On January 26th each year an Australian, noted for some wonderful and profound service to the country is named Australian of the year.
In 2010, this prestigious award was presented to DUBLIN-born Professor Patrick McGorry.
The 57-year-old youth psychiatrist was honoured for his work as a world-leading researcher in the area of youth mental health.
His work has played an integral role in the development of safe, effective treatments and innovative research on the needs of young people with emerging mental disorders.
At the time he was being presented with his award by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Professor McGorry had just returned from a trip back to Ireland where he lent his considerable expertise to improving youth mental health in that country.
“I wanted to spend some time there as an adult and there’s some interesting mental health work going on in Ireland. The problems are major and very similar to here. Considerable reform is needed in both countries to address the growing problems,” he said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Prof McGorry was “truly a worthy recipient” of the award.
“The incredible influence of his work, and the value of his contribution to the nation, cannot ever be fully measured,” he said.
He described Prof McGorry as “a leader whose drive and compassion and commitment to understanding and treating youth mental illness has helped (to) shape not only lives, but our national approach to mental health.”
These were some powerful words from our Prime Minister, spoken to an Honoured Australian, who has been instrumental in saving the lives of many of our young, and troubled youth.
But words can be shown to be worthless, particularly when just four moths later, you are responsible for handing down the Nation’s Budget, and virtually exclude any financial assistance for improving the Nations Mental Health Issues.
According to a report in the Age Newspaper:
More people will die from suicide as a result of the federal government’s failure to fund additional mental health programs in last night’s budget, Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry says.
The mental health expert said today Australia had allocated only 6 per cent of the health budget to mental health – half as much as New Zealand – despite the large number of Australians affected by psychological conditions.
Professor McGorry, a Headspace founding board member, said there should have been more money for mental health in the government’s $7 billion splurge.
There was no extra money in the budget beyond $171 million for the “Headspace” early intervention programs for young people announced as part of the federal government’s hospital reform package.
Professor McGorry said there was a suicide in Australia every hour and an attempt every eight minutes. Suicide killed 40 per cent more young Australians than road accidents, he said.
Asked on Radio 3AW if more people would die as a result of the lack of spending, Professor McGorry said: “There’s no doubt about that”.
“These are preventable deaths but they’re not being prevented because of the failure to invest in this critical area of our public health system,” he said.
Professor McGorry said the government was “going in the right direction” but needed to make a larger investment.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he accepted there was “much, much more work to be done” around mental health and aged care.
But he said the government had invested “hugely” in the health and hospital system and mental health patients stood to gain from other initiatives such as an increased number of hospital beds.
“Right across the health system, whether I’m talking about chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular, etcetera, each set of medical experts will present often the same graphic point of view. I can’t dispute any of them, what I can do is try and provide a system-wide reform,” he told 3AW.
And the moral to this story – political moral that is:
Just because a leading politician, albeit a Prime Minister, says nice things about you and your organisation in public; then awards you one of the Nations highest honours, doesn’t mean you can bank on any budgetary allotment.
Political Rhetoric Reigns – Sadly you can’t take your Australian of the Year Award to the bank!