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Disability Support Pension Medical Appeals Fact-sheet

Have you applied for a Disability support pension for your self or someone you care for?

Was it Rejected on medical grounds?

You have tsupport pension imghe right to appeal

For further information and to discover your options -Click Here- to read the medical appeals fact sheet or find it on our Fact-Sheets page.

For more information about your rights, get forms and self-help information visit Victoria’s welfare rights center

CafeSmart Fundraising with Coffee

CafeSmartHelp raise money for your community just by having a cuppa. If you are a cafe head to the link here and sign up, its easy. Don’t forget to let us know if you sign up by using or contact form.

On the 7th of August we are asking cafe’s and coffee shops to donate just $1 from every coffee or tea sold on the day to help raise money for their community.

If you are a coffee drinker, go grab a cuppa and tell your favourite cafe about CafeSmart.



THANK YOU on behalf of all of us at BarrierBreakers and SreetSmart Australia

CLAUDIA’S CAFE in George street Morwell

Riding For Mental Health 2015

780 kms in 7 days is the quest of some veteran cyclists from Sale, who are determined to raise community awareness of the need for governments’ to allocate more resources to mental health.

The Sale veterans, Lance Hunt, Guusta Westra, Robert Larsen and Amanda Jackson are all experienced long distance cyclists. Between them they’ve tackled epic rides in Russia, Vietnam, Europe and the Australian Outback.

Mental Health Ride 2015a

To be launched by the Mayor of Sale, Cr. Carolyn Crossley, the ride will commence in Sale on Tuesday 17 March.

All of Gippsland’s state and federal politicians will be invited to participate in the ride to accompany other people who will be joining the ride during its various stages and who are also committed to improved mental health outcomes.

The Gippsland circuit will include the towns of Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance, Nowa Nowa, Orbost, Yarram, Welshpool, Foster, Leongatha, Korumburra, Koo Wee Rup, Pakenham, Nar Nar Goon, Drouin, Warragul, Moe, Morwell, Traralgon, Heyfield, and Maffra,

Lance Hunt is a tireless advocate for better mental health outcomes. He is also the convenor of the Wellington Chapter of Gippsland’s mental health advocacy charity, Barrier Breakers.

Lance said, “Mental health is a subject that we tend not to speak about much in the community, the illness can lead to disastrous consequences for many families, particularly in areas where services are difficult to access.”

“Additionally, we know mental illness costs businesses millions of dollars a year in lost time.
“Barrier Breakers is a great organisation and it is continuing to lobby for better services and housing for people with a mental illness in the Gippsland region”.
“Given that one in every 5 people (20%) will have a mental illness in any one year, we all need to do much, much more to get the governments attention. We surely cannot ignore the pressing needs of so many people,”

While this ride will be raising money for the efforts of Barrier Breakers, we are also aiming to shine a bright light on the problem and to let sufferers know that they are not alone.” Lance concluded.
Cheques can be sent to PO Box 39, Maffra, Victoria, 3860, made payable to Lance Hunt (reference on back of cheque to Mental Health Ride).

Barrier Breakers Inc. is a tax endorsed Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) and all donations of $2.00 or more are tax deductible. A tax deductible receipt will be issued.

For further information – contact Lance Hunt on 0417544663

Mentally ill people threatened with loss of disability support pension by Gov report.

People with a mental illness will be targeted as one of the groups to become ineligible for the disability support pension (DSP) if the federal government adopts the recommendations of a review into DSP.

Patrick McClure, the head of the federal government review, whose interim report was released last Sunday, said people would “not necessarily be better off” under the proposed welfare reforms.  In other words – they will be worse off.

More than 800,000 Australians receive up to $813 a fortnight on the DSP, which is designed to compensate those who are unable to work due to debilitating physical or mental/intellectual illnesses. According to Patrick McClure, 30% of the 800,000 DSP recipients (that’s around 240,000 people) had a mental illness that was only “episodic in nature”.

