I was, like many others in the community, shocked at the behaviour of the Member for Burwood Will Fowles recently. His conduct was out of order, not just for a sitting member of the Victorian Parliament, but for anyone in general really.
Since Mr Fowles’ election in 2018, I have found him to be a man genuinely interested in his community and wanting to better the lives of his fellow Victorians. Clearly however, Mr Fowles has been suffering under the weight of drug, alcohol and mental health issues. His decision to make this public should be applauded. He deserves community support to tackle his addictions and mental health problems. I am comforted by the fact that Premier Daniel Andrews said he will give Mr Fowles the time he requires to get the treatment he clearly needs.
Mr Fowles is lucky to have access to immediate help, an understanding work environment and the support of friends and family. Many in our community are not in such a privileged position. On a daily basis, average Victorians battle from wake until sleep with debilitating mental health and addiction issues while still having to maintain their employment, as well as life and family commitments. For some, getting help is hard and it’s simply not an option to take time off to deal with those matters. The stigma that mental health issues have in our society, while changing, still exists.
Mental health, as well as alcohol and other drug rehabilitation services, are stretched to the limit in this state. The Andrews Labor Government needs to make further significant investment in mental health and addiction services. They can, and should do more. The recent Victorian Budget saw a huge amount of money, some $1.6 billion, to create an extra 1,600 prison beds in our jails. At the same time, they invested in only 40 more beds to cater for those battling addiction and other mental health issues. Something simply isn’t right with that equation.
Let Mr Fowles’ issues serve as a reminder to every MP in the Victorian Parliament that, regardless of your station in life, there are many Victorians who are suffering silently and they deserve to be at the top of our parliamentary agenda.
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