Chambers lobby to keep clinicians

June 17, 2023 BY

Combined effort: Be.Bendigo CEO Rob Herbert is part of a push by the business lobby in Victoria’s three largest regional cities seeking the return of funding for a mental health clinician. Photo: FILE

THREE regional Victorian chambers of commerce have united to oppose a State Government decision to withdraw the funding of their offices’ mental health worker.

Be.Bendigo CEO Rob Herbert has co-written a letter with Geelong Chamber of Commerce CEO Jeremy Crawford, and Commerce Ballarat CEO Jodie Gillett to draw attention to each city’s need for an accessible healthcare worker.

“These clinicians are crucial for supporting our business communities,” he said.

“COVID is over, but the recovery is not. It is an extremely difficult environment for business owners who are emotionally and physically exhausted.”

According to Be.Bendigo, 22 per cent of small businesspeople have been professionally diagnosed with mental ill-health recently.

Between 30 and 40 per cent of workers in the manufacturing, retail, and construction industries, and accommodation and food services, reported that they have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

About 48 per cent of small business owners prefer face-to-face help, and 54 per cent of small business owners aren’t seeking assistance due to the cost of visiting a psychologist, and waiting periods.

The CEOs are lobbying local governments and State ministers and shadow ministers, to reconsider the decision to cut the funding.

“Whilst the State Government clearly needs to manage a growing level of debt, our Regional Business Chambers believe these programs are critical for what is a modest government spend,” the letter reads.

Minister for Small Business, Natalie Suleyman, has advised the chambers that she has read the correspondence and will look to address their concerns.