Victoria Legal Aid

Transformational change required in Victoria’s mental health system 

We welcome the interim report from the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System which recognises the current approach is failing people and transformational change is required.

Thursday 28 November 2019 12:00am

We welcome the interim report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health SystemExternal Link as an important step towards creating a better system that supports people’s choices and recovery.

Responding to the report, Louise Glanville, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) CEO said, ‘The report rightly recognises that the current approach is failing people, their dignity is often disregarded, and transformational change is required.’

Every day, lawyers across our criminal, family and civil law practice, and non-legal advocates from our Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) service see the impact mental health issues can have on someone’s ability to live well in the community in the way that works for them.

‘We are pleased to see the royal commission acknowledge the importance of recovery, and its recognition that the current system can cause of exacerbate trauma,’ said Louise.

‘We also welcome the recognition that different groups in the community, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, need tailored and culturally safe services.’

‘We welcome the royal commission’s recognition that there needs to be a greater focus on prevention and early intervention services in the community, so people don’t reach the crisis point which sees them admitted to hospital or entering the criminal justice system,’ said Louise.

‘With the interim report now released we look forward to assisting the royal commission to develop specific recommendations to help more people access early assistance and integrated support in the community.’

Victoria’s mental health system should also recognise that people have overlapping health, family, housing, justice and social issues.

People in the criminal justice, family violence and child protection systems need more access to community-based therapeutic programs which support them to live well in the community.

‘There should be state-wide access to programs like the Drug Court and Assessment and Referral Court that provide therapeutic responses to people experiencing mental health issues in the justice system, so all Victorians have access to programs which address their needs, not just their offending.’

Approximately 25,000 people, representing over a quarter of those we assist each year, disclose a mental health issue or a disability.

‘Almost everyone in Victoria would know someone who has had a mental health issue, and we all have a role to play in transforming the system,’ said Louise.

‘We commend the royal commission for giving early thought to how to fund ongoing investment in system-wide reforms.’

We also commend the royal commission for its commitment to being informed by people with a direct experience of mental health issues and to this expertise playing a leading role in designing all aspects of a new system, including a new residential service designed and delivered by people with lived experience.

‘All systems and services have so much to learn from people with that direct experience – the royal commissioners have recognised this in their interim report, and we encourage them to continue with this focus,’ said Louise.

We also welcome the commission’s concern regarding rates of compulsory treatment and restrictive practices in Victoria and look forward to contributing to further consideration of this crucial issue in 2020.

We know providing legal and non-legal advocacy for people in compulsory treatment is vital to ensuring they understand their rights and can have a say in their treatment.

More information

Read about our submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

Read our client Edwin’s story.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry please contact Senior Communications Advisor Naomi Woodley on 03 9280 3882 or email

Reviewed 19 April 2022