Members of Labor’s Medicare Taskforce visited Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) today to discuss the urgent need for increased funding for counselling services in the wake of the Turnbull Government’s marriage equality survey.
The visit follows a spike in clients presenting with mental health issues which has forced QuAC to advertise for a dedicated Mental Health Coordinator.
Executive Director Michael Scott said the Council had been inundated by requests for mental health support from LGBTI people who are deeply distressed by the current postal survey on marriage equality.
“The level of homophobia and transphobia that this has stirred in the community has real consequences for LGBTI people, and the associated trauma within the LGBTI community as a result of the survey will take a generation to repair,” Mr Scott said.
Federal Member for Moreton Graham Perrett said Malcolm Turnbull must take responsibility for the increased levels of distress in the LGBTI community and urgently allocate funding for targeted counselling services.
“This survey isn’t just causing direct damage, it’s also dredging up traumatic memories of the discrimination the LGBTI community has faced over decades,” Mr Perrett said.
“Bill Shorten wrote to the Prime Minister almost a month ago requesting the urgent allocation of funds for counselling services but he is still waiting for a response.”
Taskforce Chair Sharon Claydon said dire warnings of mental health experts about the impacts of the survey were sadly being realised across the country.
“People who identify as LGBTI people already had an elevated risk of mental health problems and suicidal thoughts because of persistent discrimination and exclusion,” Ms Claydon said.
“Since this terrible survey was announced, Beyond Blue has registered a forty per cent increase in calls. Mental health services across the country are being stretched to their limit.”
Taskforce Co-Chair and medical practitioner of more than 30 years, Dr Mike Freelander, said mental health advocates have estimated up to 3000 school suicide attempts could be averted when marriage equality becomes a reality.
“We need to get this done, but Parliament should have done its job rather than forcing the LGBTI community to endure a divisive $122 million public debate on their fundamental right to equality,” Dr Freelander said.
“Prime Minister Turnbull’s postal survey is telling people in same sex relationships that they are somehow lesser than other Australians and that their relationships aren’t as valid.”
The Medicare Taskforce has been holding consultations with practitioners, consumers and health service organisations across the country. The outcomes of the Taskforce will help inform future Labor policy.