The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) written submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. The Commission represents an important opportunity to make long-lasting changes to the mental health system, and to strengthen the interaction between the mental health system and other services and systems, including the legal system.
This submission is made from the perspective of an Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisation (ACCO) providing a legal service for Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across criminal, family and civil law.
- Through their work, VALS are acutely aware of the challenges faced by clients with poor mental health, both in terms of accessing the mental health system, as well as their interaction with other systems and services. Across their three areas of legal practice in 2017- 2018, 37.5% of all new matters involved clients who reported having a mental health issue and 6.2% of the matters involved a client with an intellectual or cognitive disability.
- The Royal Commission should adopt a holistic understanding of Aboriginal mental health, informed by the concept of Aboriginal Social and Emotional wellbeing.
- Early intervention and integrated holistic wrap-around services are essential to address underlying mental health issues and prevent escalation of legal issues;
- Aboriginal mental health staff should be consistently consulted by clinical and nursing staff to ensure that they are able to meaningfully support Aboriginal inpatients to engage in treatment.
- Significant reform is needed to ensure that the legal system is culturally safe for Aboriginal individuals, families and communities, and can support them to maintain their best possible social and emotional wellbeing.
- The Royal Commission should prioritise the mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of Victoria’s Stolen Generations and their families, including by convening a Round Table with the Stolen Generations’, ACCOs and other relevant stakeholders.