‘Could always do more’: PM’s Bondi message

Anthony Albanese has outlined the ‘substantial investment’ his government has made in mental health and suicide prevention systems. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Anthony Albanese has praised the “quite remarkable” mental health support offered to the victims and onlookers of a stabbing rampage at a Sydney shopping centre that left seven dead, including the assailant.

The brutal attack occurred on Saturday afternoon at Bondi Junction Westfield, with the murderer Joel Cauchi identified as having previously been diagnosed with a mental illness when he was 17 – believed to be schizophrenia.

But despite admitting that governments “could always do more” to support those with ill mental health, the Prime Minister outlined the “substantial investment” Labor had made in bolstering mental health and suicide prevention systems.

The Prime Minister conceded the government ‘could always do more’ on mental health. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Citing the scenes following the incident, Mr Albanese said people were getting the mental health support that was required.

“In NSW, it was evident there at Bondi Junction that the NSW government Department of Health very early on (had) people clearly identified as being able to provide support for people,” Mr Albanese told ABC Radio Sydney on Monday.

“I thought that was a real indication of how on top of things the NSW administration was, which under the circumstances is quite remarkable, entirely appropriate of course.”

Mr Albanese added that long-term support required additional mental health practitioners, arguing that the previous provision of additional subsidised psychology sessions had resulted in detrimental outcomes.

“You can’t provide sessions for people if there’s no one to conduct those sessions and one of the things we found was that less people were getting more support,” Mr Albanese added.

The Albanese government has launched a 10-year national mental health strategy designed to co-ordinate efforts between jurisdictions to bolster the number of mental health professionals.

Detectives are still piecing together details of the stabbing incident at Bondi Junction. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Monique Harmer

However, Labor did not renew a Coalition-era measure during the coronavirus pandemic that provided Australians with a GP-approved mental health plan to access 20 subsidised psychology sessions a year.

Now, 10 subsidised sessions can be accessed.

With the assailant also reportedly homeless in the weeks prior to the attack, Mr Albanese said state and federal governments were also progressing funding for those sleeping rough.

“That’s key and the Commonwealth and state governments at the moment are in negotiations over the Commonwealth-state housing and homelessness agreement,” he said.

In a later interview on Radio National, Mr Albanese said “incidents like this will prompt a considered review”, with public safety and the management of mental health set to be investigated.

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