9 February 2023

Government to act on all recommendations of Mental Health Unit review

| Ian Bushnell
Start the conversation

The review found a ‘fractured’ and toxic culture and staff fearing for their safety. Photo: Google Maps.

The ACT Government has accepted all recommendations of the review into the Dhulwa Mental Health Unit, and the woman who led it will oversee their implementation.

The review, which the government initially resisted, found Dhulwa was blighted by a lack of leadership, a ‘fractured’ and toxic culture, staff feeling unsafe and doubts about exactly what model of care they should be providing.

Staff roles were unclear and they reported distrust in management, sometimes perceiving management directions as bullying.

The review made a total of 25 recommendations which ranged from confirming what that model of care should be to restructuring staffing arrangements and implementing a new ward model.

READ ALSO People with severe mental health challenges turned away as community services await funding confirmation

Restrictive practices such as seclusion and restraint should be restricted and security arrangements integrated into clinical practice.

Several recommendations went to the governance arrangements of the facility.

It recommended establishing more defined clinical leadership positions and a better structure for delegating and reporting.

Inquiry Chair Barbara Deegan will now lead an independent oversight board to ensure all recommendations are acted on by March 2024.

The board will include representation from the Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation, forensic mental health nursing expertise, Carers ACT, Mental Health Consumers and the Health Services Commissioner.

Canberra Health Services and the Office of Industrial Relations and Workforce Strategy will also take part.

Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said she was committed to ensuring long-term and sustainable improvements at Dhulwa.

“By accepting every recommendation, without qualification, we have demonstrated that commitment, and we are already working on their implementation,” she said.

“We are working with Canberra Health Services, representatives of staff, and patients and carers to make Dhulwa the place it should be.

“There’s a wide range of expertise on the board, and it will make such a strong contribution to ensuring that the implementation of recommendations is sustainable and that they stick over the long term.”

READ ALSO ‘From the lab to the bedside’: Plans unveiled for new cancer research centre at Canberra Hospital

Ms Davidson said she would formally table the government’s response to the inquiry in the Legislative Assembly this week.

Ms Deegan said she was pleased to be able to continue her involvement with Dhulwa.

“I look forward to working with the other members of the Independent Board to provide the ACT Government and the wider Canberra community with the assurance that the recommendations have been implemented effectively,” she said.

“I commend Minister Davidson for her commitment to the Dhulwa Inquiry and ensuring that it will bring about lasting change.”

Ms Deegan is a former Commissioner of the Fair Work Commission and Commissioner of the Tasmanian Industrial Commission.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.