13 September 2023

It's a privilege to speak on such an important issue that unites this parliament. It's one of the few issues where there is genuine bipartisan support, because people on both sides understand that it takes more than one government and more than one party to be able to put in the complex and far-reaching supports that are needed to ensure people live their lives with a sense of purpose and hope. For some people World Suicide Prevention Day is just another day, but for anyone who has lost someone to suicide it is a day of sadness and reflection. I also think it should be a day of hope, and we're working very hard to make that the case.

Every year, around 3,000 Australians die by suicide. Nine people, of whom two-thirds are men, die by suicide
each day. We know young people are most at risk, with suicide remaining the leading cause of death for
Australians between the ages of 15 and 44. First Nations Australians are twice as likely to die by suicide as
non-Indigenous Australians. That reality is absolutely front of mind for me when I think about why we need
an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Our best chances of changing that statistic, of keeping people
alive, of overcoming the distress of intergenerational trauma and disadvantage faced by First Nations peoples,
is through listening and real action.

I'm a co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Suicide Prevention, and I note that the member for Berowra, my co-chair, will also be speaking on this topic. I thank him for his support and commitment to seeing change. It's a very good example of true bipartisanship. The two of us came into this place in the same year. I think our class of 2016 brought with it a deep understanding of just how important mental wellbeing is. As co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Suicide Prevention, it was a privilege to be part of the Suicide Prevention Australia breakfast that we held last week. At that breakfast we heard from Justin, a Queenslander, one of the MATES in Construction advocates, who was able to move the room to tears with his extraordinary communication in rap form—slam poetry is probably the best definition, if I'm being accurate here. What it highlighted is how powerful it can be when you have someone speaking from lived experience and how they can reach out and connect with other people. That has been one of the focuses that we have as a government: looking at people who have lived experience and really valuing that experience and recognising the value that that brings in reaching out to others.

Of course, there are many organisations like Suicide Prevention Australia that work tirelessly to spread the word so that there is conversation happening about this. It has helped lift much of the stigma that I think probably a decade ago we would have been talking about, and even in more recent years. But there are many, many organisations that do that. I'm not even going to try and name them all. I do want to talk about one at a very local level in my community, the Hope4U Foundation. Di established this foundation having lost a son to suicide. Tragically, she then lost a second son to suicide. Her mission is to provide support for people who have walked in those shoes.

At Richmond Oval, last week, we were joined by many local community services to have conversations with
people about their mental wellbeing. This isn't just about their mental health; it's about their connection to their community and their engagement. We heard from Simon Griffin, another young man who, bravely—for the first time in a very public forum—spoke about his own experience of suicide ideation and schizophrenia. I have known Simon for many years, and I'd like it to be on the record that it was a really big step in his journey to be able to do that, which I can say after having had many private conversations with him. He's the dad of two beautiful children, and I know he takes a huge amount of responsibility for shaping how he sees the world.

Of course, some people are supported well to do that. We need to work with the people for whom that is difficult to do. The Hope4U Foundation is very focused on doing that, particularly with the families of people who have suicided. They have partnered with Glenbernie Family Farms, one of the beautiful flower-growing farms in my electorate, and so Hope4U now has a home within a sunflower farm. I should say, it's not always sunflowers; there are a huge array of flowers there, whatever the season.

When we talk about how we translate the big policy stuff we do here, the key thing is how it translates on the
ground and how people can access supports. Obviously, we're working hard to make sure that GPs are in a position to provide good supports, by increasing the payments that GPs receive and allowing for longer consultations because they are often the front line. We also know that headspace is a really key frontline preventive and early- intervention service. I am so proud that, by the end of the year, we will have a Hawkesbury headspace up and running. It is 10 years since the Penrith headspace opened, and I was very proud to be at that opening, along with the then mental health minister, Mark Butler. A decade ago, I said to him: 'You know what? We really need one of these in the Hawkesbury and one in the Blue Mountains.' The Blue Mountains headspace, a small one, came online a few years ago, but the Hawkesbury one has been a very long time coming.

By the end of the year, we will have a Head To Health service, which is the adult version of headspace. Whereas headspace is for young people up to 25, who can walk in with a 'no wrong door' policy, Head to Health will be the same for adults. Both of them are located in Richmond, and both of them are having works done in the lead- up to their openings. I'll be very proud to be part of those events.

Another group I want to touch on is MATES in Construction. I mentioned Justin from MATES in Construction earlier. As we know, getting to the bottom of all these issues is not something that's going to happen only at this level of federal government; everyone has a role. MATES in Construction saw the role for men and women working in the construction industry. Very early on in my community, they were partnered with Woodford Homes and Blue Eco Homes, who started to spread the word and spark those conversations amongst their workers. They're here in the parliament today, asking MPs to sign their flag. Across the country, 100,000 construction and industry workers will fly the flag over the next couple of days. It's a real partnership between unions and employers, working together to tackle mental health and suicide in a way that allows for conversations.

We talk a lot about mental health, but I do want to note that 40 per cent of people who suicide have not been
diagnosed with a mental health condition. It's a complex thing and, often, a whole range of pressures like financial pressures or housing and security come into play. As a government, we recognise that. On 20 September, the base rates of working-age and student payments, such as youth allowance, parenting payments and JobSeeker, will increase. This, we know, will lift some of the mental burden and financial burden that people carry.

This commitment to wanting to see a cross-portfolio approach to tackling suicide and preventing suicide is really key. Whether it's with veterans or victims of domestic violence, these are all the areas where we will continue to work, because, despite increasing expenditure on mental health services and suicide prevention, Australia has not seen a significant decrease in the numbers of lives lost to suicide in more than two decades. So we know we need to do this differently.