Assessment and Support Services for People with ADHD

06 November 2023

As the deputy chair of the Community Affairs References Committee, I also want to make a few brief remarks on this important report, Assessment and support services for people with ADHD. In doing so, I really want to acknowledge the work and contribution of everyone on the references committee, as well as participating members, for the work they put into being able to deliver a consensus report.

Whilst I acknowledge the perspective of Senator Rice regarding what other things she would like to see, I think there are some really strong and important recommendations in this report. I'm really proud, as the deputy chair of this committee, to see those recommendations and to see the views and experiences of so many people with lived experience of ADHD reflected in some of those recommendations. I genuinely want to thank committee members for the extensive work which went into the inquiry and, indeed, the work which went into the preparation of what is a very lengthy report. It's a report full of lived experience, as it should be.

I also want to acknowledge, as Senator Rice said in her remarks, that we really tried to make the inquiry an accessible process for people with lived experience of ADHD, but we didn't do well enough. It wasn't without good intent—a lot of effort and thought went into how we could try and rewrite some of the practices which govern this place and which govern our work in committees to try to make the inquiry more accessible. It has been a learning experience for our committee, and I know it will lead to things being done a bit differently in the future—where possible—to try and make sure it is more accessible because, as always in community affairs, it's the perspectives and the lived experiences of the people affected by the issues we inquire into which absolutely make our reports and which are critical to the recommendations we deliver. I know that, as a committee, we will try to do better to make sure a broader perspective of those lived experiences can be reflected.

I want to thank those witnesses who were really honest with us about their experience of what we thought were better and more accessible processes, but which, obviously, weren't good enough. I want to acknowledge that and I thank those people with lived experience who pushed ahead and engaged with us, who came to our hearings to present their lived experience and who worked through our submission process and contributed to our work. Your contributions were so valued and so important in the final recommendations.

We received over 700 submissions during this inquiry, and we had 79 witnesses attend three days of public hearings across the country. An entire chapter in the report reflects the lived experience of the overwhelming majority of witnesses. Throughout the course of our inquiry we heard about the impact of ADHD on education and unemployment, and the social impacts of ADHD—when it comes to family relationships and social isolation—on mental health and wellbeing. It takes a lot of courage to come and sit and talk about some of these things in a committee process in front of a panel of senators. We tried not to be intimidating, but it's not a normal thing for witnesses to do. I'm really grateful to the people who came and shared their perspectives.

We heard that people with ADHD often have poor consumer experiences and face difficulties in accessing services. We heard concerns around service delivery for people with ADHD, about their difficulty with finding the right kind of support from the right practitioner, their struggles with executive functions and how their experience of ADHD was affecting their lives, family, employment, health and wellbeing. As is, I'm sure, the experience of many people in this place, I have personal experience with ADHD through a loved one who has ADHD. I was very familiar with their experience, but not everyone experiences something like ADHD in the same way. The breadth of experiences we heard was really important, and I certainly learnt a lot in this process. I urge everyone in this chamber to pick up our report and have a read and, in particular, to read the chapters on lived experience.

I'm really pleased that we were able to come to the multipartisan recommendations that we did, which do go to improving the experience of people with ADHD in seeking diagnosis and those living with ADHD, including the recommendation around the development of uniform prescribing rules to ensure consistency between state and territory jurisdictions, through the ministerial council on health. We made a number of recommendations around a more coordinated approach to ADHD, affordability and accessibility of services, quality of care and, importantly, work to improve awareness and reduce stigma. All of these recommendations, I am sure, will inform the work the government is doing to make health care more affordable and more accessible. It's my hope that we can see some of these recommendations implemented quite promptly.

Again, I want to thank everyone who participated in our inquiry, and I want to thank the other senators on the Community Affairs References Committee for their work and goodwill in delivering this report and the consensus recommendations within it.