WAAMH Submission: Accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia Senate Inquiry

In April 2018, WAAMH engaged in consultation with both members of the organisation and the wider community to inform this submission. This consultation was conducted to ensure that WAAMH presents a genuine and focused regional perspective on the Inquiry Terms of Reference.

The Senate Inquiry's findings have since been published in a report.

The report reflects a significant number of the concerns raised by WAAMH in its submission to the inquiry, particularly in relation to appropriate and accessible locally-based mental health services, social determinants, the NDIS, funding and contracting, workforce issues, the role of technology, and the mental health needs of priority groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Summary of report findings

  • The Report reinforces the importance of delivering the right mental health services, in the right place, at the right time.
  • The Report recognises the unique needs of rural and remote communities, including the effect of the social determinates of health, and calls for a national rural and remote mental health strategy to be developed.
  • It also recognises the need for communities to be involved in service planning, design and delivery, and for services to be trusted, local, accessible, and appropriate for the individual community they serve. The need for a ‘no wrong door’ approach is also highlighted.
  • Barriers to the NDIS being effectively and appropriately implemented in rural and remote areas are identified in the report, including barriers to accessing mental health services and the lack of knowledge and experience, and the need for these to be addressed is a key finding in the report.
  • Importantly, the need for reform in funding, tendering and contracting practices for mental health services is recognised, with longer contracts (minimum 5 years) and the reintroduction of block funding recommended.
  • The report also recognises the important role of Aboriginal community-controlled health services, the need for aboriginal organisations to address mental health issues and deliver mental health services, and the need for culturally competent services in rural and remote areas. The report is damning of the failure to appropriately address continuing high suicide rates in rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • The report also identifies the need to increase the number of appropriately trained staff in rural and remote areas, including investment in peer workers.
  • The report supports the need to reduce stigma of mental health issues in rural and remote areas in a co-designed way.
  • Technology is identified as playing a role in the delivery of mental health services in rural and remote areas but acknowledges the need for infrastructure and access to the strengthen and recognises the key importance of face-to-face services.

A summary of the report recommendations can be found on pages xv-xvii of the report.

WAAMH's submission and consultation

WAAMH’s submission to the inquiry was strongly acknowledged in the report, with six direct quotes or acknowledgments within the report, and eight additional references to WAAMHs contribution throughout the document. WAAMH would like to thank all organisations and individuals who took part in the WAAMH consultation and contributed to the submission to this important inquiry. 

The response to our consultation was significant, with 195 submissions to an online survey, approximately 20 face-to-face and telephone consultations, and two written submissions.

Online survey respondents came from all regions of WA, with the following percentages for each region: Gascoyne 2%, Goldfields-Esperance 8%, Great Southern 16%, Kimberley 10%, Mid-West 6%, Peel 3%, Pilbara 5%, South West 22% and Wheatbelt 26%.

Respondents identified as either a person who uses mental health services (30.4%), a carer or family member of someone who uses mental health services (30.4%) or a provider of mental health services (35%).

The submission also draws on information collected by WAAMH through other activities. In 2017, WAAMH gathered information about issues in rural and remote areas for a Workforce Development Project. In July 2017 a consultation forum on rural and remote mental health was held with participants from rural and remote areas attending the WA Mental Health Conference. These two projects have also helped to inform this submission.

This consultation was conducted to ensure that WAAMH presented a genuine and focused regional perspective on the Inquiry Terms of Reference. WAAMH would like to thank all participants in the consultation process and other projects who contributed to this submission.

View the WAAMH submission to the inquiry here.

WAAMH attended and presented evidence to the hearing of the Senate Inquiry held at the Albany Library on June 5, 2018. A link to the transcript of WAAMH’s evidence and answer to questions is here:


WAAMH also provided a detailed answer to a question on notice about what can be learned from problems being experienced with the NDIS. Answers to the Question taken on Notice during the 5 June public hearing is here