Australians expect to receive safe and high-quality health care when they are unwell. For those who are experiencing a mental illness or problem, access to timely assessment, individualised care planning, treatment and support is paramount. The opportunity to achieve recovery is of vital importance. Mental health services exist to meet the needs and preferences of consumers and to improve their mental health.

The original Mental health statement of rights and responsibilities was released in 1991. It provided an overarching framework to guide policy and practice and inform consumers and carers. Since then there have been significant developments in national and jurisdictional mental health domains. Such developments include the release of the National Mental Health Policy in 2008 (committed to by all Australian governments), a series of National Mental Health Plans, with the most recent being the Fourth National Mental Health Plan 2009-2014, the National Standards for Mental Health Services 2010 and the National Carer Strategy in 2011. In addition there have been important developments through the Council of Australian Governments National Action Plan for Mental Health 2006-2011.

A limited review of the 1991 Mental health statement of rights and responsibilities was identified as a key action of the Fourth National Mental Health Plan. Building on the original statement's validity and utility, the review has focused on updating it against modern mental health care concepts and contemporary human rights legislation. This revised Mental health statement of rights and responsibilities is a dynamic and aspirational document that will require ongoing review and examination by all stakeholders who are engaged with mental health services to ensure it continues to be relevant and empowering.

Consistent with the intent of the 1991 statement, this revised Mental health statement of rights and responsibilities seeks to ensure that consumers, carers, support persons, service providers and the community are aware of relevant rights and responsibilities and can be confident in exercising them. The revised statement reflects recent developments in the language, concepts and legislative context of the contemporary mental health and human rights field. This document addresses eight domains where rights and responsibilities are relevant to mental health.

The statement is consistent with Australia's international obligations, particularly the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and state and territory human rights instruments. It is envisaged that states and territories will consider the statement in the context of their mental health operations, policy, legislative, prevention, promotion, education, quality improvement and workforce development initiatives. Service providers and peak consumer and carer bodies will play an important role in supporting the implementation of the statement.

While recognising that some rights are subject to modification by legislation, the intent of the statement continues to be the promotion of social justice, equity, access and a compassionate society with mental health as its primary goal.1

Dr Peggy Brown
Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Principal Committee


1 Raphael B, in the 1991 Mental Health statement of rights and responsibilities, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, p. v.