Treasure Jennings - Mental Health Complaints Commissioner

A message from the Mental Health and Wellbeing Chair Commissioner, Treasure Jennings

As you will have seen over the weekend, the Minister for Mental Health, Gabrielle Williams announced the appointment of the four Commissioners of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission. This includes myself as Chair Commissioner, and I will be joined by fellow Commissioners Maggie Toko, Annabel Brebner and Jacqueline Gibson

There is understandably great interest in how we will grasp this opportunity, and especially hold government to account for the delivery of the 65 recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system has provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity and impetus for system-wide reform and improvement.

I, like too many others, have had close family members experience mental health challenges and experienced the tragic loss of someone very close to me through suicide. I had my own struggles with a significant episode of post-partum depression, and in more recent times I have supported and cared for an adult child with mental health challenges.

My experiences are not uncommon nor, sadly, is the terrible shame and stigma that often stands between illness and obtaining effective, timely and appropriate treatment and support.

From the outset, I can say that, when the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission commences operations on 1 September, I and my fellow Commissioners will be focused on the consumer and supporter experiences, as well as those providing services within the public mental health system in Victoria. We’re not here to focus simply on a narrow set of data or government reporting.

My fellow commissioners Maggie Toko, Jacqui Gibson and Annabel Brebner and I will work in consultation with a diverse range of people who have lived and living experiences of psychological distress and mental illness.

We especially recognise those who have been consumers of public mental health services, and will listen to the voices of families, carers, and supporters.

For us, this is a personal as well as a professional journey. We have a vast and divergent range of experiences and have all either had a lived experience of mental health issues or have supported – or continue to support - close family members with mental health issues.

The new Commission has a significant role to play in reducing the stigma associated with mental health and the effect that stigma and discrimination has on people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Stigma and discrimination, in all its insidious forms, is both a driver of poor mental health, and a significant contributor to worsening mental health. It is well known that First Nations people and members of the LGBTQIA+ communities are over-represented in the numbers of people experiencing poor mental health, and it is particularly significant that I will be working with proud members of these communities as co-Commissioners.

The new Commission will take on the existing functions of the current Mental Health Complaints Commissioner, of which I have been Commissioner for the past two and half years.

It will have vastly expanded powers including strengthened oversight, new responsibilities for handling and responding to complaints, and it will have the ability to initiate its own enquiries as it sees fit.

The opportunity and impetus for system-wide reform is built on four pillars: the Royal Commission, new legislation, a system that authentically works collaboratively with consumers and carers to draw on lived experience, and continued and appropriate investment from government.

The Royal Commission and legislation have been delivered and, along with my fellow Commissioners, I will be resolute in ensuring the third pillar for this much needed reform stands, and the promises made by government on continued support and investment are kept.

One of the most compelling statements made in the Royal Commission’s final report was that a clear path for reform has been set and the momentum for change cannot be lost.

Ensuring we grasp this momentum and deliver on this once-in-a-generation opportunity will be at the centre of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission’s work, and we will ensure continued transparency around progress and performance of the highest standard in Victoria’s mental health and wellbeing system.

Reviewed 15 March 2023

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