Victoria Legal Aid

Vital themes that must be considered by Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health

Our submission on the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Mental Health in Victoria.

Friday 1 February 2019 12:00am

Informed by our practice experience and work with consumers, we've outlined 10 key themes we believe must be included in the terms of reference of the upcoming Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health (RCMH).

Our submission Roads to Recovery –10 themes that must be considered by Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health highlights the importance of consumer leadership.

Recognition of the importance of consumer leadership and co-production should be at the foundation of the RCMH and the system it helps redesign. Consumers must be engaged to shape and have influence over the RCMH process and outcomes, and the reformed mental health system that emerges.

Our recommendations have been informed by our work with people experiencing mental health issues through our specialist mental health legal practice, our non-legal advocacy service IMHA, and our work across all of our practice areas in the criminal, civil and family law directorates. We have also benefitted from the expertise of our advisory group of consumer experts with lived experience of mental health issues, Speaking from Experience.

We would like to see Terms of Reference that allow for the system to be reimagined. The current mental health system is not broken; it is poorly designed. Rather than try to “fix” the system as it is currently conceived, we should be moving toward a social model of health, designed with people with lived experience of mental health issues.

By way of example, through our work, Victoria Legal Aid sees the way in which lack of access to housing, disability services, employment, income support, therapeutic services and mental health services in the community can contribute to escalating issues, which can include family breakdown, criminal offending or hospitalisation. Once people have entered these crisis-based systems, their exit, reintegration and/or recovery is again dependent on access to adequate housing and supports in the community. The RCMH presents a critical opportunity to understand the ways in which these, and other, systems could work together more effectively to deliver better outcomes for individuals and the Victorian community.

To make sure the RCMH achieves this potential, we outline 10 themes that must be considered:

  1. Consumer leadership and co-production
  2. The regulation of compulsory treatment and a focus on people’s rights and recovery
  3. Services and supports in the community
  4. Forensic mental health and justice services, including the way in which the mental health system directly impacts on people’s justice outcomes, including their entry into and exit out of the criminal justice system
  5. Overlapping life and legal issues
  6. Inpatient services: Physical environment, safety and recovery-focus
  7. Tailored, appropriate, culturally safe services
  8. Regional issues and inconsistencies across settings
  9. Governance, accountability, data and transparency
  10. Fundamentally shifting our approach to mental health in Victoria – models that work.

We caution against a narrow review of the mental health system or one that replicates the silos of the current service system, which will not present the same much-needed opportunity for positive change.

The terms of reference and commissioners will be announced later this month and the RCMH is due to commence in March. We look forward to working with our partners across the legal, health and community sectors, and with consumers with a lived experience of mental health issues, to contribute to the redesign and reform of Victoria’s approach to mental health.

More Information

Read our full submission

Reviewed 16 May 2022