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As Australia reforms its laws to protect those with mental illness, is Queensland going backwards?

Ben White and colleagues write in The Conversation (14.12.16) about how recent Queensland reforms – due to take effect in March 2017 – do not include legislative safeguards for a certain group of people with mental illness.

'Every jurisdiction in Australia, except the Northern Territory, has been reforming its mental health laws in recent years. This is because governments have recognised that treatment for mental health should be subject to more modern regulation.

'The reorganisation has been partly driven by requirements under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, such as the need for states to have laws that respect a person’s decision-making capacity.

'While the scope of Article 12 of the Convention is debated, it at least requires the law to respect treatment decisions made by people with mental illness as much as possible. This includes providing people with support they may need to make these decisions

'In this modernisation process, one constant has remained. That is the need for safeguards when making serious decisions about treatment for mental illness. However, recent Queensland reforms – due to take effect in March 2017 – do not include these legislative safeguards for some people.

'These proposed reforms are different from the current law, and we worry such changes will leave some people at risk of receiving inappropriate treatment.'


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