Youth Mental Health

MELINA BATH (Eastern Victoria) (17:38): (21) My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Child Protection and Family Services, and I am pleased that she is at the counter across the benches. In line with the Commission for Children and Young People and the commissioner’s most recent report, the action I seek from the minister is that she address the massive gaps in youth services mental health, in particular ensuring those children that are living in out-of-home care have a mental health plan within six weeks of being placed primarily in the first placement or then subsequent to that.

The commissioner certainly rightly identified that children who attempt suicide or attempt self-harm have increased in the last three years by 70 per cent. Of those over 3290 children, 18 per cent of them are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, 43 per cent are between 15 and 16 years – a very tender age indeed and certainly that growing-up time – and 70 per cent of those are girls and young women. So this is a very startling and unfortunate statistic. I have spoken with a fabulous lady by the name of Heather Baird in A Better Life for Foster Kids out of Sale, and she does the most amazing work. Children come into out-of-home care in a highly traumatised state.

There is a high incidence of histories of either aggression or turbulence in their backgrounds. They need that immediate sense that there will be treatment and a treatment plan over time. You can go to the dentist, sure, but with the emotional and psychological trauma that they are facing they need that plan. Heather has been in my ear, and I have stood in Parliament a number of times saying this, but the Commission for Children and Young People are saying it again – it is getting worse, Minister.

The other thing that I want to raise for your attention is a side note, but I know the government had legislation in that really supported the commission to do better work and give them some more muscle, so that is another thing that is also important. But going back to my adjournment and recommendation, we need to ensure that we have got youth-specific mental health triage straightaway within the first six weeks.