Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (11:27): My question is to Minister Symes, representing the Minister for Mental Health. With Victorians in their sixth lockdown, we all know someone who is struggling to various degrees with their mental health. This is clearly a priority of the government as the 2021–22 state budget invests a record of $3.8 billion in mental health and wellbeing. Despite this enormous investment, Victoria’s mental health workforce, including mental health nurses, social workers, peer workers, lived experience workers, occupational therapists and administrative staff, have been denied a pay rise.
The government’s offer proposed on 3 August would still leave frontline mental health nurses and staff worse off than their colleagues in general nursing and social work. My question is: what is the government doing to ensure that the mental health workforce have equitable work rights and conditions comparable to their colleagues in the general nursing sector?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (11:28): I thank Mr Barton for his question and congratulate him on his continued advocacy in this important policy space of mental health. In relation to the enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations that I think you are referring to, I will seek an answer from the minister and have it furnished in accordance with the standing orders.
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (11:28): Thank you, Minister. Now is the time for the government to be compassionate and support those who have been supporting us through these devastating times. We are so fortunate as a community to have a mental health workforce that includes peer workers, nurses and allied health who are working on the frontline to support the most vulnerable. It is this workforce that will underpin the success of the government’s mental health and wellbeing reforms. My supplementary question is: what is the government doing to support, encourage, recruit, and retain those who are passionate about mental health services?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (11:29): It is a great question. We certainly need more people doing this important work, and I understand there is quite a lot of work that has gone on to help attract people to this workforce, but a detailed answer from the relevant minister will provide more details for you.
Answered: 22 September 2021 by Hon James Merlino
Enterprise bargaining for a new public health sector mental health enterprise agreement is currently occurring. The enterprise agreement will apply to mental health nursing, allied health and administrative workers. The Government is working with all parties to the current enterprise agreement to reach a satisfactory settlement to all. We anticipate this bargaining to be finalised in the near future.
The Royal Commission made numerous recommendations related to workforce in the interim report and the final report. This Government has committed to the implementation of all of those recommendations.