Asked how many people would lose the DSP, McClure said,mentally ill people could be moved to a working age payment instead. In other words, the dole – Newstart Allowance – a change which would cut pensions by approximately $155 per week, an equivalent of just over $8,000 lost income per year.

This attitude complies with the intention of the Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, who seeks to review the cases of young people and new applications for the pension; citing the possibility of setting up a specialist panel of doctors to decide on cases of DSP receipt, and the length the payment will be received. We all know how understanding these panels will be.

This is a real “kick in the guts” for the mentally ill. The DSP provides essential support to people who live with this disability. Mental illness is responsible for more years lost to disability in Australia than cancer or heart disease, and has a disproportionately higher impact on younger adults, particularly during the period when they would normally just be beginning their employment/careers.

As for mental illness being “episodic in nature”, Well hello, of course it is.  Given the often fluctuating nature of the impact of mental illness, sufferers find it extremely difficult to adjust between episodes of wellness, when they may be able to work for a period and when unwellness occurs with an intensity, which prevents them from working.

Surely, the government is not proposing that these already ill people will need to be hit with the double whammy of a significant drop in income from DSP to Newstart and then a period of absolutely nothing at all, while they wait for Centrelink to reinstate their DSP?  This can only add to their trauma and lengthen the periods of unwellness.

We call upon all concerned citizens, welfare organisations and their peak bodies to raise-up in arms over this inhumane proposal.

Download a submission template and send to


We live in a region with a desperate shortage of secure, affordable and supported long-term accommodation for people with life-long (chronic) mental illness. With a population of around 250,000, the vast and diverse region of Gippsland spreads over 44,000 square km.

Given that one in every five people (around 20% of the population) will experience some form of mental illness in their lives, the illness will impact on around 50,000 Gippslanders.

Many people in our region will experience chronic mental illness, requiring on-going clinical support and safe, secure and supported accommodation. In the absence of such support, their recovery to wellness is at risk and it increases a too-soon return to acute care. Many people are actually homeless, many are living in sub-standard and/or inappropriate dwellings, boarding houses and other shared accommodation, caravans and/or “couch-surfing”.

In an attempt to address this problem, Barrier Breakers developed a long-term accommodation and support model, which we believe is best able to meet these needs. Following widespread consultation and the negotiation of a care-model partnership with key stakeholders, we successfully lobbied the state government for support and funding for a 10-unit pilot project in Traralgon. The key stakeholders are:

Barrier Breakers Inc. – Project coordinator and provider of advocacy services to tenants

Eastcoast Housing Association – owner of the units and tenant manager

Mind Australia – provider of home-based outreach services to the tenants

Latrobe Regional Hospital Community Mental Health Services – provider of on-going clinical services

The units will provide stable, affordable and long-term accommodation, which is managed with the mental health of the tenants in the forefront.

We are pleased to announce that our commitment to raise $150,000 towards the capital cost of the units has been honoured – thanks to a very generous community and we expect to house tenants later this year. In the meanwhile, we are lobbying the state government for funding to roll-out this model of accommodation throughout Gippsland.

To this end, we are seeking a pre-election commitment from both major parties for $10 million over the next four years to build units in ten towns throughout the region.

We know this model of supported accommodation works – it is the only long-term solution to the accommodation needs of so many Gippslanders, who presently so desperately need a secure roof over their heads and the clinical and outreach support to keep them well.

It is why we are continuing with our fund-raising and public awareness campaigns.

Please join our fight for the proper care and accommodation of our most vulnerable citizens – the mentally ill. Let us all make this election year the opportunity to goad our politicians into supportive action.

Please sign our petition – YOUR SUPPORT can make a BIG DIFFERENCE  

Download Pdf  Here:  PETITION to Legislative Assembly

If you are able to assist Barrier Breakers in this important work by collecting additional signatures, we would be very grateful for your assistance.

