Last week, the Mental Health Commission of NSW had the privilege of visiting South Eastern NSW for a series of community consultations. This was the first of the ten regions we are visiting as part of a mid-term review of Living Well: A Strategic Plan for Mental Health in NSW 2014-2024, which set the agenda for mental health reform in NSW over ten years.
The team included Commissioner Catherine Lourey, Deputy Commissioners Tania Skippen, Tim Heffernan and Toni Garretty, as well as Commission staff.
The Commission spent three days visiting the South Eastern NSW community. This included a visit to Bega High School to learn about their community commitment to student wellbeing in the face of local tragedies. We held two discussions with people with a lived experience of mental health issues and caring and convened two workshop sessions with a range of local stakeholders in Batemans Bay.
We were given the opportunity to learn about innovative initiatives and programs such as:
- the Waminda Aboriginal Women’s Healing Service,
- a proposal for a local community-based, peer-led ‘safe space’ that supports people in distress,
- and a patient co-designed initiative led by the Southern NSW Local Health District at the Bega inpatient unit.
Participants identified what has worked well over the past five years and the future priorities. Key ideas emerged such as ‘hubs not hospitals’, ‘people before pamphlets’ and ‘we live in a society, not an economy’.
We also heard about the ongoing issues of access to services scattered along the string of coastal towns, the lack of local public and community transport and the need for existing services to strengthen collaboration and communication. Other issues raised during these consultations included workforce, service affordability and consistent program funding.
We will use our learnings from this consultation to inform a report that will be sent to government in November 2019.
The success of this visit is down to the generosity of the South Eastern NSW community. Thank you to the people who travelled long distance and gave their time to share their stories, experience, expertise and perspectives with the Commission.
Our next community consultations will be held in the Lithgow on Tuesday 9 April and Penrith on Wednesday 10 April. Click here for more information.