This submission was made in response to the press release by the Minister for Mental Health (WA), the Hon Helen Morton MLC, regarding proposed changes to the existing Mental Health Act 1996. The Mental Health Bill 2011: Draft Bill for Public Comment was launched by the Minister on 16 December 2011. The proposed changes include a new Mental Health Advocacy Service, currently the Council of Official Visitors, headed by a full-time Chief Mental Health Advocate who will be required to contact every involuntary patient within seven days and a Mental Health Tribunal to replace the existing Mental Health Review Board.  The role of the Tribunal will be to independently review involuntary treatment orders.  The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (Inc.) (ALSWA) acts for a number of clients affected by the existing Act, in particular children and those living in remote communities.  Our submission includes responses to the amendments to the existing Act and ALSWA’s experience and submissions on mental health implications pertinent to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in WA. ALSWA supported a number of the proposed changes in the Draft Bill, for example the institution of a Tribunal and the introduction of the advocacy service. ALSWA highlighted some of the areas which were not addressed in the Bill, such as the nature and scope of representation afforded to mentally ill persons before the Tribunal, difficulties for persons in remote and regional areas and prisons in accessing mental health services.  Importantly, the submission also raises concerns about the indeterminate detention of persons with mental illness.

Draft Mental Health Bill submission – ALSWA  (336 KB)