A mental health system for a 21st Century Canberra: Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing established in the ACT

Shane Rattenbury, MLA

The ACT Government has formally established the Territory’s first Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The model for the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing has been developed following extensive consultation with the community, mental health consumers and carers, mental health organisations and peak bodies.

Mental health and suicide prevention are key priorities for the ACT Government. The Government is committed to an integrated approach to mental wellbeing and, suicide and self-harm prevention that works with the community as a whole.


A renewed vision – with a whole of Government focus

The Office will develop a renewed vision for mental health in the ACT.

The Office will focus on coordinating services throughout the continuum of mental health services (from early intervention to most acute), working to ensure that those experiencing poor mental health can access the most appropriate services and supports across ACT Government funded agencies and other providers, at the right time.

The Office will focus on quality improvement across all aspects of the experience of mental health and mental illness. As such, the model for the Office has been approved by Cabinet to allow the Office to focus on issues across the whole of Government, and will collaborate closely with other agencies, including health services, primary care, housing, employment, community services, justice, police, education, and social inclusion.


Form and function

The Government has agreed that the Office will sit within ACT Health. However, the Office will be guaranteed a level of independence by having access to the Minister for Mental Health, and may initiate reports and reviews, or as requested by the Minister. The Office will also have a strong mandate to work across ACT Government agencies, akin to the role of the Coordinator General for Family Safety.


New Coordinator-General role

The Office will be led by a Coordinator-General and will involve representatives from across ACT Government. A nation-wide recruitment process for the new role will commence in coming days.

With the establishment of the new Office today, two staff have commenced and will work to increase awareness of the role of the Office, build relationships across the community and community sector, and give momentum across Government to reaffirm a whole of Government commitment for mental health reform. Formal recruitment for additional positions is also currently underway.

Working with a cross-Directorate Stewardship Group, the Office will prepare a practical mental health reform work plan within 100 days of the Coordinator-General commencing. This work plan would then be further developed through a community co-design process.


Consultation report released

The Government has today also released the report from the consultation that underpins the model for the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing, as well as the Government’s response to its recommendations. The final report and recommendations were informed by extensive community and stakeholder consultations. The Government has agreed to 17 of the recommendations and agreed in principle to 3 recommendations.


Other information

In the 2017-2018 Budget, a total of $2.9m was allocated over four years to establish the Office. The establishment of the Office for Mental Health realises a commitment in the Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement.

Comments attributable to Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury:

“I am pleased to announce that we are delivering on a key Parliamentary Agreement commitment by establishing the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing. The Office will work to ensure that people experiencing poor mental health can access the most appropriate services and supports at the right place and at the right time.

“We know that in improving coordination across the mental health system, we can better address some of the underlying factors that we know can influence mental health outcomes – providing the right care as early as possible, and address the underlying factors contributing to mental illness.

“We know that early intervention can often make all the difference—improving lives, building resilience in our communities, and reducing health burdens, keeping people well for longer, and reducing avoidable use of acute and crisis care services.”