2019 federal election sees Michael McCormack, deputy prime minister, announce Riverina mental health funding

FUNDING FIGHTS: Michael McCormack (Nationals), Richard Foley (United Australia), Michael Bayles (Greens) and Mark Jeffreson (Labor) draw battle lines over the funding of mental health services in the Riverina.
FUNDING FIGHTS: Michael McCormack (Nationals), Richard Foley (United Australia), Michael Bayles (Greens) and Mark Jeffreson (Labor) draw battle lines over the funding of mental health services in the Riverina.

Day two of the election trail has seen another promise of half a billion dollars, this time earmarked for mental health strategies across the nation.

Deputy Prime Minister and Riverina MP Michael McCormack made the announcement on Saturday morning.

Another $5.31 million will be used in the promotion of youth mental health and suicide prevention, should the coalition government find favour in the May 18 election.

It follows Friday's announcement of $10 million towards Wagga's PCYC.

Related:

The money will go towards setting up a Headspace site in Cowra. It will also be used to promote programs aimed at Indigenous and rural youth mental health.

"Of course we have to do more as far as mental health goes, and particularly, where rural mental health is concerned, we are," said Mr McCormack.

This additional funding is expected to be added onto the national $461 million for youth and $114.5 million for Headspace's adult trials that was announced in the federal budget two weeks ago.

While Mr McCormack is confident the funding will begin trickling through "as soon as the election day is over", the candidate for the United Australia Party has criticised the announcement as presumptuous.

"Even if he is re-elected, he'll likely be in the opposition after the election," said Richard Foley.

"He may hold the seat but what will it mean for the region if we don't have a seat at the table?"

Mr Foley said that while he supports any funding for mental health, he would like to see the amount increased to make a difference across the entire region.

"We need at least 10 times the amount, to address problems of ice, drug addiction and alcohol in just Wagga, it's all interlinked," he said.

Mr Foley described coming face-to-face with the reality of mental health, when just a little over three years ago his former partner committed suicide.

"We need more psychology, we need more facilities across the whole region," he said.

"Here, we have GPs, but not enough specialists."

Candidate for Labor, Mark Jeffreson also questioned the timing of Mr McCormack's announcement.

"It's very clear we're in an election, we had the PCYC funding announced yesterday, the roads funding announced, and now funding for mental health. A month ago, that wasn't on," he said.

"We're never going to criticise money going to mental health, but it has to included a structured plan.

"You can't just throw money at it and expect things to change."

Michael Bayles, candidate for the Greens, welcomed the amount, but echoed Mr Jeffreson's concerns.

"Any initiative that addresses mental health is a good initiative," he said.

"[But] we need to focus on peer support, especially for teenagers around the age of 16. It's so important for them that we put into place support groups.

"Community forums could be set up, so that people can share their stories, and give others encouragement. It breaks the stigma and that is so important [for people to know], 'I'm not the only person with these feelings'."

This story Mental health funding becomes the latest election battleground first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.

Comments