Join our lobby campaign for supported accomodation

Who wants to join our lobby campaign in Gippsland aimed at the forthcoming state elections? Barrier Breakers will be specifically targeting all candidates from the major parties to gain support for our supported accommodation program. Despite Gippsland’s population growing by more than 60,000 since the government closed the only psychiatric hospital in the region, there are less than 200 beds available for people with a mental illness than there was then. This translates to an approximate 62% reduction in beds for a 40% increase in population. What a wanton neglect of our most vulnerable people! Meanwhile, 85% of all homeless people have a mental illness and more than 30% of all prisoners in Victorian jails have a mental illness. This demonstrates that we desperately need appropriate supported accommodation for people with long-term (chronic) mental illness – not homelessness and/or prison. If you are moved to help, please contact us for details of the campaign.

Derek Amos
Barrier Breakers Inc

SP AusNet Supports Barrier Breakers

Electricity supply company, SP AusNet, continue to recognise the work of Gippsland’s mental health advocacy association and charity, Barrier Breakers Inc., this week with a $4,500 donation.

Each year SP Ausnet encourages its employees to become involved in community work by offering a $500 grant for its employee’s charity of choice if they undertake 20 hours or more of community work in the year.

LanceCheque 2014 Sml

For a record 4th year in a row, well-known and respected Sale resident, Lance Hunt, has donated his $500 grant to Barrier Breakers through his work as convenor of the Wellington Chapter of Barrier Breakers.

However there was even better news for this mental health advocacy as SP AusNet also donated a further $4000 to Barrier Breakers.

Jim Haylock, Regional Customer and Community Manager in Gippsland, said he was delighted to provide financial support to such a worthy organisation as Barrier Breakers.

“This association is doing a marvellous job in lifting the profile of mental health in our community and advocating for those impacted by mental illness,” Mr Haylock said. “Barrier Breakers has also developed a supported accommodation program for people with long-term mental illness and SP AusNet is pleased to be able to assist this important program,” he said.

In accepting the donations, Chief Executive Officer of Barrier Breakers, Susan Lloyd, said her association welcomed this support and she praised the work of Lance Hunt.

Ms. Lloyd said Lance became involved in Barrier Breakers around 4 years ago and has since organised a number of fund-raising activities, including marathon bike rides throughout the region, social fund-raisers and street stalls and his efforts have raised in excess of $70,000 to date. “This man is simply unstoppable – he continually demonstrates the energy and tenacity to enthuse others and in the process, raise large amounts of money for the cause, no matter sometimes the state of his own health and well-being”.

“In any one year, more than 50,000 Gippslanders will be impacted by mental illness and we have a long way to go to address the needs of many of our citizens, who fall between the cracks”. Ms. Lloyd concluded by again thanking AusNet and lance Hunt for their generous support.

For further information – contact Derek Amos on 0428397706

Illness with Dignity – Treating Mental Illness as a Health Issue…

The recent announcement by the Victorian government for a $15.1 million investment over the next four years to change the way mental health, police and emergency services across the state work to respond to mental health crises in the community, deserves further analysis.

Community mental health is indeed in a crisis and this injection of money is so badly needed. Indeed it could be trebled and it still wouldn’t fix the underlying problems, such as emergency triage, treatment and supported accommodation.

Remember, it was only last year when the Victoria Police reported that they are arresting suspected mentally ill people at the rate of one every two hours in Victoria.

This followed a report by the then Office of Police Integrity (OPI), which advised 17 of the 32 people fatally shot by Victoria Police between 1990 and 1996 were considered to have had a mental disorder at the time of the shooting.

When considered alongside the fact that more than 30% of people incarcerated in our prisons have a mental illness, it is a shocking indictment on any society that permits unwell people to be either shot or thrown in jail.

The OPI report, which was tabled in State Parliament revealed:

Ambulance Victoria was not fulfilling its obligation to transport suspected mentally ill people, with police being left to handle most of them.

Police experience such long delays in getting specialist crisis assessment and treatment (CAT) teams to attend incidents involving the mentally ill that they refer to them as “Call Again Tomorrow” teams (at least they have them, there are no CAT teams in Gippsland).

