TRANSCRIPT: Press conference - Mental Health and headspace announcement, 13 April 2019


Subjects: Mental health, Jim Daniher

It's really significant to be here in Wagga Wagga today to announce the Coalition Government's, the Federal and Liberal National Government's Rural Health and Mental Health strategy. $503.1 million going to this very important strategy, and it's going to be a three-pronged strategy.

More headspace sites. More Indigenous rural youth suicide and mental health networks and strategies and programs, and helping early childhood and youth prevention measures. Helping parents in those vital years when young people are having problems. Young people are having issues.

Of course, we have to do more as far as mental health, particularly with the rural mental health is concerned, and we are. We've spent, in 2018/19 financial year, $4.8 billion on mental health strategies and this is in addition to that, another half a billion dollars. I'm pleased to announce that there will be a new headspace site set up at Cowra. There's a real gap in the Central West, as far as rural mental health is concerned, and this will address that issue, with a new mental health headspace site set up at Cowra.

I've spoken to the Mayor, Bill West, this morning, and he said, "Of all the things that you could've done for Cowra, this is the best." It, to quote him, "Warms my heart," he said, "I'm really pleased,” he said. "I've been a strong advocate for that." As have I. And certainly wrote to the Minister for help, Greg Hunt, not that long ago about the importance of filling that gap in the Central West of New South Wales, at Cowra, which is in the Riverina electorate which I represent.

But more than that, there are going to be 30 new mental health headspace sites set up. We already have one at Wagga Wagga and one at Griffith, and I was very pleased to push the advocacy for that particular site, that particular HeadSpace site at Griffith when it was in the Riverina electorate boundaries. This is so important. So more than 20 of those sites in fact, 20 of those new headspaces, will be in rural and regional areas. 30 in total. 20 of them in rural areas.

This is so important because all too sadly, rural youth are overrepresented in the suicide statistics across the nation. In 2017, more than 3,100 people across Australia took their lives. That's eight people a day. That's so tragic, and that's why the Federal Liberal Nationals Government is moving to further address this issue. As I say, we've provided record funding in the past for mental health, a problem, an issue that will be affecting one in five Australians each and every year. So we obviously pay very special attention to it. We've obviously prioritised it as part of our policies going forward, and this $503.1 million initiative announced by Scott Morrison today, in conjunction with me, is very important, is very timely, and I know it will make such a difference, particularly for families in regional areas, but indeed, all Australians.

Any questions about that, and then I'll like to make a couple of comments about another matter.

How soon can people expect to wait before they'll start to see these offices open?

Look, very, very soon. We'll get to work as soon as the election day is over, and certainly make sure that we get these sites built, we get the necessary staff established. This is so important, and of course, whether it's counselling, whether it's psychology, whether it's psychiatry, we need to make sure that we get the right people in the right places, and Cowra, I'm so pleased, is getting this service. I know what a difference it's going to make to the people in that community. I know what a difference it's going to make the people right across the Central West who will now utilise that service. For too long, they've had to drive too far to access these sorts of really important services, and they'll be able to do it for many in their hometown, and for others, just a short drive away.

Will that also cover out to Young and Boorowa, Michael, where there have been quite a few suicides in the last 12 months?

Well, they'll be able to utilise that service at Cowra, but they'll also be able to utilise other frontline services which will be made available as part of this initiative. 

Will there be opportunities for Wagga, to have additional services?

Well, Wagga Wagga has already a headspace, operating in Morgan Street, and it's a very good headspace. And certainly I would advise anybody who is having problems, who is having issues, always consult Lifeline. Make sure that you make yourself available to the people there in the headspace centre already in Wagga Wagga which does such an amazing and fantastic job for the youth here, and indeed for so many people, so many families right across our region.

How will the locations of these additional offices be determined?

Well, they've been determined by Minister Greg Hunt, based on, obviously, statistics provided. They're based on evidence provided by those communities and of course, by the numbers of people experiencing difficulties in their lives. Obviously those statistics are available through the Health Department. I acknowledge the great work that Minister Greg Hunt and the Minister for ... involved in Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, has done as well in the Aboriginal space, and certainly Nigel Scullion. Senator Nigel Scullion I know has been an absolute champion and advocate for more mental health services for Aboriginal people, particularly in regional areas and remote areas, and I know this initiative ... As I say, it was a three-pronged initiative. Headspace, Indigenous mental health and parenting services. But certainly for the Aboriginal population it's going to be very important for them, especially in remote areas.

Is this something that Cowra Shire had been lobbying you about?

Cowra Shire has indeed. I've spoken to Bill West about this many, many times. I've made a submission to the Minister Greg Hunt, and he's listened. And he's acted. And this is going to be such a vital service. Bill West was delighted when I spoke to him at length about it this morning. Bill West is a fantastic mayor. I've got 12 fantastic mayors. He's certainly a great advocate for all things Cowra, but especially in this regard. The youth of our communities are our most important asset, make no mistake. We get these sorts of things right for our youth, we build a better society, and that's what Federal Liberal Nationals Government is all about. 

Now I just want to make a few comments about a very tragic event that took place yesterday. Jim Daniher, patriarch of Australia's most famous sporting family, the Daniher footballing family, and netballing family, passed away yesterday at the age of 90, in a farm accident. Jim was a very close friend of mine and my family. Jim was a marvellous man. Of course, he was the father of Terry, Anthony, Neale, and Chris, the famous Essendon Four, who made football their own during the '80s, '90s and early 2000s, when the Daniher family were synonymous with Australian Rules. What they did also is they put the little town of Ungarie on the map. And the big Sherrin in Ungarie's main street, which commemorates and celebrates the Daniher family was made possible by Jim and Edna Daniher. What a great combination Jim and Edna Daniher have been. I know Edna will be very, very upset by the death of her beloved husband, as the entire Ungarie community will be. The entire football fraternity will be, indeed, all of Australia.

There wouldn't be too many Australians, even though it's in Rugby League heartland in Queensland and beyond, who didn't know Jim Daniher, who didn't know the famous exploits of the Daniher boys and the seven girls too. Jim and Edna had 11 children, four boys, all of whom played AFL, VFL. Their daughters as well are very, very good sports ladies. Wonderful, wonderful Australians. They've done so much, not just for sport, but indeed for regional Australia and certainly the Riverina.

I know each and every one of them. Each and every one of them I call a friend. They're wonderful people. I've spoken to a few of the sisters, Julie and Estelle, Dorothy this morning. I went to school with Dorothy. They're all very upset of course. Doesn't matter how old your dad is, it's still your dad, and he was a great bloke, Jim. He made sure that the boys were all very grounded, even though they achieved so much greatness on the footy field, he still stayed grounded. He still stayed very true to family values and traditional values. He was all things Ungarie and my heart goes out the Daniher family. And I know that particularly, right across Melbourne, they'll be feeling this loss today as they come to learn of the tragic death of Jim Daniher. Vale a great Australian.

Thank you very much.

Shane Manning