Melbourne Mad Studies Network

Next reading group: Tuesday 21st February 2023

Dear Mad Reading Folk,

Tim has kindly offered to co-facilitate in February and has suggested some readings and discussion questions on the topic Legal Challenges to Human Rights Violations.

Date: Tuesday 21st February

Time: 7-8.30pm AEST (Melbourne time)

Zoom link:

Passcode: 024185

Suggested Readings (attached):

Suggested discussion questions:

1. International standards of human rights for mental health support the abolition of involuntary treatment, and the freedom for people to determine their own choice of treatment.  Should these international standards be incumbent on Australia and if so why?

2. The Victorian government, in response to a recent Royal Commission has released a proposal to reform the Mental Health Act.  The reform document claims that its aim is bring the act into alignment with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The proposed new act appears to allow medical professionals to override these rights in a discretionary way. Why is the Victorian government responding to the Royal Commission report and international directives in this way?

3. How do we measure or determine madness and at what point is it reasonable to deprive a person of their rights because of claimed madness ?

4. When, if at all, is it reasonable for a responsible society  to physically constrain a person deemed to be mad and under what conditions, by what means and for how long ?

5. When, if at all, is it reasonable for a responsible society to override a mad person’s freedom of choice of treatment?

6. What should a responsible societies’ response be to the use of mental health treatments where there is significant evidence to suggest these treatments are ineffective or dangerous?

7. Where there is controversy between different experts over the effectiveness or safety of a treatment,  how should these controversies best be legally resolved?

8. Two New Zealand academics, Assoc Professors Giles Newton-Howes and Sarah Gordon are seeking to challenge the New Zealand government in the high court over the NZ mental health laws. The basis of this action appears to be that NZ laws are not compliant with international law and the NZ government appears to be dragging its feet in meeting compliance. This is essentially the same situation as in Australia except that Australian mental health laws are implemented on a   state by state basis. Would  a legal challenge similar to the NZ effort be justified? If so, how would one go about initiating such a challenge?

Looking forward to seeing you then,

Mad Studies Melbourne

Do you know anyone who might be interested in leading one of the monthly reading groups? Maybe that person is you? Maybe it’s someone whose work you admire? All that is required is to choose two-three readings on a topic – readings can include a podcast or video, or written texts – that are relatively accessible to a general, but interested audience (i.e. we don’t usually read dense legal theory or highly specialised philosophical texts, although often they will be challenging and we can support each other to understand them!) and contact us and we can lock in a date. The person would then need to come on the night prepared with a little bit of an intro and maybe some questions to prompt discussion (this is very flexible). The group is very friendly and the network facilitators will have your back. Let us know –

‘Madness is the only way I stay alive. I used to be a comedian, a long time ago! It’s true. There’s some good memories. … It’s too late to be sane, too late! You’ve got to go full-tilt bozo. Cos you’re only given a little spark of madness, and if you lose that, you’re nothing. Don’t. From me to you, don’t ever lose that, cos it keeps you alive. … That’s my only love, crazy.’

-Robin Williams (Little Spark of Madness, 1978)

‘Let me begin by saying that I came to theory because I was hurting-the pain within me was so intense that I could not go on living. I came to theory desperate, wanting to comprehend-to grasp what was happening around and within me. Most importantly, I wanted to make the hurt go away. I saw in theory then a location for healing.’

-bell hooks (Theory as Liberatory Practice, 1991)

‘Academia can be an imposing or off-putting environment for many, and Mad Studies grapples with its relationship to class, privilege, language, exclusion, practice, activism and accessibility… It is intended as a bridge between the academic space and people who are contributing to the world in other ways – activists, artists, peer workers, critical thinkers, agitators, survivors and the rest. …with Mad Love!’

-Flick Grey (Mad Studies Conversation Starters, 2019)