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Wesley Mission's Mental Health Clinical Education Facility Opening

Caption: Nickolas Varvaris MP with The Rev Dr Keith Garner, CEO of Wesley Mission 


It gives me great pleasure to stand before you today for the opening of the Wesley Hospital Kogarah Clinical Education Facility. I am joined at this important event by The Rev Dr Keith Garner, CEO of Wesley Mission; Mr Chris England, General Manager of Health and Community Services, Mr Michael Sheedy, Executive Manager of Mental Health and Counselling Services and my colleague Mr David Coleman, Federal Member for Banks.


Wesley Mission has been an integral part of Sydney and in particular, the Southern suburbs for more than 50 years. The focus has always been the core delivery for mental health service through the ongoing work of Lifeline, Wesley LifeForce, counselling services and 2 private psychiatric hospitals, one in Ashfield and the other located in the electorate of Barton in Kogarah.


Wesley Hospital Kogarah is a 30-bed facility that offers extensive in-patient and day patient programs for people experiencing mental health problems. Currently, the hospital provides treatments for patients who have alcohol dependency, drug addiction, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, psychosis and veterans’ service-related trauma.


Central to the hospital is ongoing facilitation of medical and health specialists so that both the community and health sector can approach this issue as an integrated whole. As such, the construction and development of Kogarah’s Clinical Education Facility is an essential step in the training and education of health students and professionals to meet the demands for mental health services.


Mental health has always been a priority for Australian governments, both at state and federal levels, with bipartisan support with a commitment to investing in clinical and community support services. The Coalition and in particular, the former Prime Minister, The Honourable John Howard has had a longstanding relationship with Wesley Mission to provide essential services and programs to those affected by mental health with accommodation, rehabilitation, support groups and system-wide advocacy.


Over the last 2 decades, state and territory mental health service delivery increased by 72%. Approximately $124m of a recent health budget was dedicated to psychosocial support services provided by non-government organisations because it is imperative that we provide a safe and secure facility for mental illness sufferers. Whilst we now have a better understanding of mental illness, particularly depression, schizophrenia and suicide amongst the community with increased awareness and support, often demand has not been met with supply.


The issue of mental health is one of medical and community concern. It is estimated that 45% of all Australians will experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime and will require timely and appropriate support. Approximately 20% of adults will experience symptoms of a mental disorder every year. In NSW, mental health problems affect 53% of the population alone which translates to 2.8 million people, based on actual reporting and diagnosis.


Undoubtedly, there is an appetite for mental health services and more importantly, for the need to have qualified, trained professionals. In addition, increasing the number of trained allied professionals in mental health is fundamental given projected population growth in Australia. Based on current projections, this means approximately 135% to 160% increase of mental health professionals required over the next 15 years.


The need for more inpatient and community mental health service programs is required by 2022 in NSW alone. In the Southern health region, an expected 6% increase in mental health services is expected in line with population growth. To meet these demands will not be possible without increase in professionals achieved only through appropriate, relevant education and mental health practice.


The idea of a purpose-built training facility in the area of mental health was unique, and successfully granted to Wesley Mission. This is an exciting opportunity for tertiary institutions and students to learn in a customised and dedicated environment. Demand for training with adequate facilities has traditionally been difficult to access so the opening of the Clinical Education Facility is a milestone in this electorate. The Wesley Mission Clinical Education Facility can assist the multitude of university students who require the essential quality clinical placements to prepare them for a career in mental health. I am proud of this new centre and what this will mean for the future of Barton.