Ms Bird (Cunningham) (10:36): One of the great challenges that we've all faced during the pandemic has been providing mental health and wellbeing services for people in our communities. Many of us are conscious of the direct health issues that people were challenged with—and I have spoken before on thanking our doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals for the work they did. Obviously, during such a time, for people who suffer from, for example, anxiety and depression, these issues would have been exacerbated by the circumstances that we were in and the social isolation. People who would normally be out and about and accessing their support networks—I'm thinking of the frail, the elderly and people with a disability—weren't able to do so, and the pressure that puts on people can significantly affect their mental health and wellbeing.

I want to thank two local organisations, headspace's Wollongong service under Grand Pacific Health, and our local Lifeline services. They did a Facebook hook-up with myself and the member for Whitlam during the peak period of the pandemic to talk about the issues they were facing and our community was facing and the significant work they were doing. We asked them to give us some feedback on lessons we've learnt from that time that might be useful to take forward, and I want to share that with the chamber.

Ron de Jong from Grand Pacific Health, which manages our Headspace Wollongong team, said that the expansion of the MBS to cover telehealth was a significant improvement. Their clinical staff reported they were able to provide support to clients in real time in their own homes, and there were benefits that they saw from that. Families who are experiencing conflict were able to dial in from separate locations or even rooms in their home. Others engaged with the service who might not have done so otherwise as a result of anxiety and other concerns. The barriers young people face in attending a centre in person are not always just geographical, and being able to do these telehealth connections was a real boost to service people.

Similarly, they said that the benefits of electronic prescriptions to allow seamless remote delivery were a positive out of that experience. Another item they raised was the individual placement service model. It is currently available on a trial basis at limited Headspace centres. The model allows a vocational expert to work alongside a young person who is engaged with the service and wants to find work. Given that we are all especially concerned about youth employment, they saw that as an important initiative and something that could be kept going. I thank them and our Lifeline services.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.