The VALS mental health practice is part of the Civil and Human Rights team. The practice primarily acts for clients in Mental Health Tribunal hearings and provides holistic wrap around support to clients recognising the complex and interconnected nature of different legal issues that affect a person’s mental health (for example housing, debt, fines, personal safety intervention orders and discrimination).
It is a statewide service and works closely with other Aboriginal organisations and support workers to provide a trauma informed and culturally safe and accessible service.
The purpose of the practice is to empower clients, so their voices are heard and rights upheld. We are here to enable our clients to live their lives with autonomy and dignity and to recover and break the harmful cycle of forced medical intervention.
On 1 September 2023 a new Victorian Mental Health and Wellbeing Act (“the Act”) came into force in Victoria. The Act will strengthen the rights of people subject to compulsory mental health treatment.
The Act promotes supported decision making, which encourages and facilitates communication between people and the people they want to support them in making decisions about their treatment. This includes enabling people to make an ‘advanced statement of preferences’, which makes sure the person has their views heard on how they are treated, and appoint a nominated support person who can assist a person to understand information and make decisions.
The Act creates a new complaints body called the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission which will include an Aboriginal Commissioner. This is an independent statutory authority and will play a key role in system-wide oversight of quality and safety.
The Act also includes a statement of recognition of First Nations people and an acknowledgement of the Treaty process. There is also a cultural safety principle, which promotes culturally safe mental health treatment.
VALS has been part of a co-design process to design a new mental health legal service led by people with lived experience of mental illness. The design process included the voices of Aboriginal people with lived experience of mental illness and those from Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations. The new service is called the Mental Health Legal Rights Service and includes legal assistance for First Nations people provided by VALS.
For more information click on the link below for the rights brochure .