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Speech by Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Richmond Fellowship ACT PHAMS Opening – Richmond Fellowship, Goulburn

Location: Richmond Fellowship, Goulburn

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Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I pay my respects to their wisdom, traditions and culture.

Thank you Wilf Rath for the invitation to be here today.

I acknowledge Alby Shultz my Parliamentary colleague and councilors Peterson and Kettle, and representatives of the many service providers we have in Goulburn.

This really is an exciting day for the Goulburn community – a brand new office with three new staff members and two more on the way who will together provide a wonderful and much needed service in our local community.

The almost $4 million provided by the Australian government to Richmond Fellowship has enabled this “outpost” in Goulburn, as well as two offices in Queanbeyan and Gungahlin, to be established.

This is such an exciting development for the Goulburn community because until now Richmond Fellowship staff have had to travel from Canberra to provide their support and assistance.

Now we have Goulburn based, Goulburn people – Debbie and Peter – helping those in need in our community, and a little farther afield as well to Gunning, Crookwell and Bungendore.

Our new Richmond Fellowship colleagues are going to be the complete definition of outreach – with only three desks in the office and four cars, the message for these five special people is “get out of the office and into the community.”

And this is just what we need to be able to reach vulnerable people who are slowly circling outwards to the margins of our community – people connecting with people to draw those who have been excluded back into full participation.

This is the ethos of the Richmond Fellowship.

The Fellowship was originally founded in 1957 in Richmond, England and has since grown into a worldwide network of support services for the vulnerable people in our community.

As part of this international network, the Richmond Fellowship ACT provides a variety of facilities and services for adolescents and adults experiencing social and behavioural challenges, long term unemployment and psychiatric disability, as well as counseling and support to their families.

As Wilf has said to me, whilst the Goulburn office will officially have around 60 clients, the real number is much greater as staff members often end up providing support and assistance to client family members as well.

Because the reality is that mental illness doesn’t only affect the lives of people with a mental illness, but also those who love and care for them.

This is one of the reasons for establishing the Parliamentary Friends of Schizophrenia.

The wonderful thing about the Richmond Fellowship approach is that it works with the person in their environment – bringing the support and assistance to them, in the place that they live and to the people who surround them.

And this is also the ethos of the Australian government’s social inclusion approach to helping those in need – an ethos that says we need to wrap the services around the person and draw them back into full engagement in our community.

That’s why we’ve contributed $285 million over 5 years to the Council of Australian Governments’ National Action Plan on Mental Health.

This money will fund 900 Personal Helpers and Mentors – just like those here in this office – to assist people with a severe mental illness to manage their daily activities, reconnect with the wider community and support their recovery process.

One of the keys to this program is the recovery focus which looks at the participant’s strengths and what they can do, rather than what they can’t do. To recognize and build on assets and strengths is an important underpinning principle of social inclusion.

Here in Goulburn we have a long history of professional care for the vulnerable. In fact, social and community services significantly underpin our economy. And we are regarded as having several centres of excellence in mental health care and community support models.

We all know that we are more likely to flourish when we have a mentor who believes in us.

So I would like to congratulate The Richmond Fellowship ACT as the successful Personal Helper and Mentor Program service provider in the Queanbeyan/Yass, Southern Highlands/Crookwell/Goulburn and Belconnen/Gungahlin regions and look forward to hearing about your successes and inspirational stories in our community.

So can I affirm the work of the Richmond Fellowship and pledge our support as the community of Goulburn to embracing you as part of a continuum of care for people with mental illness in our community.

And now it is my great pleasure to formally launch these three new Personal Helper and Mentor programs.