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Commission Statement on Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council Report: Zero Tolerance For Sexual Assault

14 May 2013

The National Mental Health Commission is gravely concerned following the release of the Report by the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) revealing the possible extent of sexual harassment and sexual assault in psychiatric in-patient units in Victoria.

Sexual assault is sexual assault and is not acceptable in any setting. This is an issue of basic human rights and the right to feel safe while receiving treatment in psychiatric in-patient units.

We congratulate the Victorian Mental Illness Council for undertaking such an important study and sharing its findings. We also thank the women who were prepared to share their experiences with the hope that this situation is not allowed to continue.

No person, let alone someone with lived experience of mental illness, should be expected to endure sexual harassment or assault and to have calls for help go unheeded.

All health care providers have a duty of care to their patients. This is not an issue that can be brushed under the carpet and the Commission supports calls for a more detailed examination across other health administrations to determine the extent to which this is a national problem.

As the body with the responsibility to independently report on the mental health system, the Commission has recently advised that it intends to report on mental health and the justice system in its 2013 Report Card. Contact has been made with VMIAC to examine the Report’s finding and to offer support in promoting and addressing this important issue. Inquiries are also underway to determine the extent to which data of this type is routinely collected and released by health administrations.

"Even the most disadvantaged Australians should be able to lead a 'contributing life,' whatever that means for them and this simple goal will be our touchstone and yardstick."

Chair Prof Allan Fels AO
National Mental Health Commission

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