Almost half the incidents Victoria Police’s critical incident response team is called out to, are related to the mentally ill.

The OPI said the closure of mental health facilities in Victoria during the deinstitutionalisation process in the 1980s and 90s – and the subsequent inadequate provision of community based mental health services – had contributed to police having such regular encounters with the mentally ill.

The report recommended changes to free up police so they don’t need to spend as much time having to deal with the mentally ill.

The then Acting OPI Director Ron Bonighton, said the suspected mentally ill people detained by police were invariably taken to crowded hospital emergency departments or police cells, resulting in very long delays for police and the arrested person.

He recommended that the State Government set up a new dedicated facility so those arrested could be immediately psychiatrically assessed and cared for.

“The establishment of such a facility could promote better care and emergency treatment for people who have an acute mental episode in metropolitan Melbourne, while easing the strain on resources that police and some emergency departments currently experience,” Mr Bonighton said.

“The benefit for mentally ill persons is that such a facility can improve the care available during times of crisis.

“For police and emergency departments there are also tangible and efficient gains.

“The time that police spend waiting for mental health assessments to occur could be drastically reduced.

“Police could return to other jobs.

“The police transport of people who appear to be mentally ill is at odds with the rights, dignity and interests of people requiring mental health assessment.

“The safety of such people warrants transportation in an ambulance to an appropriate mental health facility.

“A person experiencing a mental health crisis does not belong in a police cell. Mental illness is a health problem.

“Safe, dignified and respectful transport for people with a mental health problem happens best in an ambulance, not in the back of a divisional van.”

So here is the Victoria Police saying the obvious – mental illness is a health problem. The fact is – our society should treat people with a mental illness with the same respect and concern as we do for people suffering cancer or any other illness.



Victorian Mental Health and Police Response Initiative

The Media announcement (below) from Mental Health Minister is recognition of one of the most serious problems our communities have encountered since the deinstitutionalisation of our mental health system. Many, many unwell people, suffering psychotic episodes, have been seriously injured or killed during interventions. Many others have been denied a proper assessment, care and treatment because of a serious lack of trained people, let alone appropriate follow-up clinical services.

Consequently, far too many people with a mental illness end up in our prisons (more than 30% of our prison population have a mental illness).

One of the greatest problems facing us all is the failure of governments’, of all political persuasions, to provide on-going and supported accommodation for those unfortunate souls with chronic mental illness. This is the missing link in the chain of so-called reforms, which followed the closure of psychiatric hospitals.

The Minister’s announcement is welcome news, but until such time as governments’ are moved to provide safe, affordable and supported accommodation for people with long-term mental illness, it is a bit like the little boy who put his finger in the dyke.

Please do all you can to push this cause with all your might.


Derek Amos


Barrier Breakers Inc



$15.1 million for statewide mental health and police crisis response

  • Victorian Coalition Government funding a statewide rollout of a key mental health and emergency services initiative
  • Investment of $15.1 million for police, ambulance and mental health personnel to tailor local solutions to each crisis response
  • Coalition Government is building safer communities by driving local solutions for local needs

A $15.1 million Victorian Government investment over four years will change the way mental health, police and emergency services across the state work to respond to mental health crises in the community.

Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge and Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Lucinda Nolan today announced the new Mental Health and Police Response (MHaP Response) funding for each of Victoria’s 21 Area Mental Health Services.

Funding for the initiative will be provided in the upcoming 2014/15 Victorian State Budget and will deliver a more targeted and timely response to a person needing urgent mental health support in the community, while also reducing pressure on police, ambulance and emergency department resources.

“We know that a large number of police and ambulance call-outs involve people in a critical state due to mental illness,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“Our new funding will allow mental health, police and emergency services teams to develop their own unique and local mental health crisis response.”

