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Championing mental health in Western Australia – The Hon Helen Morton MLC

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Over the course of her career, the Hon Helen Morton MLC has been an advocate for improving Western Australia’s mental health services.

After graduating in 1969 with an Associate Diploma in Occupational Therapy from the Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University), Helen worked as an occupational therapist, applying her skills in mental health rehabilitation. She witnessed the obstacles facing WA’s mental health services: from limited funding and community treatment and support services, to the isolation of mental health services from other state health systems.

This experience not only prompted her to develop private occupational therapy services in mental health, but also in nursing homes, hotels and day-care centres. It was also the start of a lifelong commitment to bettering mental health services in WA.

“Mental health still represents a major public challenge in Western Australia, and that is an area to which I remain strongly committed,” Helen says. “I want to make sure that people with a mental illness are given a fair go.”

To achieve her aims, Helen moved into health management, and over 13 years held senior executive positions in health organisations across WA, including roles at Central Wheatbelt Health Service, Midwest and Gascoyne Health Service, South Metropolitan Health Authority, Department of Health WA, Armadale Health Service, and Kalamunda Community Care.

“Mental health has been my passion and has seen me play an instrumental role in designing, building and managing the full spectrum of public mental health services across the country and metropolitan areas before embarking on a political career,” Helen says.

Currently the Minister for Mental Health, Disability Services and Child Protection, Helen has dedicated her time to reforming mental health services in WA and establishing the Mental Health Commission. This role has also seen her announce the merger of the Drug and Alcohol Office with the Mental Health Commission to ensure better integration of prevention and treatment services in these areas, as well as introduce the Mental Health Act into parliament in 2013.

“I truly believe that the same personal qualities that motivated me to become an occupational therapist are precisely the same qualities that have driven my political career; I honestly want to see individuals and communities have better outcomes and opportunities,” Helen says.

Sources

Speech presented at the Parliament of Western Australia Legislative Council on 25 May 2005.
Helen Morton, “Address-in-Reply Debate” (PDF – 73.18 KB )

Government of Western Australia, Premier of Western Australia and cabinet ministers biographies

Government of Western Australia biography of Hon Helen Morton MLC