace nationally. Headspace is a safe space.
It's where young people can turn in a time of crisis, in a time of need, and they know they can go there and receive the support and they know they can go there and be received and be accepted and be acknowledged and given real help in the way that they need it on their terms and that's what's inspiring.
I was with Pat not long ago in Logan in South Brisbane where we announced funding for youth psychosis and we met young people who had experienced the most severe trauma and just, nearly two years ago now, we went together to Grafton and Grafton had experienced a contagion of youth suicide.
And what was it that the young people and the parents of Grafton wanted? They wanted a headspace and we were fortunate to be able to deliver that, and the best advice that we have is that in Grafton, since the headspace came, they have fortunately not had any young people take their lives.
Now that has helped - it wouldn't be the only factor - but it's been an important factor.
I want to acknowledge the Mayor Michael O'Reilly who's a passionate advocate for youth mental health; to Leisl and her team and then to our brilliant young youth ambassadors Niharika Hiremath and to Beau Vernon and I'll talk a little bit more about them very shortly.
Now, I want to address three things briefly. One) we know that mental health is a national challenge.
Nearly four million people experience some form of mental health challenge each and every year. It's part of the challenge that individuals face but it's also a modern condition where the way we live, the pressures of life, exacerbate it.
Our first task is to say this can happen to anybody. It's normal. It's not just something which is exceptional. It's part of our lives and therefore it's appropriate and fair and reasonable for anybody to seek help.
Secondly though, is to say that there are the services that are available, and nationally we're doing that whether it's young people; whether it’s those through their working ages; or those in retirement, but today, we are particularly focused on youth mental health and we know that there are over half a million young Australians in any one year between the ages of 16 and 24 who will have some form of mental health challenge.
Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, it could be bipolar or psychosis or suicidality. So there's a particular responsibility because three-quarters of those mental health challenges which people over 25 years face, started before they were 25.
And so if we can take the steps in the early years to give people a pathway to recovery, then we can make a lifelong difference in terms of their quality of life, their experience, their family’s lives.
So in order to deal with that, in recent months, we’ve supported the expansion of headspace services up with a $51 million program, plus another six dealing with eheadspace and other elements.
Secondly, we’ve done the youth psychosis in conjunction with Pat and Jason, and headspace and Orygen. But today, I’m delighted to announce a $47 million injection into headspace services out to 2023, in particular, for the first time, we will have a young mental health ambassadors program.
And this program is about having inspiring young role models who have faced challenges, who will show that there is a pathway to recovery.
In particular, I’m delighted that Niharika Hiremath - brilliant speaker, when you hear Niharika, you hear the future of Australia.
Niharika is one of those voices who’s had her own journey and her own challenges. And she’s been through the long dark night of the soul, and triumphed.
I’m really just honoured to see you and to meet you, and to hear you, Niharika. And we also have other plans. Niharika will work across Australia as a youth young ambassador for mental health.
Beau Vernon - Beau is an inspiring footy coach. He, in the last two years, has coached Leongatha to a premiership, and then Phillip Island to a premiership.
And of course, he was a great footy player who had his own accident and has had to deal with a change of life circumstances, as he said to me, and all of the challenges.
And Beau will be our Victorian young ambassador for mental health. And so he’ll hopefully continue his footy coaching. We’d like you as an assistant coach at Richmond this year, if that’s alright, Beau.
But also have this role across Victoria. And to have these as our first two young ambassadors for mental health is just a real privilege.
In addition, there’ll be $45 million for headspace’s work out to 2023 in training, in research, in coordinating across Australia. So, I want to thank and acknowledge everybody who’s here.
I particularly acknowledge Pat for his role as a global leader in youth mental health. And I’m delighted to invite Niharika, perhaps to speak on behalf of young people on her work and her role.
Thank you very much.
Thank you so much, Minister. My name is Niharika.
I’m a student and a member of Headspace’s Youth National Reference Group, as well as part of the larger cohort of youth representatives across the country; some of whom are here today.
Being an Indian-Australian woman from a conservative family background, mental health was never really a concept for me.
Sadness, anger, and even anxiety were all just emotions, never to be expressed, and definitely not to be understood.
Over the years, I realised that unfortunately this holds true no matter what your background. And it was never for a lack of love or care, but more for the lack of knowledge and language with which to speak about these issues.