The MHaP Response draws on previous pilot projects in Bayside, Kingston and Glen Eira council areas as well as through Eastern Health, Alfred Health and Northern Health. These trials, variously known as PACER, NPACER or PARTS among others, brought mental health practitioners together with police to respond to a mental health crisis, rather than it escalating unnecessarily and involving an emergency department.

“Evaluations of the pilots found that people suffering an episode of mental illness were less likely to end up in the local emergency department and that police units could be released to other duties more quickly,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“Our investment provides dedicated funding across Victoria to establish a new locally-based coordinated mental health crisis response.”

This funding means that mental health professionals in each region will work with local police and ambulance personnel to tailor the crisis response to the local realities on the ground.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Lucinda Nolan said police welcomed the funding announcement.
“The commitment means we can continue to work with our health partners to provide specialist services, such as PACER units, to those people who need it most.

“It will allow us to tailor our service for those affected by mental health issues and their families, enabling us to provide timely and effective intervention,” Deputy Commissioner Nolan said.

These initiatives will ensure that people with a mental illness will receive the most appropriate and the least-restrictive care in a timely manner, minimising harm to the person and their family by being supported in their community.

This investment aligns with other reforms to front-line crisis support services underway including replacing the current Crisis Assessment Team (CAT) Guidelines with Acute Community Intervention Services (ACIS) Guidelines to reflect provisions of the new Mental Health Act from 1 July. These new Guidelines will be issued shortly.


An Open Letter To The Victorian Government

An open letter to the Victorian Government dated 20 February 2014

Download pdf file:  An open letter to the Vic Gov 20 Feb 2014
Dear Premier and Ministers,

The following submission was made to the Ministers’ of Mental Health and Housing, with copies to all coalition MP’s, who represent the Gippsland region.

We are told that despite the government’s announced Budget surplus, there are insufficient funds available to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We find this state of affairs intolerable and call upon you all to seriously reconsider your funding priorities when both crafting the state Budget and the government’s pre-election commitments.
Extract from the submission:
As you are aware from our advocacy on behalf of people with a mental illness over many years now, there is a desperate shortage of accommodation in the Gippsland region appropriate for the needs of people with life-long (chronic) mental illness. In this regard, we refer specifically to accommodation which:
 Is affordable for people on a Disability Support Pension
 Is Secure and long-term in tenure
 Provides the tenants with daily out-reach support programs
 Ensures continued easy access to clinical supports commensurate to the tenants mental health needs
We firmly believe that with deinstitutionalisation and the abandonment of mental hospitals, this model of accommodation really is the only way many of our citizens with life-long illnesses, such as schizophrenia, can adjust to normal lives within their communities. Experience since deinstitutionalisation has clearly demonstrated that in the absence of such supports, mental health recovery is impeded and far too many sufferers return to acute care in psychiatric wards – the “revolving door” syndrome.
This current system, which perpetuates such a “revolving door” approach to chronic mental illness, not only fails to address the basic patient care rights of our mentally ill, it also imposes a greater cost burden on the government purse resulting from too frequent presentations to acute care wards and other costs/expenses met by the community. It costs around $800 per day for acute care presentations and when you add to this the cost of unpaid rent for Ministry of Housing or private sector accommodation and a host of other expenses, met by communities in providing emergency assistance, it amounts to a considerable cost burden on the public purse.
Indeed. the burden on the public purse for not addressing the special housing needs of the mentally ill and the overall magnitude of the problem assumes its true importance when viewed in the context of what other alternative accommodation choices are either available or are forced upon some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
These alternatives include, couch-surfing with families or friends, caravans, boarding houses, nursing homes and worst of all, incarceration in prisons.

