policy and advocacy submissions

Advocating for young people and their mental health and wellbeing is an essential part of our work. This includes responding to Government inquiries and requests for advice, as well as providing youth mental health insights and recommendations. 
Read our latest policy and advocacy submissions for more information about how headspace helps to improve outcomes for young Australians and those who support them.

September 2023

headspace National’s response to the discussion paper on Australia’s youth engagement strategy highlights mental health and wellbeing and access to mental health services as critical issues facing young people. We also highlight several other priority issues for young people which are social determinants of mental health, including: cost of living; education and employment; concerns about the future of our climate; and unsafe relationships and negative experiences with others.

Our submission outlines the headspace model as an example of embedding youth engagement at all levels of an organisation, and details different types of engagements and factors that can help to encourage youth engagement. These include implementing meaningful engagement frameworks, establishing clear purpose, roles and responsibilities and providing a range of supports to young people. We also highlight the importance of bringing an intersectional lens to all engagements with young people and ensuring a strong focus on cultural safety, child safety and clinical safety.

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August 2023

This consultation will inform development of the next National School Reform Agreement. Our response addresses questions in Chapter 3 of the consultation paper, which focus on student mental health and wellbeing.

Our submission highlights the critical position of educators and staff in schools that enables them to identify changes in students’ behaviours and promote positive mental health and wellbeing. We highlight the importance of strong connections between schools, local health networks and primary health networks. We also highlight the need for adequate resourcing for schools to build educators’ knowledge, skills and confidence to support student mental health, implement wellbeing initiatives, encourage early help seeking and make appropriate referrals to other services.

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July 2023

This inquiry considered the experience of renters and people seeking rental housing, rising rents, and actions government can take to reduce rents or improve renters’ rights.

Our response draws on young peoples’ concerns about renting and securing stable, affordable housing, and highlights the link between stable, affordable housing and mental health. Young people are already at increased risk of mental ill health and, as it becomes more difficult to access appropriate housing, the impacts on their mental health, financial stress, and disengagement with work and study also increase.

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June 2023

Our response represents the experiences of key headspace stakeholders including: members of the headspace Youth National Reference Group; members of the headspace National Family Reference Group; general practitioners; and clinical professionals. Access to services and high out of pocket expenses are key barriers to young people being able to access ADHD diagnoses and support following diagnoses. Inconsistency across jurisdictions in relation to prescribing medication is also a key challenge. Our response emphasises the importance of: multidisciplinary teams, including the critical role that professionals within schools play in identifying young people with ADHD; strengthening training for clinicians in relation to ADHD diagnosis and management; and education and capacity building tailored for a range of audiences including GPs, clinicians, families, teachers and the broader public.

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May 2023

Our response in relation to the emerging policy themes for this consultation reflects the views of young people and families. These views were sourced from the 2022 headspace National Youth Mental Health Survey, members of the headspace Youth National Reference Group and members of the headspace National Family Reference Group. Key insights from these stakeholders include: needing a greater focus on equity and equitable access to opportunities as part of a growing, productive, and resilient economy; broadening sustainability to encompass social sustainability; reframing ‘health’ as the promotion of wellbeing and the importance of mental health rather than as the absence of disease or illness; highlighting the importance of an inclusive society, with opportunities that are available to all people regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity or cultural background; and prioritising the voices of young people as they will be impacted by decisions made now.

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March 2023

There is a strong correlation between mental health, financial stress and disengagement with work and study. Young Australians are significantly impacted by cost-of-living pressures, with those from multicultural and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds disproportionality affected.

In our response, suggestions we make to ease cost-of-living pressures include: low/no cost access to mental health services; investment in services that support young people to engage with work and study; identifying young people who are not accessing unemployment supports; and more adequate income and housing support payments.

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February 2023

Mental health-related stigma and discrimination are significant barriers to help seeking. Our response to the draft strategy highlights measures to help address stigma and discrimination to support the mental health and wellbeing of young Australians, including: establishing culturally appropriate and safe frameworks and strategies to support First Nations and refugee and migrant young people; building mental health literacy, encouraging help seeking and fostering healthy conversations about mental health; utilising media and mental health education programs; strengthening data collection and evaluation of stigma reduction activities; and ensuring people with lived experience have input into program and services design and delivery.

