Victoria Legal Aid

Roads to Recovery – Building a Better System for People Experiencing Mental Health Issues in Victoria

The Victorian Government is establishing Australia’s first Royal Commission into Mental Health. Read about how this is a critical opportunity to look at a system that is not currently working to support people’s personal recovery.

Our roadmap for mental health system reform

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a coordinated mental health system with the voices, rights and recovery of people experiencing mental health issues at its centre.

Through our work, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) sees the intersection between people’s mental health and their legal, social and economic issues. Last year, we worked with over 25,000 people who identified as experiencing a mental health issue or disability. From our duty lawyer services to our legal help line to our specialist mental health services, VLA has a unique perspective on how Victoria’s mental health system intersects with other systems, supports and services that impact on mental health, including housing, disability services, employment, income support, criminal justice and family violence.

People experiencing disadvantage should be able to access the mental health supports that work for them, when they need them, before their issues escalate to a crisis point. Early access to high quality, effective services will prevent people’s mental health issues and legal problems spiralling out of control.

Consumer leadership and engagement must be embedded to ensure people directly affected by the mental health system have the power to shape a new, fairer system.

People's lived experience at the centre

Our recommendations to the royal commission are informed by the stories of people with a lived experience of the system, including Edwin.

Our clients' stories paint a picture of diverse lives, strengths and challenges. The experience that unifies them is that, at points in their lives, the mental health system – and the systems that intersect with it – has failed to understand and meet their needs. The hardship that our clients and consumers have experienced as a result of these system failures reminds us all that widescale, systemic change is essential and urgent.

Now is the time for a total rethink and genuine culture shift. We need more services, better services and importantly, we also need alternative services. Let those of us most impacted by the system lead the way in designing a new system that works for us. We want services that are amazing – that you would consider good enough for yourself or your families and friends – Wanda Bennetts, Senior Consumer Consultant, Victoria Legal Aid.

Mental health royal commission client data graphic

Six priority areas for reform

In our submission to the royal commission in 2019, we identified six priority areas for reform which we believe will contribute to a mental health system that will support people’s recovery and agency.

  1. building a recovery-focused mental health system
  2. embedding consumer leadership and advocacy as part of a rights-focused system
  3. reducing the harm of criminal justice involvement for people experiencing mental health issues
  4. improving responses of other systems and services to mental health, including NDIS, housing, child protection, family violence and discrimination
  5. reducing inequalities and developing tailored, culturally safe practices
  6. strengthening governance, accountability, data and transparency.

We look forward to continuing to work with the royal commission and with our consumers, clients and partners across the legal, health and community sectors, to help build a system that supports people's choices and their recovery in ways that enable them to live the best lives they can, as determined by them.

Read our submission and other work

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 12 May 2022

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