I’ve been a textbook overachiever for most of my schooling, but after finishing high school, I found that I was losing myself, more concerned with the toxic relationship breakdown than I was with my study.
I was emotionally overinvesting in my family and my friends, until it started having a very real effect on me.
Diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety in 2015, I found myself in hospital not wanting to be here anymore.
I was distressed, confused, and being told: you have so much potential, why are you doing this to us? The truth was I had no sense of self-worth, no personality or passions to fall back on.
My friendships felt shallow, and I was distant from my family. I was a shell of a person, struggling to keep the pieces of my life together.
This is the unfortunate reality for too many young people; far too many young people. And lots of young people have faced more severe mental ill health than I have faced, with much less familial and community support.
This is the reason why ongoing funding for headspace is so important; in order to continue supporting the needs of young people across the country.
In terms of my own journey, things started to change for me, having been encouraged by a friend I found myself at headspace, I started learning ways of handling my day to day life in small increments.
Always having loved the outdoors as a kid, I was trekking and hiking more. Emotionally, opening up to a mental health professional. I slowly started trying to process those different traumas that I'd experienced.
I was learning the language of mental health to express what I was feeling so that it didn't consume me, instead allowing me to feel what I needed to feel before learning from it and letting it go.
The kind of resounding impact that continued support will have can be seen in the work of strong resilience centres and their communities such as he had tweets such as headspace Frankston and their team.
They’re representative of the potential that headspace has to change the lives of young people that make up the very core of communities across Australia.
My own recovery allowed me to find my passion at the end of 2016, understanding why people like me end up in the position that they do and how to make it more manageable.
I want to reduce stigma around mental ill health in minority communities that are culturally diverse because I believe that open honest communication with compassion is the way to move forward and to promote mental wellbeing within these communities.
Now, this isn't to say that it's been cruisy since then but learning those skills and habits means that the lows aren't as low. Furthermore you are strong and more capable of achieving anything that you are meant to in the face of any and all adversity.
Having just finished a double degree in 2018 I myself will be studying postgraduate psychology this year hopefully to learn why stigma exists and what we can do to stem its wide ranging consequences.
More so than that I am happier. I’m getting better at recognising what to do when things are not so good and I can appreciate life for all of its incredibleness. Something that all young people inherently deserve.
With Beau and Niharika, you actually you actually have the real stars of the show. But I think it would be remiss if I didn't invite Pat McGorry to say a few words, and then happy to take any questions on headspace, and after that other national matters.
Thank you, Minister. Well, the first thing I'd like to say is what a wonderful speech we've just heard from Niharika. And this is what headspace is really about.
And the other thing I'd really like to say is thank you to Jason, the CEO of headspace, and the incredible team that he has both nationally and around Australia.
We are changing things, I think, aren’t we, Minister? Changing outcomes. You just heard a personal story, there's a lot more to do, we’ve got a lot more young people we’d like to help in stronger and deeper ways and I think the Minister's announcement today is very, very significant because it's actually expressing deep faith in the national organisation of headspace.
This wouldn't have happened if it had been developed just in small local pockets. It was developed with a national plan, with very intense local input and input of young people and lived experience but there was a national plan.
And what the minister has announced today is security for that national plan. And it's extremely important. It's a lesson for the rest of mental health reform actually, that we need a plan for suicide prevention, we need a national brain operator.
And that's what headspace is - it's a national brain. And it has local footprints, if you like, footprints that are shaped by local communities like this one, this is one of the best headspaces in Australia. We're very proud of this, aren’t we Jason?
We are very, yeah.
And we congratulate all the local people working in this area. So, thank you, Minister, for this incredible support and faith that you’ve expressed in us. And we’ve had terrific support from you all the way along the line in this space. Thank you.
Okay. Happy to take any questions on headspace; myself, Jason, Pat and the difficult ones Niharika can take.
So, firstly on headspace. What specifically does the funding go towards?
So, the funding goes towards four things; firstly, the Youth Ambassadors Program.
Secondly, it goes towards training of young people and staff to engage with other young people, to speak to young people in their language and in their way in a way that will help them.
Thirdly, it's about research. And fourthly, it allows headspace, as an organisation, to have the administrative support out to mid-2023. So, it's four-and-a-half years of security for headspace. So, nearly half a decade of security.
We’ve seen three funding injections since October, are we likely to see more?
