• Tony Bosworth

MP Templeman hits out at lack of funding for Hawkesbury headspace as youth self-harm cases soar

In a hard-hitting speech to Parliament on Tuesday, Macquarie MP Susan Templeman made an impassioned plea for the Morrison Joyce government to fund a Hawkesbury headspace as youth self-harm incidents rise dramatically during the lockdown.

In her Parliament speech, the MP targeted the "likely Liberal candidate" for “trawling community Facebook groups promoting yourself” rather than helping get funding from the Coalition government.

"Access to mental health services has been a desperate need in the community of the Hawkesbury not just now, but for years," said Ms Templeman.

"Over the last few days, even more evidence has been reported about the toll the pandemic and lockdowns are taking on people’s wellbeing, especially young people. Media reports this week show emergency department visits for self-harm and suicide ideation up 31 per cent for children and teenagers, compared with last year.

"Fires, floods, the first wave of COVID, more floods, and more lockdowns have exacerbated a problem that’s been around for far too long.

"That’s why I have called a spade a spade," she said.

Ms Templeman didn’t hold back, saying, “I can’t imagine playing politics with people's lives, with their mental health, but the same can’t be said for the likely Liberal candidate for Macquarie - the former candidate for Reid, who wanted to be the member for Hawkesbury - who has dangled a headspace clinic in front of thousands of young people in the Hawkesbury for months for her own political gain. Quite frankly, it disgusts me.”

While not mentioning the 'likely candidate' by name, Hawkesbury councillor Sarah Richards stood as the Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Macquarie against Ms Templeman in 2019 but lost.

She is expected to be the Liberal candidate once again when the next federal election is called – she was the sole contender for the spot this time around but has not yet been publicly endorsed by the Liberal Party.

Ms Richards previously stood for the federal seat of Reid in 2004 under her maiden name McMahon, and lost that election too, in that instance to Labor’s Laurie Ferguson.

The headspace funding issue has been bubbling away for a long time in the Hawkesbury, with Ms Templeman strongly pushing the Morrison Joyce government for funding for a dedicated local headspace.

She says the need for such a centre in the Hawkesbury has been further highlighted by figures revealed this week which show the increase in self-harm among youngsters during lockdown.

Ms Templeman speaks in Parliament - archive

NSW Health’s latest fortnightly report shows in the year to July 29, 8489 people under the age of 18 were rushed to hospital for self-harm and suicidal ideation, basically more than 40 a day, a 31% rise on the same period in 2020 and up 47% compared with 2019. Across all age groups, visits to emergency departments for self-harm and suicidal ideation were up 13% compared with last year.

Emergency department mental health presentations for 0- to 17-year-olds - a separate category which can include psychotic episodes - were up 26% per cent compared with 2020, against a 6% increase for the general population.

“We needed a headspace before the fires,” said Ms Templeman in Parliament, “we needed it before the floods and we have needed it throughout this pandemic, but just hinting about something that this government - your own party - could deliver right now and should have delivered eight years ago doesn’t cut it.

“I say to her and her Liberal masters: it's clear you're going to announce a headspace at some point. So announce it. Build it. Staff it. Open it.

“Do something good with your time rather than trawling community Facebook groups promoting yourself.”

“The fight for better mental health services is personal for me,” Ms Templeman said. “My community knows this. I know the difference good local services can make to a young person and to their family.

“I have no doubt standing up for my community’s young people like this will be characterised as somehow “politicising” the issue – like that time I called for local vaccination hubs so we could have safe access to jabs, and was accused of “undermining” the national vaccine rollout.

“We still need those hubs,” said the MP.

“And I will always take up the fight for my community, particularly on mental health. The fight for access to mental health services is a personal one for me, and I have a responsibility to the hundreds if not thousands of young people, their mums and dads, their carers, their teachers and their friends, who are telling me they are desperate for this service.

“This is a typical tactic of doing nothing for eight years until there’s the whiff of an election, and then rolling out promises,” said Ms Templeman.

“The Hawkesbury deserves more than that. We deserve more than the promise of a promise.

“It is people’s lives we're talking about. It's not a tool to win votes. This is bigger than your next promotion. But then again, this is the difference between you and me.

"You fight for your own career. I fight for my community,” she said.

Editor's note - in the interests of fairness and balance, we asked Cllr Richards if she would like to give us her side of the story, and a response. We'll let you know when we hear back.

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