Queensland Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic today welcomed the introduction of a Human Rights Bill to Parliament, saying increased accessibility to appropriate mental health care was a priority for all Queenslanders.
Mr Frkovic said the Bill was not only an expression of rights, but an assertion of obligations by the State, particularly towards people with a mental illness, or problematic alcohol and other drug use.
He said the Bill rightly identified cultural change across Government agencies as the key to translating good intent into good practice.
“This must not just be a legislative mechanism in isolation, but something that is embedded across the philosophy, policy and practice of all agencies,” Mr Frkovic said.
“For real, sustainable change to take hold, the Act must be supported by a concerted campaign to eliminate stigma and discrimination.”
He also applauded the creation of a Human Rights Commission in Queensland, saying: “Rights without remedy are essentially rights curtailed.
“People living with mental illness or problematic alcohol and other drug use are some of the most vulnerable in our community.
“During episodes of acute illness, a person with a mental illness may not be able to assert their rights at the very time those rights may be most vulnerable to being breached.
“That’s why it’s so important people have access to a simple, easy and effective means to pursue human rights breaches, and in the case of people with a mental illness, they may need empathetic supports to assert their rights.”
Mr Frkovic said the Mental Health Act 2016 significantly increased protections for people under involuntary care, however rights protections were needed outside of this specific context.
“Vulnerable people are not always treated under the Mental Health Act, including people receiving voluntary treatment, or receiving support from government-funded community services.
“A human rights act includes additional safeguards and broader protections for all people with a mental illness or problematic alcohol or other drug use.”
Mr Frkovic said it was significant that the Bill included economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to health care.
“Respect for human rights is fundamental to supporting recovery.
“It enables individuals to be socially included, have lives with purpose through participation in education, employment and access to services such as health and housing services.”
“I look forward to working with our partners to achieve improved human rights protections in Queensland.”
The Commission has long advocated for a human rights act to further protect the rights of people under involuntary mental health care in Queensland.