August 8

Republican of the year accused of conflict of interest

Psychiatrists, psychologists and patients' groups say there is a growing backlash against the federal government's mental health reforms and have accused its expert adviser, former Australian of the Year, Patrick McGorry, of a conflict of interest, reports Jill Stark in the Sun-Herald (7/8).

As Australian of the Year, Profesor McGorry has been a prominent and regular spokesman for republicanism. He even linked this with his work as a child psychiatrist.


Delivering the annual National Republican Lecture in Canberra last year he said Australia needed to "emerge from its prolonged adolescence" and become a republic sooner rather than later. He saw parallels between his work with young people and Australia's path to full nationhood.

"Australia's adolescence has lasted more than 100 years since Federation," he said.

I told Lanai Vaisek of  The Australian (27 August 2010)at the time that I found his intervention curious. I said that I found comparing Australia to an adolescent child "curious".

"We are one of the world's oldest and stable democracies, we have a Constitution which has been extraordinarily and unusually successful,” I said

“Of the world’s  seven oldest democracies, five are constitutional monarchies, and four share Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II as their Sovereign."

"Nations aren't individuals on a psychologist's couch .  The psychiatric analogy is completely inappropriate,” I said. "It would be foolish to change those institutions purely on the basis of a psychiatrist making some analogy with the immature." 

..conflict of interest alleged…

Several mental health specialists have told The Sunday Age the focus on early intervention for adolescents and young adults has been ''massively oversold'' by the ''McGorry lobbying machine''.

They claim he used his position on the government's mental health expert working group to recommend funding for programs he founded.

"David Castle, head of psychiatry at Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital, said Professor McGorry, – who founded headspace (Australia's national youth mental health foundation) and the early psychosis prevention and intervention centres – and Professor Ian Hickie, a headspace board member, had overstated the evidence for early intervention for young people at risk of psychosis.

"Headspace is a service for 12 to 25-year-olds with mild to moderate problems such as bullying, stress and relationship difficulties.

"Patients do not require a GP-referral. The early psychosis prevention and intervention centres provide integrated psychiatric, psychological and social support for 15 to 24-year-olds.

…$2.2 billion health package…  

( Continued below )

 "Between them, the two services received almost a quarter of the $2.2 billion mental health package in the May federal budget. Both professors McGorry and Hickie were on the government's mental health expert working group that advised the Prime Minister," the report said. Professor McGorry denied the claims.



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