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Commissioners, terms of reference announced for mental health royal commission

The Andrews government in Victoria has announced a four-pronged panel of commissioners, as well as the terms of reference, for its upcoming state-based Royal Commission into Mental Health.

Penny Armytage, who is a former Victorian Department of Justice secretary and recently served as the chair of the Transport Accident Commission, has been appointed as the chairperson for the mental health royal commission.

She will be joined by University of Melbourne Department of Psychiatry Associate Professor Alex Cockram, former chair of the National Mental Health Commission Professor Allan Fels, and Melbourne Law School Professor Bernadette McSherry, all of whom will serve as the commissioners to lead the “landmark inquiry”.

Premier Daniel Andrews said: “We don’t have all the answers when it comes to mental health. That’s why we’re drawing on the experts who know the sector best and the Victorians who have lived experiences to help us find them.”

The terms of reference that will guide the royal commission were also announced, following consultation “with the experts in the mental health sector and the community” and thousands of online submissions from taxpayers.

The terms of reference are:

• How to most effectively prevent mental illness and suicide
• How to deliver the best mental health outcomes and help Victorians navigate the system
• How to best support the needs of family members and carers of people living with mental illness
• How to improve outcomes for those in the community at greater risk of experiencing poor mental health
• How to best support people living with mental illness and problematic alcohol and drug use

“One in five Victorians will experience mental illness this year, and too many of those will lose their lives to suicide,” Victorian Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said.

“We need a new approach to mental health, and a royal commission will help deliver a new system.”

The commission will deliver a preliminary report by 30 November 2019 and a final report in October 2020.