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Wildlife Carer Mental Health - question without notice

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
15 September 2020

Ms CATE FAEHRMANN: My question is directed to the Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women. Following the bushfires some wildlife experts have called for more mental health support for wildlife carers after one study found that almost one‑third of wildlife carers experienced moderate to severe grief in the ordinary course of their work. According to Beyond Blue, images of animals killed by the fires and the knowledge that millions of hectares of habitat had been lost caused widespread distress in the wider community and in young people in particular. Does the Minister agree that the suffering of Australia's wildlife in the bushfires, including our most loved animal the koala, and the loss of so much habitat impacted on the mental health of many Australians, particularly young people?

The Hon. BRONNIE TAYLOR (Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women): I thank Ms Cate Faehrmann for her question, which had two parts: support for wildlife carers and support for young people. I will talk about the bushfires and what has happened. The Government has provided mental health support in all areas, and in all shapes and sizes. In particular, her question pertains to mental health and the stress experienced by wildlife carers. I have received a request from the Animal Justice Party for a meeting to deal with that specific issue and to look at support for wildlife carers. Obviously, the bushfires were an extremely difficult time. I know that from personal experience in my own area. However, a lot of wildlife was preserved on private farmland that had been well looked after by landholders for that purpose. I make clear that services are available for people to access when they need help. Early on in the COVID pandemic the Government invested over $800,000 in the BEING Supported warm line. The number is 1800 151 151. That service is a little different. It is delivered by peer—

Ms Cate Faehrmann: Point of order: The question was not about the services provided to wildlife carers. The question asked whether the Minister agreed that the suffering of Australia's wildlife in the bushfires and the extensive loss of habitat have impacted on the mental health of many Australians, including young people.

The PRESIDENT: It is difficult for me to rule on the point of order because I do not have a copy of the question and I was speaking to the Clerk on another matter. I remind the Minister to be directly relevant. I have now been provided with a copy of the question. The Minister may resume her answer.

The Hon. BRONNIE TAYLOR: It is not for me to say what distresses people and impacts their mental health when they are responding to bushfires, to COVID-19 or to anything else. What counts is what is real to them. If wildlife carers are extremely distressed because they saw the destruction of wildlife, that is what matters to me. All that then matters is that they are able to access the available services for help, regardless of the particular mental health issue they are experiencing. The New South Wales Government announced a recovery package that included $14.8 million to recruit 30 additional bushfire recovery mental health clinicians. I say to anyone, whether they are wildlife carers or people who have experienced the bushfires or COVID-19, or even if they have not been affected directly by any of the events of 2020, but nevertheless feel distressed: Services are available and accessible. That is why I mentioned the BEING Supported warm line because it is run by people who have lived experience of mental illness. It has had great success in a short time.

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
15 September 2020
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