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Commission must be voice of mental health

Commission must be the voice of mental health consumers – Maori Party

Tariana Turia, Health spokesperson 23 May 2008

Mental health consumer groups will not accept the argument that the Mental Health Commission does not need consumer representatives on the Board because it consults with them, says Maori Party health spokesperson Tariana Turia.

“Tangata whenua put up with that argument for generations, but no longer,” said Mrs Turia. “An independent voice is needed.”

“When our people started insisting on a voice at the tables where decisions are made, we were fobbed off for years with all sorts of consultative committees, advisory boards, hand-picked representative councils and expert panels – which denied us the chance to put forward our own representatives whom we trusted,” she said.

“Now we hear the same old arguments from the Mental Health Commission about why the Minister doesn’t need to appoint a Commissioner who has lived experience of mental illness.

“When the Commission was being set up, the recommendation from Judge Ken Mason was clear – three Commissioners, one being Maori, and one having lived experience of mental illness.

“That’s been the pattern that’s worked up till now. That’s the pattern that should continue,” said Mrs Turia.

“The Commission was set up independently of government to monitor, advise and report on government policy and programmes.

“It must not just listen to the voices of consumers – it must BE the voice of consumers, and to have integrity, there must be a someone on the board of the Commission who has been there, done that,” she said.

“I support the call of consumer groups for discussions with the Commission on how to improve relationships with management – but this is also a question of political leadership.

“I call on the Minister once again to appoint a fourth Commissioner to fill the glaring gap in the makeup of the current Commission,” said Mrs Turia.


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