VACCHO disappointed by the Federal Government’s decision to cut psychologist visits 

Dec 14, 2022

WARNING: VACCHO advises that the following Media Release contains suicide references.

 

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) is disappointed by the Federal Government’s decision to cut the number of subsidised psychologist visits available through the Better Access program.

Yesterday Federal Health Minister Mark Butler announced patients would only be able to claim Medicare rebates for 10 visits to a psychologist or allied mental health service next year, down from the 20 visits that people have been able to access since August 2020.

VACCHO are extremely concerned about the impacts the substantial reduction in subsidised support will have on the health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community in Victoria.

2022 has been a particularly challenging year for Community with a Coroners Court of Victoria Report highlighting an alarming 75% increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides in Victoria in the last twelve months.

Disturbingly, suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The 2022 Closing The Gap Annual Report also painted a disturbing picture, showing that key target areas are worsening including incarceration rates, suicide rates, and child-removal rates are also deteriorating.

VACCHO were proud to launch the Balit Durn Durn Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing in May of this year.

The Balit Durn Durn Centre is an initiative designed to foster innovation and improvement in Social and Emotional Wellbeing practice, policy, and research.

Executive Director of Social and Emotional Wellbeing Sheree Lowe is concerned about the consequences the rapid scaling back of vital mental health and wellbeing support will have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in Victoria.

“The 2022 Closing The Gap Annual Report shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to fall through the cracks of a fragmented and culturally unsafe mental health system.”

“The systems in place fail to recognise our wise and ancient cultural values – and Aboriginal ways of knowing, being, and doing. Our Community has been left with a legacy of grief and trauma that compounds mental health and wellbeing issues.”
“It is important to be mindful that life stressors such as chronic illness, incarceration, disability, inadequate or overcrowded housing, and systematic racism continue to have a major impact on the health and wellbeing of Community.”

“The hasty cutback of vital mental health support could further exacerbate the complex health and wellbeing challenges being experienced by Community – at a time when there are high COVID numbers and cost of living and housing pressures severely impacting many Australians.”

“I implore the Federal Government to reconsider their decision and apply an approach that meets people where they are at, addresses their needs and helps Community heal. A flexible, consistent, and responsive system is what our people need at this time of uncertainty.”

 

NOTE: Your social and emotional safety is important. If this has brought up any concerns or issues for you, please have a yarn with Yarnin Safe’n’Strong (1800 959 563) or 13YARN (13 32 16).

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher believes it is time to create a new day that is inclusive for everyone.

“It is time for us to press the reset button and create a new day – a new date – a day where we can all celebrate and feel included. January 26 is not that day – January 26 hurts.”

“Change needs to be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with our voices at the forefront, but we need allies around us, and we need a focus on educating all Australians about the true history of this country.”

“We also need a bold and brave government to make this change. Last year we saw the government listen to Aboriginal leaders and free the flag – we must keep the momentum going and do something about this date.”

“The time for change is well and truly overdue and needs to happen now.”

 

NOTE: Your social and emotional safety is important. If this article has brought up any concerns or issues for you, please have a yarn with Yarnin Safe’n’Strong (1800 959 563) or 13YARN (13 32 16).

Media enquiries

For further media enquiries please email communications@vaccho.org.au or contact our media unit on (03) 9411 9411.

Background 

VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 32 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.