Principal Community Visitor
The Principal Community Visitor is responsible for overseeing the Community Visitor Program and ensuring that it meets its obligations under the Mental Health and Related Services Act.
These obligations include ensuring that community visitors respond to consumer requests for a visit, ensuring that panels visit the inpatient facilities at least once every six months and that seclusion and restraint registers are inspected at least once every six months.
The Principal Community Visitor is also the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.
This is the third Annual Report delivered by the Community Visitor Program under my stewardship. The Community Visitor role complements that of the Anti-Discrimination Commission. The traditional complaints process of the Anti-Discrimination Commission does not always suit vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
In the areas that the Community Visitor Program works, there are many reasons why someone may not feel comfortable to use a conventional complaints process. If, however, you are visited and spoken to on a weekly or monthly basis, this can help conversations flow. Importantly, it can help things be resolved at the lowest possible level. This is one of the main aims of the Community Visitor Program.
As with the Anti-Discrimination Commission, the Community Visitor Program also works at a broader level – to identify barriers to equal opportunity or inclusion in our community. This gives a voice to people who might otherwise not be heard, by listening to their experience we all benefit.
The value of this approach, both to building relationships with agencies and helping people, has been proven since the program commenced in the mental health field in 2001.
Change is not always fast. With patience, and a commitment to working together, it does happen. Over time, this helps promote greater safety in the delivery of services, and positive change for consumers and the community.
I would like to extend my thanks to all the staff of the agencies with whom we work, from the Chief Executive of the Department of Health through to the managers and caseworkers working on the frontline with clients.
There are now non-government organisations working with the Community Visitor Program in the specialist disability and alcohol mandatory treatment areas. Working with the Community Visitor Program is a new space for many of their staff, and I appreciate that this can be challenging. I thank them for their assistance to the program throughout the year. It is important that we continue to work together, building relationships that benefit the community’s most vulnerable.
I also would like to thank the staff of the Community Visitor Program, including the sessional Visitors and Panel members. All of the Community Visitor Program staff honour the voices of the most vulnerable and work tirelessly to ensure their rights are protected. Your hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated.
It is however appropriate in the Annual Report to acknowledge the individuals who take the courageous step to talk to us. This is often a very difficult step to take. Talking up for your needs and asking for change helps all of us for the better. On behalf of the Community Visitor Program we say thank you.