Health | March 10, 2021

Lowan residents face further wait for mental health support

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy is deeply disappointed that the Andrews Labor Government has not nominated regional western Victoria for a mental health priority site, despite significant gaps in access to support in this part of the state.

The government announced on Wednesday that it would begin rolling out Adult and Older Adult Mental Health and Wellbeing Services across Victoria, a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health Services.

Ms Kealy – who is also Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Mental Health – said only one of the six priority sites the government had nominated was west of Melbourne, but given this site was in Greater Geelong it was no more accessible for locals in need of mental health support than travelling to the city.

The government’s decision to largely avoid the majority of the western part of the state comes despite the fact that of the 10 local government areas with the highest rates of suicide in Victoria, sadly, six are in the west.

Three Lowan local government areas – Hindmarsh, Yarriambiack and Northern Grampians – are among those six, with neighbouring shire Buloke also represented.

Ms Kealy said while it was critical the government acted swiftly to implement the recommendations from the commission’s final report handed down last week, the decision to only commit to six services being open in the next two years meant some of the most vulnerable communities faced an even longer wait to get the services they desperately needed.

“We have lost far too many people to suicide in our community, and our broken mental health system means far too many reach crisis point before there is support available to them, if any at all,” she said.

“Some of the most isolated communities in Victoria are in the Lowan electorate, hours away from the nearest support service and even further still from crisis-level support. And yet despite the significant challenges they already face in accessing mental health services, these communities have been overlooked in the government’s priorities.

“On top of this, the government plans to introduce a mental health tax for all Victorians, regardless of whether adequate services are available in their area. This means our community will be forced to pay a tax for services they can’t even access.

“We know there are substantial gaps in access to support for rural and regional Victorians, with many people stuck on waitlists for months or forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to the next available service.

“Being forced down the list of priorities will only exacerbate these gaps, and having to pay a tax for services that are not available is a further insult to these communities.

“It is absolutely vital it is that our communities are prioritised for comprehensive mental health services. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Anyone needing support can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Victorian local government areas with the highest rates of suicide, 2014 to 2018

Local government area

Average annual rate per 100,000 people

Benalla (RC)


Indigo (S)


Buloke (S)


Hindmarsh (S)


Corangamite (S)


East Gippsland (S)


Yarriambiack (S)


Northern Grampians (S)


Mount Alexander (S)


Warrnambool (C)


Source: Parliament of Victoria Library

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