The Council to Homeless Persons, represented by CEO Jenny Smith, is officially a representative on Victoria Police’s newly established Mental Health Portfolio Reference Group. What’s that I hear you ask?
In February last year, Victoria Police (VP) settled a matter in the Federal Court of Australia that alleged racial profiling (racism) was occurring within the force. The incident that triggered the case was a 2006 operation out of the Flemington Police Station that aimed to find criminality in young African-Australians attached to the nearby public housing estate. Under the settlement, VP agreed to undertake community consultation on matters including internal policies on field contacts as well as cross cultural training provided within VP. Once this was done, VP agreed to report on the findings and formulate an action plan to address any shortcomings.
As a result Victoria Police has set up the Priorities Community Division that will carry out a three year action plan called Equality Is Not the Same. The results of the community consultation led the Division to identify 8 communities that would benefit from better understanding and service provision by the force, and each has been given a portfolio reference group made up of key stakeholders in the relevant sectors. They are:
- Young People
- Multicultural and multi-faith
- Mental Health (MHRG – CHP representing)
- Human Rights
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI)
A total of 9 organisations are represented in the MHRG ranging from CHP to Victoria Legal Aid and Mind Australia. Over the next 2 years, the MHRG will work with Victoria Police to provide advice on projects, policies and initiatives that could impact on people with mental health issues. Ultimately the aim of establishing and working with the MHRG is to ensure everyone within VP engage with people who have mental health issues in the most appropriate, sensitive and effective manner.
Jenny Smith is very happy that homelessness is being considered in these important discussions and policy creation around mental health.
“It’s important that I have the right information from the sector about what is happening in the field regarding interaction with the police,” Ms Smith said.
It is expected that the MHRG will meet quarterly. Jenny Smith will welcome any feedback or suggestions about issues that should be raised at these meetings.