SPA CEO on visiting Canberra during sitting sessions

7 October 2014

Visiting Canberra during any of the next sitting sessions? Make sure you give yourself time between meetings, back to back is just not possible. The new security measures mean there are no longer unescorted passes available and it is back to the security desk after each meeting to be collected and signed in by the staffer from your next meeting.

The schedule I planned with SPA director, Matthew Tukaki, meant that we not only had to do a lot of fast talking but also a lot of fast walking! Undeterred however we managed to fit in all the scheduled meetings.

Senator Cash policy adviser Louisa Macphillamy was very impressed by the formation of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention and the effort to do more with the limited resources we have. She was most concerned to hear about the increase in women who die by hanging and suggested the NCSP explore partner opportunities with Not on our Watch chaired by Natasha Stott-Despoja.

David Roberts, representing Minister Ronaldson in charge of Veterans Affairs, told us there are 72,000 people who have served in overseas conflicts in recent times. Knowing that meaningful employment is a key to successful transition from the forces into the community the Minister has recently launched a pilot project in Brisbane with injured veterans being provided with work placements by local businesses to help improve the difficult transition. We explored the potential to host a joint meeting in Canberra for those involved in international conflict to explore the questions around successful transitions: What do we know? What do we need to know? How can we take this forward?

We then met with Gina Schwass and Brendan D’Arcy from Human Services and Social Services respectively. This wide ranging discussion touched on employment, prisons, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, social isolation and rural and remote communities. Brendan reminded us of this government’s agenda for de-regulation while also wanting to achieve efficiencies and greater coordination across their diverse portfolio of programs.

Phillipa Campbell from Minister Cormann’s office, as you would expect, was focussed on the importance of gaining greater return on investment for tax payers, which included consolidation in areas where it was deemed efficiencies could be achieved. Phillipa also reinforced the importance of working with Minister Dutton to retain the current quantum of funding for suicide prevention.

Senator Scott, Parliamentary Secretary for Youth Affairs, introduced us to his adviser Gemma Sandlandt who discussed their interest in the opportunities that technology has for promoting mental health and particularly supporting young people impacted by unemployment. The office is exploring on-line safety and ways they can assist parents support young people who may be subject to bullying. Gemma also advised that their strategy is to conduct a series of workshops with young people so that they are able to consult with a broader base than the current young people’s council.

Finally we closed the day with a meeting with Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary for Communications. Following advice from the social policy unit at UNSW work has begun with the Child Safety Commissioner to develop safety resources for online activities for parents and children. Paul informed us that the NBN rollout is progressing with 55 non-metropolitan sites being the current priority but cautioned that the rollout is likely double the planned investment! 2016 is the date scheduled for the first of the satellite connections to be made with very remote towns and this will be followed by fixed wireless for small towns…..this provides at least some time for planning suicide prevention on-line services.

Enjoy your busy week this week and make sure you have made your mental health pledge at!

Here’s my promise…best wishes, Sue.