Proposed new Omnibus Bill potentially harmful to mentally ill

29 September 2020

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Victorian Branch has expressed concern for the potential impact of the proposed new policing powers, outlined in the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill.

The RANZCP Victorian Branch would emphasise that where possible, and as a first step, the Victorian government focus on support and information for people deemed unable to safely quarantine.

Branch Chair, Dr Kerryn Rubin, has explained that these extended powers could pose a real danger to the wellbeing of those experiencing mental illness or living with a disability.

‘The expansion of policing powers outlined in the COVID-19 Omnibus Bill has the potential to detrimentally impact those who have a mental illness and are vulnerable,’ said Dr Rubin.

‘Media reports have highlighted that the rules could be applied to people who refuse to self-isolate, are severly drug-affected or are living with a disability and deemed to be unable to quarantine safely.

‘While we support the need for appropriate public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 throughout Victoria, it is important that these remain in line with a human rights perspective.

‘It is essential to keep our communities safe, but it is also imperative that it is done with as little impact as possible on the community and individuals, especially those who are living with mental illness or disabililty.

‘People with disabilities frequenty require additional support to understand and comply with new restrictions, rather than a potentially punative and discrimantory response.

‘Further to that, there needs to be an acknowledgement of the complexities that even trained individuals may face in supporting and treating persons experiencing a mental health crisis.  

‘Legislation such as this must be subject to rigorous scrutiny to ensure it is fit-for-purpose, justified and not in contravention of human rights.’

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email