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February 2023

Research, data analysis and stakeholder engagement are critical features of the proposed operating model of Jobs and Skills Australia. In our response to the discussion paper, we encourage Jobs and Skills Australia to consider young people as a priority cohort. Two key areas in particular where we can add valuable knowledge and expertise are: the experiences of young people in finding and engaging with work and how this interacts with mental health; and integrated and cross-sectoral approaches in supporting young people to successfully engage in work and study.

Read the full discussion paper

December 2022

We are committed to the self-determination of First Nations people and to ensuring that our services are culturally safe and responsive to the needs of First Nations young people, their families and communities, and First Nations staff across the Centre network and headspace National.

Our response to the review highlights: work being undertaken by headspace including relationship building with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, ACCHOs, PHNs and communities; and challenges in aligning with the National Agreement, such as the lack of accountability for government-funded organisations and the need for data systems that allow for First Nation perspectives.

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November 2022

The Employment White Paper will provide a roadmap for Australia to build a bigger, better-trained and more productive workforce.

Almost one in five young people aged 17- 25 accessing headspace centres are not engaged in any form of employment, education or training. In addition, many headspace centres struggle to attract and retain the workforce they need to provide the holistic care and support that young people need, with sector wide shortages projected to worsen. Our submission highlights: the importance of young people having access to integrated, collaborative and cross-sectoral vocational supports to support them to remain engaged in work and study; and the need for immediate action to build a sustainable youth mental health workforce to support young people to be socially and economically engaged.

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August 2022

We welcome the Victorian Government's commitment to establishing a new suicide prevention and response strategy, which is guided by an overarching objective such as to work towards zero suicides. Our response encourages consideration of age and educational stage as a critical factors for prioritisation, in addition to considering the experiences and perspectives of communities that are over-represented in self-harm and suicide statistics. Youth-specific considerations include access to mental health support, early intervention, intersectional and targeted approaches, supporting First Nations young people, opportunities to utilise technology, opportunities for prevention and postvention support through education settings, and better support for parents and carers.

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February 2022

Our response highlights opportunities to better meet service demand and streamline access to mental health services. There is a need for: a greater focus on prevention and early intervention; an integrated, connected, sustainable and long-term solution to meet the needs of young people with more complex needs; improved vertical and horizontal integration of services and supports; and investment in a sustainable multi-disciplinary workforce.

headspace CEO, Jason Trethowan, and Youth Advisor to the headspace Board, Naraja Clay, also gave evidence in person to the Inquiry, in support of our response.

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March 2021

This Select Committee was established to inquire into findings of the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report into Mental Health.

Our response highlights several key areas for reform and investment to support the mental health of young people in Australia, with a focus on: securing a youth mental health workforce for the future; implementing evidence-based strategies to prevent suicide; embedding vocational supports to assist young people reach their goals; integrating mental health and alcohol and other drugs services; improving access to mental health services; engaging family and friends in mental health and wellbeing services; and implementing targeted anti-stigma strategies.

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January 2020

This inquiry was undertaken to consider the role of mental health in supporting economic participation and enhancing productivity and economic growth.

headspace National and Orygen delivered a joint submission, which outlines 17 recommendations for the Commission to consider as part of its initial assessment. These related to five key priorities: increasing access to effective mental health services and supports for young people across all stages.

of mental ill-health; improving education and workforce participation for young people with mental illness; reducing self-harm and suicide-related behaviours in young people; building a sustainable youth mental health workforce; and driving improvements through research, data, and outcome monitoring.

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July 2019

The Royal Commission was asked to make recommendations on how Victoria’s mental health system can most effectively prevent mental illness, and deliver treatment, care and support so that all those in the Victorian community can experience their best mental health, now and into the future.

Our submission makes 11 recommendations to help inform the ongoing process and the overall strategic objectives of the Royal Commission and highlight work that could be undertaken more urgently to support young people and their families. Recommendations focus on investment in a range of measures including: access and wait time reduction; improving the social and emotional wellbeing of First Nations young people and culturally and linguistically diverse young people; digital mental health services; suicide prevention and postvention; and community engagement.

Read the full submission