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Whereto mental health reform in Australia: is anyone listening to our independent auditors?

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Independent audits find consistent evidence of failure across Australia’s mental health system

There is widespread agreement that Australia’s mental health system is in critical need of reform. In a move that has left many in the mental health sector wondering if they were trapped in a rerun of Groundhog day, the Australian Government recently charged the National Mental Health Commission with undertaking a mental health review to investigate the gaps and duplications in, and effectiveness of, Australia’s mental health system.

This review followed in the wake of a long series of national and state inquiries and reviews of the mental health sector in Australia dating back to the Burdekin Report in 1993, which provided the impetus for a national mental health reform agenda.1 The findings of these reviews point to the continuing failure of successive governments to build the community-based model of care promised after the closure of stand-alone psychiatric institutions.

An additional important source of information about the mental health sector is available in the many independent audits undertaken by statutory and similar authorities. In 2013, as part of the Obsessive hope disorder report, we conducted a systematic qualitative review of all such audits undertaken in Australia between 2006 and 2013.2 Several themes emerged…