Mr PURCELL (Western Victoria) — My question is for the Minister for Families and Children in her capacity as the representative of the Minister for Mental Health. It was very pleasing to hear of the government's allocation of $27 million in last week's budget for community-based suicide prevention across six Victorian communities. My home shire, the Shire of Moyne, has a suicide rate growing at an alarming scale. In fact it increased fourfold between 2009 and 2014, putting the Moyne shire's suicide rate at close to triple the state average. The 2015 statistics are not yet available as they are not completed until after the coronial process has been completed — often taking 18 months. However, I personally know of many other tragic suicides in the last 16 months, which will push the figure even higher.
There has been a large body of work undertaken by the Great South Coast suicide prevention group, and I ask the minister: will the government commit to including the Moyne shire as one of the six communities to be funded under the $27 million suicide prevention strategy?
Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I thank the member for his question. It really is a very important question, and I just want to commend the member for the empathy that he is showing to his local community in taking up such an important issue. We know that every suicide is a tragedy for the family involved and for the whole community involved. We also know that these issues are very deeply felt in regional parts of our state because there are obviously greater opportunities for individuals to know their neighbours and other members of their local community, so when these tragedies happen they are greatly felt throughout the entire local community.
The member is probably well aware that in November last year the Andrews government releasedVictoria's 10-year Mental Health Plan. The plan delivers a long-term vision to improve mental health services and outcomes for Victorians with a mental illness, and a key component of that plan is addressing suicide. The plan commits our government to developing a whole-of-government suicide prevention framework. The mental health expert task force established through the 10-year mental health plan will oversee the development of this framework.
As the member has already alluded to, this year's state budget allocates $27.5 million to support new suicide prevention initiatives. These include trials of personal support services for survivors of suicide attempts at six sites across Victoria and additional place-based approaches to suicide prevention. They are looking at six sites at which local communities will be supported to implement key strategies, including workforce training, school-based support, community awareness and responsible media reporting, and also the design and testing of a youth suicide prevention app that will support young Victorians with suicidal thoughts and assist them to develop a safety plan.
Can I just say that I am aware that the member has been doing some advocacy with the responsible minister, Minister Foley, and I want to commend him for taking up these important issues on behalf of his local constituents and local communities with the minister. Obviously there is some work that needs to be done between the announcement of the funds in the budget and working with stakeholders and those people with the expertise around the allocation of the funding, and I would encourage the member to continue to have those discussions with the relevant minister to feed into the decision-making.
Mr PURCELL (Western Victoria) — I thank the minister for her response. As I said in my substantive question, one of the big issues is the getting of the data, and it is sometimes 18 months before the data actually comes through the coronial process into the community. That inhibits some of the work, because the data is not there. I ask the minister: will work be done to try to get that data through the process more quickly so that we have quarterly statistics, at no more than a quarter behind, so that we can actually have more up-to-date information?
Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I thank the member for his supplementary question. It goes to matters of data gathering to really help us to understand the nature of the issues and trends in particular local communities. I will have to refer that specific issue to the minister for a response, but I know that the minister is working very assiduously to respond to this issue. I think the funding allocation is really a very significant one, in recognition of the fact that this is a hidden problem in our community in many senses. It is not really spoken about in many senses, but we do want to encourage people to talk to their friends and their loved ones about these issues and seek out the help when they require it, and I think issues around data are an important part of that in informing the community about the extent of the problem that we have, not just in our regional communities but across the state. I am happy to pass on that to the appropriate minister.