As noted, the original National Mental Health Policy marked the beginning of the National Mental Health Strategy in 1992. A revised National Mental Health Policy 2008 was endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers' Conference (AHMC) in December 2008 and released in March 2009. The policy was updated to align with the whole of government approach articulated within the COAG National Action Plan and with developing policy and practice in other areas.

The policy provides an overarching vision for a mental health system that enables recovery, prevents and detects mental illness early, and ensures that all Australians with a mental illness can access effective and appropriate treatment and community support to enable them to participate fully in the community. This vision should be seen in the context of the social inclusion agenda which focuses on engagement of the whole community, especially in areas of social and economic disadvantage. The policy does not set out to provide explicit guidance for service delivery, nor does it set funding expectations, targets or deliverables.

The aims of the National Mental Health Policy 2008 are to:

  • promote the mental health and wellbeing of the Australian community and, where possible, prevent the development of mental health problems and mental illness
  • reduce the impact of mental health problems and mental illness, including the effects of stigma on individuals, families and the community
  • promote recovery from mental health problems and mental illness and
  • assure the rights of people with mental health problems and mental illness, and enable them to participate meaningfully in society.
The fourth plan furthers the aims of the policy through actions which will:
  • maintain and build on existing effort
  • integrate recovery approaches within the mental health sector
  • address service system weaknesses and gaps identified through consultation processes and
  • better measure how we do this and the outcomes achieved.
Consistent with the National Mental Health Policy 2008, the fourth plan acknowledges our indigenous heritage and the unique contribution of Indigenous people's culture and heritage to our society.

Furthermore, it recognises Indigenous people's distinctive rights to status and culture, self determination and the land. It acknowledges that this recognition and identity is fundamental to the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians. It recognises that mutual resolve, respect and responsibility are required to close the gap on indigenous disadvantage and to improve mental health and wellbeing.