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Mental Health, Human Rights and Minorities in Australia

Prof. Sev Ozdowski

This paper deals with the relationship between culture and mental health in multicultural Australia. It starts with the examination of
prevalence of mental illness in Australia and its association with disadvantage and poverty. Then the paper focuses on mental illness issues faced by Australians born overseas. Finally it focuses on mental health as a human rights issue and on associated government responsibilities. In this context it examines government policies and practices toward children locked up in Australian immigration detention centres between 2000-04. In conclusion the paper argues for a number of changes to be introduced to the Australian mental health system in order to ensure that it serves better all Australians and in particular is inclusive of those born overseas."


Conflict of Interest: None disclosed

Financial Support/Funding: None disclosed
From 'Cultural approaches to health and community care' a conference organised by Mission of Hope. Visit mission of hope at www.missionofhope.org.au
Recorded at the University of Western Sydney (Bankstown Campus) 28 November 2007, NSW, Australia.

Sev Ozdowski
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Prof. Sev Ozdowski

Dr Ozdowski is the Director of Equity and Diversity at the University of Western Sydney. He also holds the academic appointment of Honorary Professor in the Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.

From 2000-2005, as the Australian Human Rights Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, he authored the ground-breaking “National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention “A last resort?” which ignited a national debate about Australia’s immigration detention policies and ultimately resulted in children being released from mandatory detention and a rethink of the government’s detention policies.  As Disability Discrimination Commissioner he was behind the National Inquiry into Mental Health Services “Not for Service” report, which placed mental illness on the national agenda and conducted the strategic National Inquiry into Disability and Employment “WORK ability”.

This Polish born Australian has an LLM and MA in Sociology from Poznan University, Poland and a PhD from the University of New England, Armidale, Australia. In 1984 Dr Ozdowski was awarded the Harkness Fellowship which took him to the Universities of Harvard, Georgetown and California to work on race relations, international human rights and public administration. Between 1980 and 1996 he worked within the Federal portfolios of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Attorney-General's and Foreign Affairs.

Dr Ozdowski's life-long commitment to multiculturalism, human rights and civil society has been officially recognised in a variety of different ways; by an Order of Australia Medal in 1995, the Chevalier of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 2000 and most recently by an honorary doctorate from Melbourne's RMIT University.

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