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2018: the year in review


Commissioner Ivan Frkovic

Commissioner Ivan Frkovic

14 Dec 2018

Season’s Greetings everyone

If you are like me you are probably wondering how we made it to December so quickly.

When reflecting on some of the highlights for the Commission this year, I am mindful that they all have been achieved by working with you, our partners.

In April, we released Changing attitudes, changing lives, which outlined 18 options for system reform to address stigma and discrimination for people experiencing problematic alcohol and other drug use. The report showed that stigma and discrimination cause significant harm and act as barriers to people seeking help to make changes in their lives. We are working with our partners to implement these options for reform.

We started an important public conversation about alcohol and drug system reform following a delegation to Lisbon, Portugal in June. Portugal takes a health, rather than a criminal justice response to small quantities of illicit drug possession for personal use, and the trip was an opportunity to see how this works in practice. Portugal’s 17 years’ experience in dealing with drug use in this way has resulted in major benefits, for people using drugs for recreational purposes and those with an addiction, including freeing up police resources, reducing demand on the court and prison systems, and particularly seeing the addiction rates for adolescents and young people on the decline.

The public conversation and media interest in drug safety testing at the upcoming Queensland Festivals and providing a health response to those caught with small quantities of illicit drugs for personal use in the broader community is gaining more traction every day.  I have been able to present the challenges and benefits of this approach to Queenslanders in various radio interviews recently. People are interested in this discussion and we need to continue to be part of it.

The Queensland Mental Health and Drug Advisory Council hit the road this year, holding meetings in Longreach and Townsville. These regional visits included valuable time for meeting local stakeholders and hearing their perspectives. Personally, when visiting drought-affected areas such as Longreach, I am always impressed by the level of hope, resilience, passion and vision the local people exhibit.

The release of Queensland’s renewed mental health, alcohol and other drugs plan, Shifting minds, in November was the culmination of months of work by many people from across all sectors. As I said at its launch, as important as this plan is, it’s the shared ownership by people—you, me, us—who will make reform happen. With our collective vision articulated in the plan, the task for early 2019 is to develop an implementation roadmap.

Bringing Queensland leaders in the mental health, AOD and suicide prevention areas together in late November for the Leading Reform Summit rounded out the year. The calibre of presenters and delegates gives me great confidence that we have a common vision, that we have joint ownership of the reform agenda and that we can achieve the system reform we’ve outlined in Shifting minds. The summit videos and presentations are available on our website.

Take a look at the presentations from Leading Reform 2018 >>  

This year, I’ve been privileged to meet many of you who are working towards helping all Queenslanders achieve positive mental health and wellbeing. I am always inspired by the lengths people in our sector go to, to make a difference, and I sincerely thank you for this.

Finally, as Christmas is upon us,  I urge you all to replenish, recharge, stay safe and continue to take care of each other.

Ivan Frkovic
Queensland Mental Health Commissioner