State Member for Williamstown Wade Noonan has spoken on his own personal experience with mental health, and about the challenges he faced as Police and Corrections Minister which led to a brief break from Parliament in early 2016.
In his recent valedictory speech to the Victorian Parliament, Wade Noonan revealed that it was the parents of murdered ABC journalist Jill Meagher who supported him during a time he needed it most, a friendship he has maintained ever since.
“To two special people who have helped change the way I view my life. I refer to Edith and George McKeon, the parents of Jill Meagher. We met and exchanged phone calls and emails during and after my time as Minister for Corrections,” Mr Noonan said.
“They sought my help, and I gave it. During our exchanges Edith and George taught me that regardless of anyone’s circumstances, no-one can ever take away a person’s spirit.”
“Remarkably Edith and George remained a source of support to me during my brief absence from the Parliament, which tells you everything you need to know about these beautiful people.”
Speaking on his own personal experience with poor mental health, something which he has never hidden from public life, Wade Noonan described it as part of his story, but something that does not define him.
“Poor mental health does not discriminate — in fact it is everywhere. Reading the signs and getting help is the key. So is the support I received from members in this place, the media, the community, friends, family and even perfect strangers. It all helped,” Mr Noonan said.
“I do want to single out Premier Daniel Andrews for his wonderful personal and professional support. It has been my privilege to serve this great leader in both opposition and government, but his support during my hour of need is something that I will never forget.”
“Through his support and the support of my colleagues I have been able to reach some wonderful heights. I want to place on record some of the more significant achievements because they serve as an important historical record.”
“To the police and corrections areas — two of the more challenging areas of government, as evidenced by that rather large prison riot back in 2015. I have the utmost respect for our police and correctional staff, and I was proud to serve as their minister. “
“During my time as police minister I was able to secure more than 1100 additional police personnel, including new custody offices, public order response, special operations, forensics and protective services officers.”
“We doubled counterterrorism capability, delivered new drug and booze buses, funded digital radio communication, cracked down on ice dealers, targeted illegal guns and, importantly, launched a new phone app to promote better mental health awareness.”
“In corrections we strengthened the management of serious sex offenders, made record investments in community corrections and targeted the unacceptably high levels of recidivism by improving education and vocational skills in prison.”
“This is where I met Jeff Kennett — no, not because he was trying to draw me across to the Liberal fold. In fact, I met Jeff Kennett as the chair of The Torch. Jeff lobbied me to permit Indigenous prisoners to sell their art whilst incarcerated, which we did.”
“We also significantly increased funding for the Indigenous arts program managed by The Torch. This program is giving new hope to our Indigenous prisoners, and I am grateful to the former corrections commissioner, Jan Shuard, for her leadership in this area.”
Wade Noonan will join Hobsons Bay Mayor Angela Altair and Victorian Young Achiever Award winner Nikolina Mabic at Walk a Mile in my Shoes – a mental health awareness walk – in Williamstown on October 14.