We called for the Royal Commission and the Victorian Government to prioritise addressing and alleviating discrimination, stigma and their root causes in all aspects of the mental health system.
Outlining the the importance of human rights law in the delivery of mental health and related services, we also recommended strengthening the human rights legal framework to better safeguard the rights of people with mental illness in Victoria.
A number of our recommendations are to better protect the rights of particular groups at increased risk of mental illness and/or mistreatment, including Aboriginal people, women, transgender and non-binary people, and people in closed environments who are deprived of their liberty.
The Royal Commission should consider the role of discrimination and stigma as drivers and consequences of mental illness, and how they can be addressed in mental health reform and service design, from primary prevention through to early intervention and response strategies.
The Royal Commission should recommend that the Victorian Government amend the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) to incorporate:
- a stand-alone right to health
- an alternative dispute resolution function for individuals who consider that their human rights under the Charter have been breached
The Royal Commission should recommend that the Victorian Government amend the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) to reinstate and strengthen the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission’s functions and powers to enforce the Act and address systemic issues of mental health discrimination (and other forms of discrimination, as well as sexual harassment and victimisation), including the functions and powers to:
- undertake own-motion public inquiries
- investigate any serious matter that indicates a possible contravention of the Act:
- compel attendance, information and documents for the purposes of an investigation or public inquiry without the need for an order from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
- seek enforceable undertakings
- issue compliance notices as potential outcomes of an investigation or a public inquiry.
- The Royal Commission should consider how the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) and related policy frameworks could be better aligned, and ensure compliance, with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other relevant international human rights instruments.
- The Victorian Government should provide further funding for human rights education and training for clinical and other mental health service staff to support increased compliance with the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic), the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) and the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) in the delivery of mental health services across Victoria.
The Royal Commission should give consideration to:
- reforming criminal laws that disproportionately impact people with mental illness, including Aboriginal people and children and young people, such as section 344 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) and section 13 of the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)
- the high levels of mental illness among the youth justice and prison population, particularly Aboriginal people, and how mental health services can be improved in justice settings
- how community-based mental health services can be better used to improve health outcomes, particularly through enhancing cultural rights for Aboriginal people.
The Royal Commission should consider making recommendations that require the mental health system and mental health service providers to:
- comply with the cultural rights set out in section 19(2) of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) and the Balit Murrup Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Framework
- enhance Aboriginal cultural competency and understanding of mental health agencies and officials
- commit to greater self-determination, through adherence with the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework, and ensure greater resourcing and involvement of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations in order to substantively enhance self-determination in the mental health system.
- The Royal Commission and the Victorian Government should recognise and address gender as a social determinant of health and apply an intersectional gender lens to all aspects of the mental health system, including by recognising sex discrimination and gender inequality as key drivers of mental illness for women, men and non-binary people and barriers to accessing early and effective treatment and support.
- The Victorian Government and mental health service providers should:
- collect and analyse gender disaggregated data, including on the prevalence of mental illness and the effectiveness of mental health treatment and outcomes
- ensure that mental health-related research that they commission or conduct, including into medications and efficacy of treatments, considers gendered differences and needs
- design mental health policies and services in light of gendered differences and needs
- deliver gender sensitive and/or gender-specific services and in-patient facilities.
The Royal Commission consider how the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities could be implemented in Victoria to better protect people with mental illness from ill-treatment in a range of settings, through a robust and independent system of monitoring.