Pat and Jason are very persuasive. So, what we’ve sought to do is to give headspace half a decade of security both in terms of the youth psychosis, the individual centres and the overall organisation, and now we’re looking at expansion opportunities.
So, it’s a good question and I would say stay tuned.
This one for Professor McGorry: are there any strategies in place to tackle mental health in remote Indigenous communities? Particularly following the deaths of a 12 and 13-year-old this week?
Yeah, I'm very glad you asked me that because I was just talking to one of the key leaders in the headspace national group about the work in the Pilbara actually.
Oh sorry. I'm very glad you asked me that question because rural and remote Australia is incredibly important and we haven't actually got the right model yet for those very, sort of, low population areas that are spread out.
There are young people living in those areas. Headspace so far requires a certain population base to really work but we're exploring that with the minister's support in a project in Western Australia, in the north west of Australia and I was just talking to one of the clinical leaders at headspace about that just before we had this event.
So that's very important and it shows how innovation and new learning has to be rolled out, and yeah, we really hope to progress that.
I might just add something. One of the things we’re doing is the Million Minds Mental Health Mission under the Medical Research Future Fund and that has three early priorities.
One is eating disorders, an immensely important area of pain and challenge. Secondly though, is youth mental health and thirdly, is Indigenous mental health.
So it brings together those two elements of youth and Indigenous and it's a recognition that in remote areas we need new models and so we have Indigenous leadership as part of the Million Minds Mental Health Mission as well as youth leadership.
Greg, on another matter, cane toads. Pauline Hanson’s proposing a ten cent bounty for people who kill cane toads. What are your thoughts on that?
Look, I hadn't heard that but my view is that you need to have a very strong approach to cane toads. As a former environment minister we launched a national program.
I remember being in Kununurra doing interviews from within a ditch and putting my hands into logs and waiting to see what came out but we pulled the cane toads out.
The heart of this is a scientific program that's actually going to destroy the breeding grounds, to destroy their ability to replicate, not just in the thousands but in the millions.
Beyond that I'll leave it to the Environment Minister but ultimately, what we're going to need is programs that are going to stop the breeding of cane toads on the scale of millions not of thousands.
On the public child sex offender register, what evidence is there that it will make children safer?
We need to take the strongest possible steps to stop these predators repeating their actions.
The Government will be putting out more information on this but we would hope that all states and territories support the initiative that the Prime Minister and Minister Dutton are taking and that the Opposition will support it.
I'll leave them to go through the details but there can be no compromise with these predators.
What evidence is there that these registers are actually working?
I think the fact that the community is entitled to know where these predators are in their midst is a fundamental right within Australia.
In addition to that, on the particular structure format and evidence I'll leave that to the minister but where these predators are in the community, the community has a right to know and I think that's the starting point.
(Inaudible) has put in place to protect against vigilante paedophile hunters, I guess?
Of course, I think knowledge is the first and most important thing because if the community knows that there is transparency, then the community is going to feel stronger and safer.
Any idea how long the national consultations will run?
Look, I'll speak respectfully leave that to the minister.
Would Australia consider giving the young Saudi Arabian girl in Bangkok a visa?
Look, I spoke with Minister Coleman last night. He worked very, very hard to ensure that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees began an expedited assessment process for Miss Alqunun.
He has been successful in securing that process. So I want to thank and acknowledge the work of David Coleman on that front.
We’ll await the findings in terms of refugee status but he has indicated that he is very, very, very focused on this process, on ensuring that it proceeds rapidly, and if it is found that she is a refugee then he’ll consider it with a very, very open mind.
Alright. Thank you very much. I think there was going to be one question on franking credits?
Not from me.
Alright well, I'll give you an answer on franking credits.
What we see today is evidence that the attack on retiree incomes is a double whammy.
Retiree incomes will be affected by up to $2000 to $2200 by Mr Shorten’s proposal to attack retiree income, but we also see that there will be a dramatic impact on the value of the assets under- as a result of that and so people will not only lose income, they’ll lose their life savings.
The impact will erode the value of their life savings and so I think it is time for Mr Shorten to walk back from what is clearly a mistake.
There's an attack on home ownership, there's an attack on retiree incomes, there is an attack on investment income.
Taken together, these things will be potentially the most devastating set of economic policies that any opposition has taken into an election in the post-war period. Okay. Thank you very much.