New Victorian Mental Health Act passes Parliament

02 September 2022

PACFA welcomes the Victorian Parliament’s passing of the new Victorian Mental Health and Wellbeing Act.

The new legislation names counsellors ‘of a prescribed class’ as mental health practitioners. The Victorian Government has invited consultation with PACFA about the ‘prescribed class’ definition.

The legislation was a recommendation of the Victorian Royal Commission into the Mental Health System and will come into effect by 1 September 2023. The Bill was introduced to the Victorian Parliament in June 2022.

In the Bill’s second reading speech to the Victorian Parliament, former Victorian Mental Health Minister James Merlino said: ‘We are setting out a vision for the future of mental health and wellbeing services in Victoria—one where lived experience voices are at the centre and mental health professionals are supported to deliver on world-class care in facilities that actually help people recover.’

Mr Merlino said the diversity of the mental health workforce was critical in developing a health-led response to the mental health crisis and ‘across the whole spectrum of care’.

‘We are expanding the footprint of the mental health and wellbeing system, which means bringing in multidisciplinary teams to cater to a breadth of treatment and support needs.

‘In recognition of this, we have included a new definition—mental health and wellbeing professional—to better recognise the diverse workers who make up our new system. This definition explicitly calls out professionals such as registered psychologist, registered paramedic and counsellor of a prescribed class as persons who perform duties in connection with mental health and wellbeing services.’

The legislation contains new rights-based objectives and principles and supports the establishment of new roles and entities recommended by the Royal Commission.

This includes a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, Regional Mental Health and Wellbeing Boards, a new Chief Officer for Mental Health and Wellbeing and Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Victoria.

PACFA President Dr Di Stow said both the recognition of counsellors and the centrality of people with lived experience of mental illness within the Act were important steps forward.

‘It’s gratifying to see that the Victorian Government is implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System; they have listened to the Victorian people and this Act paves the way for real change.

‘PACFA is looking forward to working with the Victorian Government, including the new Mental Health Minister Gabrielle Williams, to better integrate our well-trained and experienced members into the mental health system.’

Read information sheets on key elements of the Act on the Engage Victoria website.