In chapter 7, we identified a lack of locus of responsibility and coordination within central government on the underlying and interconnected drivers of wider social wellbeing, including prevention and social determinants. We noted that many agencies operate in the wellbeing space without strategic leadership or coordination. To address these issues, we recommended a new social wellbeing entity be set up within government.
Throughout this Inquiry, we also heard about a general lack of confidence in the leadership of the mental health and addiction sector over many years. Submitters highlighted shortcomings and documented ways the sector has failed to improve outcomes, reduce disparities, and reduce the number of suicides or the rate of suicide. Many submitters who shared their views on mental health and addiction leadership proposed the establishment of an independent agency to ensure sustained, transformational change and oversee the mental health and addiction system.
We agree that national leadership will be essential to achieve the vision set out in this report. Mental health and addiction issues are complex and interconnected and touch on many aspects of people’s lives – it would be easy to lose direction in an attempt to solve every issue at once. Leadership is needed to keep the focus on where we need to get to and to bring clarity to how we get there without getting lost in detail or being overcome by paralysis.
We view a reinvigorated and expanded mental health commission – the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission – as a crucial mechanism to enhance the leadership of mental health and addiction issues and to provide independent monitoring and oversight. We are clear that the new Commission would have a strong addiction focus.
In this chapter, we discuss the role and functions of the new Commission.