Justice Health Ministerial Advisory Council (12.12.2013)

Written on the 28 February 2014

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- My question is to the Minister for Corrections, Mr O'Donohue, and I ask: can the minister inform the house about recent improvements the coalition is making to the Victorian justice health system?

Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- I thank Ms Crozier for her question -- not only as the Parliamentary Secretary for Health but also as a health professional in her own right -- and for her ongoing interest in these matters.

Correctional health can be a very challenging field. The government wants Victoria's correctional health system to be a leader, to be innovative, to be effective and to deliver good health outcomes for prisoners.

We know that prisoners are among our most disadvantaged and unhealthy cohort. Many prisoners enter the correctional system with drug and alcohol dependencies, chronic and infectious disease and significant levels of mental illness. Almost all prisoners return to the community, so any improvements to their health can have broader community benefits. That was one of the considerations in the government's decision to ban smoking in prisons from 1 July 2015. As I have informed the house, a staggering 85 per cent of prisoners smoke, compared to about 14 per cent of the general community. The smoking ban will improve the long-term health of Victorian prisoners and bring Victoria into line with other jurisdictions.

I am delighted to announce today the establishment of the Justice Health Ministerial Advisory Council to provide advice to me and to provide advice to government to ensure that Victoria continues to be innovative and efficient and deliver appropriate health care to prisoners.

I am pleased to advise the house that the chair of the new ministerial advisory council is Mr Trevor Carr. Mr Carr is the CEO of the Victorian Health Care Association, and I have no doubt he will provide excellent leadership in his role as chair.

The council's membership is diverse, experienced and very highly skilled. It includes Professor Jim Ogloff, professor of clinical forensic psychology at Swinburne University; the CEO of VicHealth, Jerrill Rechter; Associate Professor Mark Stoove, who is the head of justice health research and HIV research at the Burnet Institute; Rowan Story, oral surgeon and director-general of the air force health reserves; Matthew O'Keefe, the chair of the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders; Ms Andrea McCall, chair of the Women's Correctional Services Advisory Committee; and Rosemary Hogan, general manager of Services for Older People at Jewish Care.

In addition to these outstanding professionals, the Secretary of the Department of Justice will act as an ex officio member, as will the department's principal medical officer. I am pleased also that this new advisory council will meet prior to Christmas. I look forward to it working and providing advice to me and to government so that Victoria can remain a leader in correctional health delivery.

President, if you will indulge me, I take this opportunity to wish Mr Philip Davis every success for his future and congratulate him on an outstanding career in Parliament.

Sitting suspended 1.04 p.m. until 2.07 p.m.

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