Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (10:50): Following up on that ‘lest we forget’, I indicate my concern and well wishes on that important day. I rise to raise my anger and dismay at the prospect that a community group that provides vital support services in my area is potentially going to be the victim of callous cuts yet again by the Turnbull government. In this case, anyone who has a men’s shed in their area should be very concerned about the situation confronting the men’s shed in Emerton in my electorate, because it may well be a recipe that is continued on in other electorates.
The men’s shed in Emerton has been around since 2004. It is a community based organisation. It provides a safe and open environment for men to be able to raise things that are troubling them, be it with family, work or elsewhere, and to do it in a way that potentially avoids awful consequences for people that are unable to deal with those emotional concerns and other pressures. In our area people like UWS’s Dr John Macdonald; the coordinator, Rick Welsh; and a range of other people have been making sure that this service has been there for men in need. It has survived across governments—coalition and Labor—for over 14 years now and it is something that has obviously been recognised for its value.
Imagine my surprise to learn that on Christmas Eve a letter—and it was quite a bizarre letter—was sent to the men’s shed in my area. Two things in the letter stood out to me. First, it said, ‘The Australian government has outlined a new national suicide prevention strategy and that it is time to build on the current approach by focusing on effective local coordination that allows for regional and cultural strengths.’ Then in the next breath it said, ‘In line with this strategy, Australian government funding for community based suicide prevention programs will be transitioned to primary health networks,’ so away from the local organisation to a primary health network that will then make a decision about whether or not it will fund groups like the men’s shed.
The men’s shed is now meeting with WentWest, the primary health network in our area. I am a big fan of them but I see no point in creating another hurdle, structure or bureaucratic way in which to manage this strategy that potentially reduces the longer term funding available for these groups, and makes no sense whatsoever. I absolutely demand of the health minister a clear assurance that this new arrangement will not result in men’s sheds being shut down and mental health support being denied to people in need in my area all because of some reorganisation—some bureaucratic mindset—that says the they are going to change the way the strategy is run. It is not good enough.