Advocate names priorities

Latrobe Health Advocate Jane Anderson is expected to list her priorities for the Latrobe Valley by the end of the month. photograph hayley mills

Latrobe Health Advocate Jane Anderson is expected to list her priorities for the Latrobe Valley by the end of the month. photograph hayley mills

Latrobe Health Advocate Jane Anderson said drug and alcoholism, mental health and improvements to palliative care will be her priorities for the next 12 months.

Ms Anderson, who was appointed as Victoria's first independent health advocate, said people had already raised the same areas of concerns since she was appointed to the role two months ago.

The position was created following a recommendation by the Morwell Mine Fire Inquiry that an independent health advocate was required to champion the voices of the Latrobe Valley following the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire.

Ms Anderson, a former regional director for Anglicare, said her main focus would be ensuring health was prioritised in decision-making processes such as Morwell Power Station's asbestos cell or Australian Paper's proposed Energy from Waste facility.

"There's a range of experts that are looking at the asbestos cell and how it needs to be set up, where is the best location and so on. For me ... health and wellbeing should be prioritised," Ms Anderson told The Express yesterday.

"There's a range of concerns that I've heard – one is if there's to be a location near the Morwell Power Station then it needs to be a location that's not going to danger people in the community - it needs to be as safe as possible.

"The other concern people have raised is they don't want asbestos to be transported out of the area, so they're concerned about the location and transportation."

Australian Paper's Energy from Waste proposal has also been a contentious issue, Ms Anderson said, with people concerned about its potential pollution and impact on people's health.

While Ms Anderson is independent from the Department of Health, she receives administrative support from the government department.

The role requires her to report directly to Health Minister Jill Hennessy, in an advisory and advocacy capacity as early as this month when a paper outlining key health priority areas for the Latrobe Valley are detailed in a statement of intention.

"I haven't confirmed what my priority areas will be but they will be in the space of palliative care, for example better care between home and hospital and what is something that can increase a person's situation at that time in their life," Ms Anderson said.

"Alcohol and drugs looking at rehabilitation services, community response and how can we as a community prevent addiction and harmful use in the first place and provide and environment where everyone is engaged in the problem.

"There are people within the community who feel their voice hasn't been heard ... clearly there is a need for the voice to be louder."

Opposition spokeswoman for Health Mary Wooldridge said "I would see a Liberal Nationals government working with [Ms Anderson] and the broader initiative" if it were to win November's state election.

"The Latrobe Health Advocate has been an important recommendation from the community and Ms Anderson has a lot of experience as an advocate for the community," Ms Wooldridge said.

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