The Nats win student mental health support battle

The Nationals have won the battle to improve mental health supports in our schools following a recent legislative change to enable counsellors to deliver support to students.

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Education and The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath said in 2021 the Labor Government blocked The Nationals mental health plan that would have expanded Victorian legislation to give school students access to skilled Counsellors in educational settings.

“The Nationals simple reforms were designed to unlock 2000 professionals to bolster the states overburdened mental health workforce and support children impacted by the pandemic.

“Outdated state legislation prevented registered Counsellors being recognised as ‘mental health practitioners’, rendering them unable to deliver mental health support in our schools.

“Despite the lasting impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and school closures, Labor shockingly rejected our changes, only to implement them three years later.

The Nationals twice moved legislative amendments after demand for Kids Helpline services sky-rocketed, alongside a significant increase in presentations to hospital emergency departments for mental health issues.

Labor finally made the change to allow qualified Counsellors to work in schools on day one of the first term, this year.

Ms Bath said having raised this issue in the parliament on many occasions it’s concerning that the Labor Government failed to prioritise the mental health of our students.

“In regional Victoria the demand for mental health practitioners far outstrips supply – the waitlist to access a psychologist can be many months.

“The challenges to student mental health is one focus of the upper house Inquiry which I established into Victoria’s public education system.

“It should never have taken three years for the Allan Labor Government to remove a barrier preventing available access to qualified Counsellors to support student welfare and wellbeing.

“Premier Jacinta Allan can’t manage money, can’t manage our mental health system, and young Victorians are paying the price.”