Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:16): My question is for the Attorney-General. Since 2015 the Mental Health Legal Centre and Bolton Clarke homeless persons program have delivered a unique health justice service to the most vulnerable people in our society. Much of their work has been to help women with PTSD from domestic violence and people with acquired brain injuries navigate legal issues.
We know our most vulnerable are the most likely to be caught up in the justice system. Their service provides legal advice, financial counselling and social workers to help people in prison, but this service will stop in December because the government has withdrawn their funding.
The health contract for the justice system is set to expire in December. I am wondering if you can tell me whether that contract will go to another health organisation such as Cohealth or a security firm such as Serco.
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:17): Whilst I welcome Ms Patten’s question, I do not have any advice on the specifics that she has raised. I believe the matter would be more appropriately directed to the Minister for Corrections, or indeed the Minister for Mental Health perhaps, but I think more corrections. How about I take it on notice and get some further information? I can get some information specifically about the funding directly for the community legal centre.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:18): Thank you, Minister. That would be appreciated. The funding is coming out of the justice department, and you are at the head of that. By way of supplementary: since March 2020 the demand on this service has more than doubled, so the need for investment in these outreach services is absolutely crucial, so while you are looking at that funding, could you also consider whether it is adequate? These are prisoners who cannot access Medicare and cannot access the NDIS, so they are completely reliant on Justice Health.
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:18): I thank Ms Patten for raising this important issue. I agree with you that the services that people receive in prison are solely what help them set up for when they are out of prison, so it is pretty important to ensure that they get accurate advice and support, particularly to deal with their legal issues and their mental health issues. I will certainly be able to get some further advice and come back to you.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Question without notice 28/10/21