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Media releases from the Office of Susan Templeman MP.

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TRANSCRIPT: PRESS CONFERENCE CANBERRA, SEPTEMBER 1 TOPICS: Youth mental health services, Maari Ma Aboriginal Corporation, vaccine rollout.

September 01, 2021

SUSAN TEMPLEMAN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR MACQUARIE: I want to talk about mental health. I have volunteers making phone calls in my electorate a couple of times a week, and I speak to people daily about how they're going and how they're feeling. What we're seeing is exactly as Patrick McGorry describes a shadow pandemic, where people's ability to be resilient to what's being asked of them over and over for longer and longer is is really being tested. Now, it's made worse in electorates like mine - in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury - because we faced bushfires, we faced floods, and of course waves of pandemic. One of the things that we know would help young people is if there was access and easy, no wrong door, access to mental health services. Now, a year ago, we got that in the Blue Mountains, a small satellite Headspace. And that's made a difference, not for everybody but for a lot of young people and their families. We don't have one in the Hawkesbury. This is a local government area that's 3,000 square kilometres in size, it's a massive area, and young people are scattered across it. Yet they do not have a place that they can go and say, 'I need help'. This is this is becoming a huge problem. It was already a problem before the fires. It was a problem before the floods. And it's a problem right through this pandemic. What makes it quite disgusting, is that the Federal Government has set aside money for more Headspaces. In fact, they have a would-be Liberal candidate in the electors talking about how likely it is that one of these will be delivered. They keep dangling this promise in front of young people and their families, but they never actually deliver it. All they need to do is step up and say, 'we're not going to hold on to this until just before an election and then make it as an election promise, we know it needs to be delivered now and we're going to deliver it now'. People are trusting this government to support them during the pandemic. We know that they failed so many small businesses, we know that they failed miserably in this vaccine rollout. For heaven's sake, it is not the time to be failing my community in supporting young people's mental health. Patrick McGorry is right; there is a pandemic of mental health problems coming. And what we know is that they don't stop when the disaster stops. After bushfires, we know that mental health problems emerge for around five years afterwards. So, five years on we're going to need just as much support, if not more than we have now. I also want to be really clear that Headspace, while a really valuable service and an essential fundamental early intervention and early service, shouldn't be the end of it. A Headspace is just the start. So there's a lot of words out of this Prime Minister, there's always a lot of words, there's a lot of talk, there's a lot of spin. What we need is action on this; in the Hawkesbury we need to see a Headspace. We need to see it now. We need to see it not just announced we need to see it built, we need to see it staffed, and we need to see the doors open. And that's fundamental for helping my community get through this pandemic and recover.


JOURNALIST: Susan, are the mental health issues, particularly in children, being exacerbated by state permiers and forced lockdowns, keeping children away from school, not allowing them to see their friends?


TEMPLEMAN: I think you'd be crazy if you didn't think that the whole kit and caboodle is causing the problems. When I phone and speak to parents, I can hear the strain in their voices about dealing with homeschooling. Now, I don't speak to their children, but I ask them how their kids are going. Some are doing really well. Some are loving being at home, especially where they have big backyards that they can play in. But this isn't just about one group of children. This is about what we're seeing across the board. You know, clearly, kids sitting at home without contact with their friends is going to take a terrible toll. It's taking a toll not to some 10-year-old, but on 20-year-olds and I know on my kids who are in their late 20s and 30s. It's taking a toll. And we all know that. We all want these lockdowns to end. What I'm also hearing from parents is that they want to know that when their kids do go back to school that it's in a safe environment, as safe as possible. And what we need to hear is not just words about this, but we need to see the plan, and how it's going to work. That's all parents want, is some assurances, and a really clear, step-by-step approach to it. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't have someone in tears on the phone to me, whether it's a mum worried about her kids, whether it's a teacher worried she is going to lose her job if she doesn't get vaccinated in time, whether it's a small business who is just at breaking point, because there's yet  another email from Service NSW, or their money just isn't coming through. Now, ultimately, it all goes back to one thing, and that is that the Prime Minister failed to ensure an effective rollout of vaccines, he failed to order enough, he failed to order enough variety, he then failed through summer to have a plan put in place so that the rollout would be efficient, and get to as many people as possible as fast as possible. So when people ask me about the underlying issues, I go, we can't go back a year and change the appalling decisions that this government made. So all we're left to do now is think from this point on, how do we do it better? And supporting mental health is going to be fundamental. 


One other thing I'd just like to raise that has been topical this week, and a real concern, and that is the situation in Aboriginal communities in western NSW. Before politics, I was very privileged to spend time working with the Maari Ma Aboriginal Health Corporation. And they know their community, they know their community inside out, they have worked at a ground level to think, how do we best bring health services to our community? And they're not just doing it now they've been doing it, well in my experience, I've known them doing it for a decade. So what I want to say to the government is, you need to work with these community groups, you need to get on the ground. This isn't about pushing it to the side. This is about getting in there and working closely, listening to what they say is needed. I think it's the same for any groups. I get very angry when I hear ministers and prime ministers talk about hesitancy. There's hesitancy because of this government's failure to roll out an effective public education campaign, a campaign around public health that explains what they're doing and why they're doing it, and getting people engaged in that. There is no point saying to people, 'there's no vaccines available for you, there's no vaccines available for you'. And then suddenly, 'right now you have to have it'. It's just the most ridiculous way to persuade a population to do what we all know is going to be in the best interests of the community, to their health, to their mental health, and therefore for the economy. Thank you.