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Australian Psychological Services Under Threat in New Budget


Australian psychological services

Psychologist Ben Mullings and myself will be talking about mental health issues on ABC720 radio, Perth Western Australia, on Monday 30th May at 1pm. It’s about our campaign to get the Australian Labor government to reverse its decision to cut the number of Medicare rebated sessions from 12-18 sessions to 6-10 sessions starting from 1st November, 2011.

Read about us in the ABC news online:

Here is our facebook page:!/home.php?sk=group_209575192408227&ap=1

Please join our GetUp Action Group campaign and vote:

Please sign our petition:

Please contact Ben Mullings (see below) for further details.

Here is our media release.



Thousands of consumers, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists are rallying together to fight against changes to mental health care announced in this month’s Commonwealth Budget. The campaigners have organised an online petition that has collected over 2000 signatures, as well as a Facebook group and a campaign proposal with over 2500 votes on the website GetUp!

The Government’s planned changes to the ‘Better Access to Mental Health Care’ program contain details in the fine-print that will reduce access to mental health professionals by half. These tough new restrictions to access mean that psychological services will now fall short of basic guidelines for minimal treatment.  Mental health consumers have joined forces with professionals in a letter writing campaign, asking the Federal Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler, to reverse this decision and leave the current upper limit in place at 18 sessions.

In April 2011, a review of the ‘Better Access’ initiative was released by the Government, indicating that psychological services provided in this program reach people with moderate to severe mental health disorders and deliver cost-effective treatment for people who would otherwise be unable to access support. In a recent statement, the Australian Psychological Society described the ‘Better Access’ initiative as “the most successful mental health program in the last 30 years.” Under previous arrangements, patients referred by a GP could receive up to 18 sessions of psychological services.  The Labor government proposal to restrict access to 10 sessions has caused alarm across all of the mental health professions and has distressed many consumers.

Mr Ben Mullings, the campaign’s co-ordinator, says “Psychologists like myself are being asked to deliver evidence-based treatment, but are not being given enough sessions with the client to carry out even the most basic forms of intervention. Research has repeatedly shown that 15-20 sessions of treatment is needed for common psychological conditions, like depression and anxiety. Just last year Australian research showed that around half the people accessing this program will need more care after 10 sessions. These cuts ignore the research and will set many people up for failure. Cutting psychological services in half is like seeing a GP and only getting a half a dose of antibiotics; or going to an optometrists and only getting one eye looked at. It’s a ridiculous proposal.”

Mental health consumers have hit back against the changes, saying they feel deceived after the Government announced new investment in mental health care. Consumers point out that these tough new restrictions will make life harder for those who are most in need. A former mental health consumer Sonia Neale states, “these services have kept me out of hospital and able to continue my career – seeing a psychologist for 18 sessions is much cheaper than a psychiatric hospital stay.”

The President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Andrew Pesce, is also opposed to these changes, stating that they “devalue general practice”. The AMA has joined with a coalition of GP bodies in opposition to the reforms, which has prompted many psychiatrists and other medical professionals to add their concerns to the growing opposition.

Mr Ben Mullings added, “The Labor Government has led the public to believe that mental health is as much a priority as physical health. We are asking voters to demand that the Minister honour the Government’s promise by reinstating the pre-Budget session limits. Let mental health professionals do their job properly. We all appreciate new investment in mental health care, but taking away access to psychological services in a program that has been shown to be effective is really not the answer.  These restrictive changes make a mockery of the name and the whole intention of the ‘Better Access’ program.”


For more information or to interview Ben Mullings or others associated with this campaign, please contact:

Ben Mullings

C/O Health@520


Photo by Trevor Sampson, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Australian Psychological Services Under Threat in New Budget

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2011). Australian Psychological Services Under Threat in New Budget. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 May 2011
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