Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (15:14): My question is to the Attorney-General, representing the Minister for Mental Health, Minister Merlino. The number of Australians drinking alcohol increased for the first time in four years last year. A survey by the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association found seven out of 10 agencies reported increases in the number and severity of presentations for alcohol since March 2020.
On any given day in July 2021 there were 3599 people waiting for treatment across the government-funded treatment types. We have thousands of vulnerable Victorians needing help yet our government agencies are not having the capacity to meet demand. So my question is: what is the government doing to ensure that drug and alcohol services have the capacity to meet that demand?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (15:15): I thank Mr Barton for his question to the Minister for Mental Health, Mr Merlino in the other place. I will seek a response to his question and have it tabled according to the standing orders.
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (15:15): Thank you, Attorney. Alcohol intake has increased since the beginning of this pandemic, so it is no surprise that alcohol-related harms have increased too. We know that reports of family violence in Victoria leapt last year at times when the state was emerging from lockdowns. As is the case right now, stay-at-home restrictions made it harder for many people to report abuse and get help. Last week we heard the Victoria Police deputy commissioner say he expected a repeat of last year and that family violence reports will increase significantly as restrictions lessen. So my supplementary is: what is the government doing to prepare for the expected increase in family violence reports and ensure that family violence victims can access the support they need?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (15:16): I will also pass that on to the minister as per the substantive question, although I would point out that there are probably other ministers that would be able to provide further information. I might catch up with Mr Barton on these specific issues because I know he is very interested. I really thank you for your advocacy. Perhaps I will have a chat to you about some of the ways I can get you the information that you are after.
See speech here