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Mental Health Amendment Bill 2018 - Second Reading

21 November 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Greens I add 
our support to the Mental Health Amendment Bill. It sounds like it is a 
change that is important and needed, initiated by the Mental Health 
Tribunal, supported by the Mental Health Council, mental health consumers 
and other mental health advocates. We support these changes.

It gives me cause to reflect on issues to do with the capacity for people 
to have control over their own treatment regimes and the very fine balance 
that must be struck between their own personal safety and the need for 
safety of others in certain circumstances when those individuals lack the 
decision-making capacity themselves to determine what appropriate 
treatment is for them.

I want to raise with the minister something I have raised repeatedly in 
budget Estimates about the functioning of the Mental Health Tribunal and 
the relationships we have with other states. I raised this on behalf of 
mental health consumers in 2015 or 2016 with the previous Attorney-General, 
Vanessa Goodwin. I believe I raised it with the current Attorney-General 
at the following Estimates. 

I am not sure whether this matter has been proceeded but in order for 
people in Tasmania, our tribunal to be able to determine what appropriate 
treatment ought to be for people, there needs to be a capacity to have 
clear communication with other states. There are circumstances where 
people leave the island. They leave of their own behest and travel 
interstate, whether or not they are in the right mental state to be able 
to safely do that for themselves. It has happened that people leave the 
state and do not have access to treatment when they go interstate. 

I am personally aware of two cases where there 
has been harm that has come from this lack of information between state 
bodies. One of the was the case of a woman whose child absconded. She 
says her child was released from the psychiatric services at the Royal 
Hobart Hospital, not into housing nor into care. That person ultimately 
became homeless. She chose to leave the state. In so doing she lost 
access to her treatment which had been ordered for her. When she was in 
Victoria, she ended up living in a car in a very poor state of mental 
health for many months. Her physical health declined severely and her 
mental health declined very severely. Fortunately, the mother was able to 
track down and find her daughter and bring her back to the state. What 
was apparent was the relationship with the Victorian Health Department and 
the Tasmanian Health Department was not clearly articulated, the tribunals 
of both those states. [TBC]

I come to another far more serious matter which was the murder by the son 
of two very loving parents in a loving family in Mountain River in 2012. 
I happened to know the couple; they were well known in the Huon Valley 
community. They were well respected for their contributions as academics, 
wonderful people with wonderful children, unfortunately, one of whom was 
schizophrenic. He had been living in Western Australia and had been under 
treatment orders in Western Australia. However, the son came back to 
Tasmania. The Western Australian minister responsible for mental health 
lost track of the ability, through a lack of procedure articulated between 
the two states, to be able to order that person to have access to the 
drugs they needed in Tasmania. The son was living with them happily, but 
when he went into a dark place, the parents desperately tried to get him 
onto the medication he had been on in Western Australia. They could not 
access that treatment order from Western Australia. They were not granted 
it in Tasmania. 

They repeatedly went in desperation to the Royal Hobart Hospital. This is 
all documented in media and a very sad coroner's report. Another child 
went to Western Australia to try to get that information and access to the 
script, however the parents were beaten to death by the son at home in 
Mountain River. It was a really horrific failure of process, a 
bureaucratic failure.

In the context of this bill before us today, minister, could you please 
follow up on those issues because there was a commitment by Dr Goodwin to 
look into these matters and I have not heard anything. Maybe they have 
been attended to, but I understand that what is required is an MOU between 
states.

Ms Archer - Did you write to Vanessa about it?

Dr WOODRUFF - I spoke about it and laid the cases out and she promised to 
look into it. I did not think I needed to write to her as well.

Ms Archer - No, I was just asking in case there is a paper trail.

Dr WOODRUFF - There would be a paper trail. I can go back and look at the 
details if we need to; I am very happy to follow this up.

The Western Australian mental health minister said that she had 'lost 
track' of the mentally ill man who killed his parents in Tasmania. This 
is something we can fix. There are not many things that we can fix in 
this space quite so easily but this is something that can be done and it 
would certainly make it easier for the parents of children under treatment 
orders or trying to make sure that they keep people that they love safe, 
not just children, but partners, friends, whoever it is.

That is all I wanted to say on this bill and I am very pleased that this 
change has been made.