Motions: The Junction, Mount Gambier

Wednesday May 01, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (12:52): I move:

That this house—

(a) recognises the valuable service that The Junction, Mount Gambier, provides to people who are suffering from mental illness in the Limestone Coast region;

(b) acknowledges the volunteers who run programs that are provided at The Junction; and

(c) calls on the state government to provide funding to The Junction to enable them to expand the services currently provided by them to include a wider cross-section of the community.

Mental health and wellbeing is an issue affecting every single South Australian. The South Australian Mental Health Strategic Plan states that 45 per cent of South Australians will experience a diagnosable mental illness at some time in their life and that the remaining 55 per cent are likely to, in some way, have to care for or be impacted by those who do.

We all know people in our lives affected by mental illness, whether it be a family member or a fellow employee, whether it be short-term or an ongoing condition. To those in treatment and recovery mode, support services are absolutely critical to getting back on your feet. Today, I want to highlight the good work of a volunteer-run organisation that is filling a significant gap in the Limestone Coast region's services. This organisation is The Junction, which has centres in Mount Gambier and Millicent.

The idea for The Junction began back in 2008 through a group of mental health organisations and individuals who recognised a need in the community for those people past the acute stage of their mental illness but who still needed assistance and support. The Junction was designed to fulfil this need, becoming an activity and learning centre and providing ongoing services and programs to these people. The word 'ongoing' is the key word here, as many services end after diagnosis or a defined period of time or treatment.

For some people, the ongoing effects of mental illness can affect their lives for years or even decades. The Junction provides that steady crutch, that ongoing support to get you back on your feet. Their activities are designed to give people the chance to work on social inclusion, coping skills and healthy relationships—all those little things that are key to getting people back to themselves. This includes cooking, healthy living, exercise, perinatal and positive psychology sessions.

They also run what they call the 'mental health first-aid kit' for local companies, educating people about the various conditions, teaching them how to recognise the warning signs and the right time to ask for help. During the last few years, more than 2,000 people have gone through this course. Everyone here would have heard the saying 'ripple effect', where one event, situation or person can have a flow-on effect to others around them. Each of these people takes these valuable skills back into the wider community, getting the message out to friends, family and their workplaces.

During the last 10 years, The Junction has had an overwhelmingly positive ripple effect on the Limestone Coast community. This year, The Junction is about to come to a major milestone: 10 years of operation, but maybe what they should be celebrating is 10 years of survival. The centre survives on a shoestring budget, consisting of grants, donations from local organisations and proceeds from charity events. The main driver behind The Junction's continued existence is Nel Jans, whom I have known for more than 10 years.

Nel is a strong-willed, very dedicated lady, who is incredibly passionate about mental health. In her homeland of the Netherlands, Nel was a mental health nurse, social worker and homeopath, so she brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to her role. When the centre began 10 years ago, Nel's position was funded by Country Health SA. At the time, there were six other Junction centres across regional South Australia. In 2012, the funding for the coordinated position was withdrawn and three of those centres were forced to close, but Nel made the decision to continue on as a volunteer because she did not want the centre to close or leave her clients without the support they needed.

Throughout the years, the highs and lows of The Junction have continued. In 2015, they lost the services of a qualified support worker and now depend on their base of 25 volunteers. Many of these volunteers have lived experience, which is also important when supporting others. You need someone to walk with you on your journey, to understand what living with a mental condition is actually like. Again, I will argue that a centre that is filling such an important gap in our region's mental health services should not have to depend on volunteer services alone.

As other local organisations have folded in recent years, such as the Anxiety Disorders Association South East, The Junction has tried to fill the gaps left. It also performs as an umbrella organisation for other mental health initiatives, including a new program called Lifeboat and the Limestone Coast Meditation Community group. Like many volunteer-run organisations, they need a succession plan, but they are hampered by the fact that there is no money to attract the right person to the role. We are very lucky to have somebody dedicated like Nel Jans in Mount Gambier, but it is unfair and unreasonable to expect that this situation will continue indefinitely.

Nel admits that the funding situation is so stressful that it is beginning to impact on her own mental health. Who looks after those mental health workers when they need help? I mentioned the word 'ongoing' before and I will mention it again now. The Junction deserves ongoing state government assistance. Assistance of $150,000 a year would allow The Junction to pay a coordinator, expand its services and opening hours and alleviate some of the pressure. Currently, The Junction is only able to open two days a week. I seek leave to continue my remarks.