National mental health report 2013

1.1 Purpose of the report

Page last updated: 2013

At the time of releasing this report, Australia is at the beginning of a third decade of targeted reform of mental health services that is referred to as the National Mental Health Strategy. Commencing in April 1992 with the endorsement by Health Ministers of a National Mental Health Policy,2 the National Mental Health Strategy committed governments to undertake action within their respective jurisdictions, as well as to collaborate on policy and service development issues requiring a national focus. This was the first attempt in Australia to set a common course of action by governments in the development of public mental health services which had been the exclusive responsibility of the eight state and territory governments since Federation.

Much has changed since the original agreement of 1992, with the Strategy progressing through a series of five year national mental health plans, and more recently, a number of whole‑of‑government national plans and initiatives endorsed through Australia’s peak intergovernmental coordinating body, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The national policy environment for mental health reform in Australia is now far more complex than was the case when the original agreement to a National Mental Health Policy was signed in 1992.

The National Mental Health Report has been a constant throughout this process. In agreeing to the National Mental Health Strategy, Health Ministers recognised that an important aspect of the reform process was to ensure that progress is monitored and publicly reported. The National Mental Health Report was prescribed as the main vehicle for this to be achieved.

Its original stated purpose was to:

  • present relevant information about the resources that underpin mental health service delivery (human and financial), their funding sources and how those resources are being applied to achieve the national reform aspirations
  • monitor changes that have taken place in the provision of mental health care
  • act as an information resource on the state of mental health services in Australia, for use by a range of interested parties and
  • improve community understanding of the reform of Australia’s mental health services.
The Fourth National Mental Health Plan,3 covering the current period to 2014, placed greater emphasis on monitoring of outcomes than its predecessors and committed to a restructured National Mental Health Report. The current report is consistent with this new focus. It includes the most current information on a series of indicators associated with particular outcomes, and reports on the progress of the actions committed to by governments in each of the five priority areas outlined in the Fourth Plan. At the same time, it continues to provide an analysis of the key measures that were central to all previous National Mental Health Reports (for example, per capita expenditure, workforce levels, hospital/community mix).

This redesigned National Mental Health Report, the twelfth in the series, draws on a range of sources to present an analysis of reform trends, and has the imprimatur of Health Ministers who have bound their respective administrations to collecting and reporting on relevant data in a timely fashion. The reference year for the majority of the data presented in the report is 2010‑11.