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Australia’s first inquiry into mental health begins today in Victoria

Federal Minister for Trade Andrew Robb has spoken publicly of his mental health battle. Courtesy: AAP

A former federal minister and an AFL premiership player will share their experiences with depression on the opening day of hearings for Victoria’s mental health royal commission.

Australia’s first royal commission into the mental health system will begin its public hearings today at Melbourne’s town hall.

The government has established the royal commission to address what it was called a “broken mental health system,” outlining its intent to “drive major changes to the state’s system to support the Victorian’s with mental illness, including those at risk of suicide.”

The inquiry is scheduled to hear from four witnesses on its first day, including ex-AFL football star Wayne Schwass and former trade minister Andrew Robb.

Mr Schwass battled depression for most of his 15-year football career playing for North Melbourne and Sydney, and now advocates for mental health awareness.

Mr Robb, who served as Australia’s trade and investment minister before retiring from politics in 2016, revealed publicly in 2009 that he suffered from depression.

Two community members will also share their lived experience of mental health on the opening hearing day of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

Commission chair Penny Armytage and counsel assisting the inquiry Lisa Nichols QC made opening statements.

The first round of public hearings will run until July 26, collecting evidence from experts, frontline workers and community witnesses.

“People with a lived experience of mental health and carers will bring a unique perspective that is instrumental to the ongoing work of this commission,” Ms Armytage said.

One in five Victorians experience mental illness, and the stigma attached to mental health and suicide prevention will be among the key themes of the initial hearings.

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the inquiry will address a “broken system” and drive change, “so we can make sure people get the services they need, when they need them”.

“Every year, one in five Victorians experience mental illness. This Royal Commission is a once in a lifetime opportunity to remove stigma and improve supports for Victorians experiencing poor mental health,” Foley said.