Recommendations for a Culturally Responsive Mental Health System

    This paper was produced by the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV) in partnership with Victorian Transcultural Mental Health (VTMH, St Vincent’s Hospital).  It  was commissioned by the Victorian Government Department of Health to identify ways the mental health system in Victoria can increase its cultural responsiveness and improve access to mental health services for people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

    The paper outlines why mental health services in Victoria do not meet the needs of people from migrant and refugee backgrounds and makes recommendations for how mental health services need to improve. 

    The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, which released its report in March 2021, found that the mental health system in Victoria was “broken” and does not meet the needs of the Victorian community. The Royal Commission also found that the Victorian mental health system is not culturally responsive for people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Many people from migrant and refugee backgrounds find that mental health services do not understand their languages, cultures and experiences, and so many mental health services are unsafe and exclusionary. 

    The Victorian Government has agreed to implement all the recommendations made by the Royal Commission. This creates many opportunities to set up a new system that is more culturally responsive and inclusive. 

    This paper provides a framework for a mental health system that supports the needs of a multicultural and diverse community. The recommendations in this paper will help to make the mental health system in Victoria more equal, safe, inclusive, and respectful of human rights.

    Key recommendations include:

    • Developing and applying a strengths-based model to engage with migrant and refugee communities to draw upon their lived experiences of community mobilisation and mutual support
    • Ensuring all decision-making bodies are representative of the diversity of the community
    • Developing the capability of the mental health workforce to deliver culturally safe and responsive care and ensuring services are more representative of the cultural diversity of the community
    • Building partnerships with people with lived experience, ethno-cultural and multicultural organisations, community leaders and advocates to design and deliver mental health services
    • Improving access to professional interpreters who are mental health trained

    The 2021-22 Victorian Budget committed more than $3.8 billion over the next four years to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. ECCV’s Budget Analysis reviews the implications of these measures for multicultural organisations, and for migrant and refugee communities.

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