I would also like to go on record today, on the day our report has been tabled, to acknowledge the amazing courage and contributions from so many people who felt that there was some genuine value in giving evidence to our Senate committee. When people read this report-and again, as I have said many times in this place, when the Senate produces a report that reflects the views of people from our community, there is an expectation that people will take the opportunity to read it-and see that over 500 people, organisations and practitioners felt that there was need in our community to respond to the issues of mental health, they will see that across our community there are people who have hope . They have hope that we as a society will listen to their stories and that we as a society will band together to respond. What we heard was that Australia has, over many years, acknowledged that we have the capacity to respond to the issues of mental illness in our community and at times we have been acknowledged as a leader in this area. We saw wonderful stories of treatments, collaborations and experiments that have involved many people and that have led to an expectation that there will doors. I think Senator Webber used that expression.
However, in our committee a great deal of frustration was mentioned. Before we move on to the next step-inevitably there must be a next step-it is important that we note this afternoon that, amidst the hope, a great deal of frustration was expressed by very many people: people who identified themselves as having mental illness at some time, their families, the people who worked with them through the journey of this illness and the people who worked to provide some response in this area. They consistently told us that they were angry because their concerns had not been listened to. Over many years, people had taken the time to come forward to tell governments at all levels and of all flavours that there was a need to respond with research, to look at the illnesses that had been identified and to work effectively with those people who were prepared to do so to come up with ways that will not be 'one size fits all'. There is always a danger that people will come up with one solution that seems to be effective and try to force all problems to meet that one solution.
Out of this report it is clear that there is not one simple response-there is not one simple solution-but there can be a collaborative approach involving governments, health practitioners and the people who have the bravery to acknowledge that they are unwell. There must be that cooperation in our community because, if there is not, we will continue to run away from these issues. As we have heard from other speakers this afternoon, a sense of isolation and abandonment was identified by some families. They felt that their issues were not acknowledged and that their illness was not given the same respect as others in the community. There are at the moment a number of clear recommendations that look directly at the COAG process. The important thing in bringing down this report today is that it is not overlooked in the various decisions that have been already announced and anticipated by the Prime Minister and by the various state governments, because we can do better. For too long, I think, we have run away from the issue. We as the Senate have a responsibility, because the people of Australia who want to be part of the solution have told us that they want us to respond to their needs. To the secretariat, of course, I say thank you very much. You shared this journey. However, I think the real response will be in the future. We put down a number of recommendations. We now look to governments and to the community to put these into place. I do not want to come back to this place in a number of years time to find that once again people have had to be brave enough to come to their government and say, 'You can help us, and there can be some result.' I do not want to look at that despair, because that would mean that the effort that we have put in over the last few months will be wasted, and I do not think that we can walk away from that challenge. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
30 March, 2006