The facts are:
 Up to 85% of all homeless people present with a mental illness.
 The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that almost one third of prisoners entering jail already have a mental illness (a rate 2.5 times higher than the general population).
 Up to 93% of Aboriginal detainees have some form of mental illness.
 Rates of major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression are three to five times higher among prisoners than those in the general population.
While some people could justly claim that even the former mental institutions are preferable to incarceration in prison, we believe that every possible effort should be made to ensure that people with chronic mental illnesses are supported so they do not encounter our criminal justice system and can live normally in their communities. Moreover, the cost burden borne by the public purse for incarceration in prison is much, much more than that for the provision of the supported accommodation model we propose. Council of Australian Government figures show that average real net operating expenditure per prisoner per day (2009-2010) was $240.66, or close to $90,000 per year.
With respect to the incredibly high percentage of homeless people with a mental illness, we know from our advocacy work that many, many chronically ill people, who live in inappropriate accommodation, such as couch-surfing, caravans and boarding houses do not receive any outreach support at all and the periods of their unwellness are more frequent than would otherwise be the case.
The relationship between mental illness, homelessness and suicide is also of great concern. A recent study undertaken in Canada of a sample of 330 homeless adults revealed that 61% reported suicidal ideation and 34% had attempted suicide. In Australia, suicide is a prominent health concern. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that the average number of suicide per year is 2,320. Moreover, it reports that for those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander decent, the suicide rate is 2.5 times higher for males and 3.4 times higher for females.
While actual suicide rates are notoriously difficult to ascertain, e.g. single occupant vehicle fatalities, we know that for Gippsland, the anecdotal evidence suggests that this region has the dubious reputation of having one of the highest suicide rates in the state. There would be no doubt that homelessness, mental illness and an absence of adequate support services would be contributing factors.
We can and should do much better than this. It is for these reasons, we strongly argue for the especially dedicated supported accommodation model mentioned above.
You will recall that we first raised this matter of supported accommodation at a meeting in Parliament House with government MP’s in March 2011.
We are indeed grateful for your support, which in turn, resulted in the government’s support for a project to construct special units of supported accommodation in Hyde Park Road Traralgon.
In the period since then we have also experienced tremendous community support for this project. This has been both an uplifting, but humbling experience as communities in every electorate across Gippsland have rallied to our public appeal for financial contributions to the project and demonstrated overwhelming public support for the model of accommodation being proposed.
There is no doubt in our minds that our communities in Gippsland have embraced this model of accommodation for the mentally ill and clearly prefer to see their loved-ones with a mental illness housed appropriately and supported, rather than neglected and left to fend for themselves.
We are therefore asking the state government to make provision in next year’s Budget for an allocation of funds to enable a roll-out of this supported accommodation model in at least ten (10) major towns throughout the Gippsland region. We estimate that the average cost for a 6-8 unit development is around $1 million, so we are asking for a budgetary provision of $10 million over 4 years.
This would be a meaningful regional pilot that could be progressively rolled-out across the state with funding from future Budgets.
Gippsland is a unique region for such a pilot program – its 250,000 inhabitants are spread-out of its 44,000 km in many relatively small communities, some less accessible than others and many of them disadvantaged by their remoteness from mainstream services. The closure of Hobson’s Park – the region’s former psychiatric hospital in Traralgon, did leave a tremendous vacuum in so far as the accommodation of people with long-term mental illness is concerned. A vacuum that has never been filled with normal social housing options, particularly when social housing is simply not available and even when it is, long waiting lists for social housing add to the disadvantage experienced by the mentally ill.
$10 million over four years is not a “big ask”. At $2.5 million per year, it is a small, small fraction of the running cost of the former Hobson Park hospital and less than 1% of the $300 million revised State Budget surplus, recently announced by the government. When you consider that it costs around $800 per day to fund a patient’s stay in acute psychiatric care and an average stay is around 5 days, our accommodation model will also save the government money by reducing the number of incidents of unwellness requiring acute care.
Can we count on your support for this proposal? In the sincere hope that we can, we ask whether you and your Gippsland Parliamentary colleagues will agree to meet a small deputation from our Board to discuss how best to further a Budget submission for the allocation we seek? We are prepared to meet with you all at Parliament House at a time, which is convenient to all of you. We look forward in anticipation of your positive response.
Yours sincerely,
Derek Amos
Hon. Chief Executive Officer.