The Victorian Government is holding a Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. VicHealth’s submission calls for the recognition of the primary prevention of mental ill health and the promotion of mental wellbeing as core pillars of the Victorian mental health system. It recommends a focus on the social determinants of mental health and wellbeing and risk and protective factors for mental ill health, as well as prioritising children and young people for interventions. It also calls for increased and strengthened investment and infrastructure. VicHealth will continue to have input to the Royal Commission as it progresses.
VicHealth is committed to building public policy for health in all sectors and at all levels of government. We work to influence policy and legislation, organisational practice and social norms in order to create physical, social, economic and natural environments that provide stronger foundations for health and health equity.
As part of this work we inform and support policy development and policy change, by providing evidence-based advice to government committees, independent inquiries and consultations. Key submissions under the VicHealth Action Agenda for Health Promotion 2013–23 are listed in chronological order below.
The Australian Human Rights Commission held an inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian Workplaces. VicHealth’s submission focused on the extent and nature of sexual harassment in workplaces, the drivers of harassment, and promising approaches for the primary prevention of sexual harassment – that is, stopping harassment before it starts.
The Australian Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum held a consultation on its draft National Alcohol Strategy 2018–2026. VicHealth’s response supported the priority areas outlined in the draft strategy, and emphasised the need to immediately implement priorities to reform pricing and taxation, advertising and availability. It also called for a robust monitoring and evaluation framework that measured changes in behaviours, perceptions and attitudes across all population groups and jurisdictions.
The Commonwealth Government established a Senate Select Committee to inquire into obesity in Australia. VicHealth’s submission to the inquiry provided key facts and statistics, as well as recommendations that focused on the underlying causes of obesity, including the role of the food industry and government regulators. It referred to the recommendations of Tipping the Scales, an Australian Obesity Prevention Consensus, which was endorsed by 35 public health organisations.
The Australian Senate Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade held a parliamentary inquiry into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. VicHealth’s submission called for greater focus on preventive health and health promotion; implementation of the Regional action plan on health promotion in the Sustainable Development Goals 2018–2030; greater collaboration between World Health Organization Collaborating Centres and the Australian Government; and improved SDG implementation monitoring at the state level.
The Victorian Government held a consultation to inform the development of Active Victoria – A strategic framework for sport and recreation in Victoria 2017–2021. VicHealth’s submission emphasised the changing needs and expectations of Victorians, the potential of urban spaces to promote physical activity, and the opportunity to promote healthy food and beverage choices in sports facilities. It also discussed the barriers to participation in some groups, including women and girls, and new opportunities in non-organised sport and recreation.
The Commonwealth House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport conducted an inquiry into the use and marketing of electronic cigarettes and personal vaporisers (ECPVs) in Australia. VicHealth’s submission recommended a rigorous regulatory framework for ECPV research, use and promotion. It called for continued investment in research to explore the likely effectiveness of ECPVs as a smoking cessation aid, and to target this research at population groups that find it most difficult to quit smoking using current methods.
The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation’s conducted a review of the Health Star Rating (HRS) System. The HSR system is a front-of-pack labelling scheme intended to assist consumers in making healthier diet choices. VicHealth’s submission recommended that the HSR system become mandatory and be extended to non-packaged food, and that a consumer education campaign be implemented to promote the system and its purpose. VicHealth also recommended that the ‘as prepared’ rule be reviewed, and that the system’s treatment of added sugar be amended.
The Australian Government held a consultation to inform its new National Sports Plan. VicHealth’s submission focused on broadening the definition of sport to include social and non-organised sport and physical activity, and using sport and its facilities as a setting to improve health and wellbeing, including preventing risk factors such as gender inequality, exclusion, alcohol harm, tobacco and unhealthy eating.
