Jim McGinty

Jim McGinty

Attorney General; Minister for Health; Electoral Affairs

    New head will protect rights of mental health patients

    14/03/2008 12:00 AM
     

    Senior lawyer Debora Colvin has been appointed the head of the Council of Official Visitors,Western Australia’s independent agency that protects the rights of mental health patients.

     

    Health Minister Jim McGinty said Ms Colvin had been an official visitor since early 2007 and would be an excellent advocate for some of society’s most vulnerable citizens.

     

    “Ms Colvin has qualifications in law, mediation and journalism and in 1987, she won the Gross Prize in Human Rights Law,” Mr McGinty said.

     

    “She will bring her strong mediation skills and a commitment to social justice and human rights to this role.”

     

    The Council of Official Visitors is the statutory body established to protect the rights of involuntary patients with a mental illness who are treated in hospitals or at home under a Community Treatment Order, as well as the residents of licensed private hostels and group homes.

     

    The council has 34 Official Visitors who work on a sessional basis, including nine in regional WA.

     

    “This is an important role which makes a real difference in our community,” the Minister said.

     

    “In some cases, Official Visitors are the only people outside the hospital whom a mental health client meets regularly.

     

    “The Official Visitor can negotiate with doctors, request a second opinion, investigate complaints and assist individuals with their Mental Health Review Board hearings.”

     

    Prior to working for the Council, Ms Colvin was a litigation lawyer and the managing partner of Perth law firm Pynt and Partners.  In the early 1980s, she worked as a reporter on the Daily News in Perth before studying law in Sydney.

     

    Ms Colvin will take over from retiring head Dr Judyth Watson on April 1.

     

    Dr Watson was head of the council for five years.  During this time, the number of people receiving official visits increased by more than 20 per cent.  The council successfully advocated for changes which meant that long-term, involuntary patients at Graylands and other hospitals were not charged board and lodging.

     

    “I want to thank Dr Watson for her dedicated service, providing support and advocacy to some of WA’s most vulnerable citizens,” Mr McGinty said.

     

    Minister's Office - 9422 3000