Robodebt fallout: AFMH advocates ‘Mental Health Impact Statements’ for Policy Reform

By Our Reporter
Representative Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash+

The national grassroots campaign group Australians for Mental Health (AFMH) issued a call for governmental reform, advocating for a mandatory “Mental Health Impact Statement” during the legislative drafting and public policy development process.

Chris Gambian, Chief Executive of AFMH, pointed out the dire need for this reform in light of the glaring deficiencies of elected politicians and public servants as highlighted in the recently published RoboDebt Royal Commission report. He made a case for mental health considerations to be an integral part of government operations.

“When governments make decisions, they are typically expected to contemplate the implications, ranging from financial risks to legal issues and environmental impacts whenever pertinent,” he said.

“Then surely, it should be part of routine administrative procedure that governments also deliberate the impacts on mental health and well-being when the well-being of citizens is in question?”

Mr. Gambian argued that before making significant policy decisions, mental health considerations must be evaluated, understood, and deliberated upon.

“The public ought to have access to these discussions through Freedom of Information requests, and vigilant Senators should have the capability to question Ministers and public servants about them during the Estimates process,” he elaborated.

“In essence, governments should be systematically held accountable for the decisions they make that have either direct or indirect implications for the mental health of individuals or the wider population.”

Mr. Gambian firmly believes that implementing a “Mental Health Impact Statement” protocol would not only pay for itself in the long run but also result in better decision-making.

“With a formalised procedure for considering mental health—both in terms of the opportunities for enhancement and the risks of harm—across all facets of government, not just the health portfolio, we could witness unprecedented improvements in the lives of Australians, superior outcomes against other policy objectives, and ultimately, a reduced financial burden on the Treasury,” he concluded.

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