Bicycle Network held a review into their position on whether bike helmets should be mandatory. VicHealth’s submission acknowledged the importance of cycling for meeting physical activity needs, particularly for children, and as a form of active transport. It recognised that cyclists are currently inherently at risk when riding in traffic, as high traffic volumes and high traffic speeds are among several factors that can increase the risk of crash and injury for cyclists, and increase the likelihood that traffic safety will present a barrier to children being allowed to cycle.
The Commonwealth Government conducted a Parliamentary Inquiry into Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality. VicHealth’s submission highlighted the importance of prioritising primary prevention of violence against women at a national level, by focusing on gender inequality as an underlying driver, and promoting respectful relationships and resilience. It also recommended the full implementation of the national framework for action, Change the Story, and outlined a range of initiatives showing promise in the primary prevention of violence against women.
The Victorian Government conducted consultations to gather input into Safe and strong: Victoria’s gender equality strategy. VicHealth provided a written submission that outlined the health and wellbeing impacts of gender (in)equality, and highlighted the opportunity to provide a platform that prioritised three key areas: safety and violence against women; economic participation; and participation in sport and physical activity. It also noted the need for strengthened coordination and monitoring of equality indicators.
The State Government is conducting a review into the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (LCRA), with its terms of reference including assessment the effectiveness of the LCRA’s harm minimisation measures, including the degree to which they can play a part in minimising the incidence of family violence. VicHealth’s submission to the review outlined the devastating social and health harms caused by alcohol, particularly the role of alcohol as a reinforcing factor in the incidence of family violence. We advocated for legislative change to ensure the LCRA protects Victorians from alcohol-related harm from others, particularly through the regulation of packaged liquor outlets and the promotion of alcohol.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) held a consultation on food labelling which looked whether food product’s nutrition information panel needed to declare the amount of nutrients per serve if a daily intake claim wasn’t made. VicHealth recommended that at a minimum the per serving nutrition information continued to be mandatory. The submission noted that VicHealth considered the then current nutrition information panel system to be an inadequate mechanism, and that a front-of-pack interpretive food labelling system should be fully implemented.
The Victorian Government reopened the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry in 2015/16 to examine a range of issues, including measures to improve the health and wellbeing of residents of the Latrobe Valley. VicHealth’s submission to the inquiry outlined a range of strategies that could potentially be implemented in the region, and advocated for a coordinated and comprehensive health promotion response that addresses the social determinants of health and health inequities. The Inquiry’s 2016 Health Improvement Report confirmed the need for this approach, and called for the Victorian Government and health and other sectors to work together on new community-generated solutions. In 2016–19 VicHealth will support this work under our ‘community’ key theme for action.
The Victorian Government established the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2015 to address the scale and impact of family violence in Victoria. Its terms of reference included a focus on preventing the occurrence of family violence, an area that VicHealth has worked in for the past 15 years. VicHealth’s submission to the Royal Commission emphasised the need for a primary prevention approach that addresses the underlying social determinants of violence against women and improves gender equality. The Royal Commission’s final recommendations affirmed this approach, as well as our call for sustained investment in primary prevention coordination and activity. VicHealth’s action to promote gender equality and prevent violence against women in 2016–19 under our ‘gender’ key theme for action supports the efforts of the Victorian Government and our partners to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
The State Government released a consultation paper for the development of the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2015–19. VicHealth strongly supported the approach outlined in the consultation paper, particularly the emphasis on addressing the social determinants of health and health inequities. VicHealth’s response highlighted the importance of a whole-of-government approach that engages civil society, industry and non-government organisations, as well as considerations around the Plan’s objectives and outcomes measures. VicHealth’s action in 2016–19 strongly aligns to the Plan’s objectives and strategies, with our work complementing that of the State Government across our strategic imperatives.
The Australian Senate established the Select Committee on Health in June 2014 to inquire into and report on health policy, administration and expenditure. VicHealth provided a submission to the Committee that highlighted the importance of significant and sustainable investment in health promotion, prevention and early intervention. The submission also recommended that the Commonwealth Government continue and strengthen its leadership role in preventive health, and undertake action to address the social determinants of health and health inequities.