The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie has attacked the government’s so-called common sense approach to determining how communities receive headspace centres.
In response to a Senate Estimates Question on Notice, the government confirmed results of national modelling and “a level of human intelligence” are a basis to determining how locations are selected, giving priority to areas with high youth populations and considering such factors as youth suicide and substance abuse.
Senator McKenzie said the Federal Government’s “human intelligence” had failed the Swan Hill community in the face of some startling statistics.
“Swan Hill had the highest rate of teenagers who self-harm in Victoria at seven times the state average in 2008-09, while the local government area’s suicide rate for young people under the age of 25 was three times the state average from 2004-2010.
“Swan Hill’s population of approximately 10,000 people has been overlooked by the Australian Government’s ‘robust methodology,’ again proving it doesn’t understand regional Australians.”
A letter received last month from the Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler, in response to representations made by Senator McKenzie in August, confirmed a similar approach.
The Minister’s letter and the Senate Estimates answers stated the Government and headspace were working to expand outreach services.
But Senator McKenzie questioned how effective anonymous telephone and web-based support is for young people with advanced mental health needs.
“The Swan Hill local government area needs a coordinated response, with on-the-ground support to help prevent further tragedy.”
Minister Butler’s response also noted half of the announced headspace sites were in rural and regional areas around Australia.
Yet Senator McKenzie said in Victoria most were in and around metropolitan areas and regional centres, and none were in north-west Victoria.