Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Reforming Australia’s mental healthcare system

29 January 20160 comments

Future reforms to Australia’s mental health system must include a focus on assisting those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) in order to achieve extensive and inclusive benefits, according to the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA).

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2013-14 mental illness accounted for 13 per cent of the total burden of disease, yet only accounted for 5 per cent of the total health budget.

Mental health in the CALD community needs reform

Mental health in the CALD community needs reform

Prior reforms such as the Better Access Program, implemented in 2006, have benefited certain groups while leaving many CALD communities behind, according to Sebastian Rosenberg, senior lecturer in Mental Health Policy, Brain and Mind Research Institute at Sydney University.

The effects have been disproportionate, as the need for interpreters for CALD communities who lack adequate English skills have been ignored, Mr Rosenberg said.

The 2014 Review of Mental Health Services, undertaken by the National Mental Health Commission, recommended several future reforms that primarily aim to assist the CALD community.

According to Mr Rosenberg, these recommendations include ‘contributing to the reduction of stigma and discrimination; exploring partnerships with transcultural services; implementation of the excellent Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia: Towards culturally inclusive service delivery and; the setting and monitoring of explicit equity-oriented targets for people from CALD backgrounds.’

For Mr Rosenberg, current structures, including a lack of government attention towards the diverse population and an unwillingness to provide financial support, stand as current challenges to providing for adequate reforms.

“The necessity for interpreters must be concentrated on by future reforms in order to allow for equal and adequate mental health care,” said Mr Rosenberg, writing in the latest edition of the FECCA journal Australian Mosaic.

Employers expressed a vital lack of knowledge, understanding and tools, resulting in the exclusion of those suffering from mental illnesses from the workplace, specifically CALD communities, according to Susan Ryan, the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

A gap in research and proper understanding further contributes to the inequality within the health care system, Mr Rosenberg said.

And, according to the recent paper ‘Mental Health Research and Evaluation in Multicultural Australia: Developing a Culture of Inclusion’, Australian data collection methods in reference to mental health do not allow for evidence informed mental health policy, or reform that accounts for a multicultural Australia.

Federal Minister for Health Sussan Lay has committed herself to ‘significant reform’ within the health care system, specifically in reference to mental health.

Ms Ryan has also committed to overcoming obstacles to ensure full inclusion within the health care system.

She conducted a National Disability Survey which found that participation in society and access to employment were identified as the two primary priorities in regards to future reforms.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), in association with institutions such as Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHiMA), Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association (MDAA) and the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA), aim to address these two priorities and provide much needed reforms of the health care system to ensure adequate support for CALD communities.

Ms Ryan emphasises the potential of these reforms towards benefitting a majority of Australians.

According to Mr Rosenberg, reforms such as the NDIS must be accompanied by adequate levels of thorough research and stronger commitment to practical implementation to ensure the benefits are as far reaching and broad as planned.


Chloe Tucker
AMES Australia Staff Writer