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Report of the National Inquiry into the Human Rights of People With Mental Illness

Report of the National Inquiry into the Human Rights of People With Mental Illness

The full report of this Inquiry, released in 1993. is not currently available in digital form. However we now have available:

The Report of the National Inquiry into the Human Rights of People with Mental Illness was tabled in Parliament and publicly released on 20 October, 1993.

Over a three year period the Inquiry received nearly 900 written submissions, heard from over 450 witnesses at formal hearings and consulted with approximately 300 people at forums and informal meetings.

The Inquiry played an important role in raising awareness about the human rights of Australians affected by mental illness. The Inquiry highlighted the extent of mental illness in the community and the need for more concerted government action in this area.

Findings of the Inquiry included:

  • People affected by mental illness are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our community. They suffer from widespread systemic discrimination and are consistently denied the rights and services to which they are entitled.

  • Individuals with special needs - children and adolescents, the elderly, the homeless, women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, those with dual or multiple disabilities, people in rural and isolated areas and prisoners - bear the burden of double disadvantage and seriously inadequate specialist services.

  • The level of ignorance and discrimination still associated with mental illness and psychiatric disability in the 1990s is unacceptable and must be addressed.

  • In general, the savings resulting from deinstitutionalisation have not been redirected to mental health services in the community. These remain seriously underfunded, as do the non-government services which struggle to support the mentally ill and their carers. While the movement towards mainstreaming mental health services may alleviate the stigma associated with psychiatric care, there is a serious risk it will not receive the resources it so desperately needs.

  • Poor inter-sectoral links, the ambivalent stance of the private sector and a reluctance on the part of government agencies to co-operate in the delivery of services to people with mental illness have contributed significantly to the human rights violations they experience.

The recommendations of the Inquiry covered a wide range of areas including inpatient and community treatment and care of people affected by mental illness, the rights of carers, the special needs of particularly disadvantaged groups, accommodation, employment, professional training and education, community education, research, prevention and early intervention, and the reform of mental health and related legislation.

The recommendations have helped bring about major improvements in laws, policies, programs and funding to meet the needs of Australians affected by mental illness. However, many of our mentally ill and their carers have not yet felt the full benefit of these reforms. In particular, many people with mental illness are still homeless and many more still live in sub-standard accommodation. Many do not receive the medical care to which they are entitled. Much work remains to be done to fully implement the recommendations of the inquiry and ensure respect for the rights of those affected by mental illness.