Mental Health Act 2009

The Mental Health Act 2009 provides South Australia with an improved legislative framework that sets out the rights of people with mental illness and assists with their recovery and participation in community life.

About the Mental Health Act 2009

The Mental Health Act 2009 was proclaimed on 1 July 2010 and it:

  • provides a legislative basis for mental health reform in SA
  • introduces significant changes in practice to bring services in line with national and international best practice
  • increases accountability through the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist
  • strengthens consumer and carer involvement to improve outcomes for consumers and families
  • provides for high quality, safe and multidisciplinary care and treatment
  • balances interventions with safeguards.

Delegation of powers

The Chief Psychiatrist identified the need to delegate certain powers under the Mental Health Act 2009 in order to improve efficiencies in consumer management and mental health service provision.

These proposed delegations of powers are provided for under the following sections of the Mental Health Act 2009:

  • Section 91 – Delegation by Chief Psychiatrist
  • Section 100 – Delegation by Directors of Treatment Centres.

Delegation of powers under these sections may be absolute or conditional; does not derogate from the power of the delegator to act in a matter; and is revocable at will by the delegator.

Where delegations occur, the nominated individual will be required to identify themselves on the relevant approved forms.

A table listing the relevant sections of the Act, who the current powers sit with and proposed delegations (PDF 65KB) can be downloaded.

A table listing the powers recommended to stay with Directors of the treatment centres under the Act (PDF 101KB) can be downloaded.

The objects of the Act

The objects of the Act are to ensure that people with serious mental illness:

  • receive a comprehensive range of services of the highest standard, with the aim of bringing about their recovery as far as possible
  • retain their freedom, legal rights, dignity and self-respect as far as is consistent with the protection of the person and the community. 

The Act introduces into South Australian legislation for the first time:

  • the concept of recovery
  • a definition of ‘relative’ that accommodates the kinship rules of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • provisions to work collaboratively with traditional healers (Ngangkari).

The guiding principles

The guiding principles of the Act

  • safeguard the rights of people with serious mental illness
  • recognise and respect people as individuals in terms of their culture and background
  • tailor their care and treatment (especially children and young people). 

The Act requires greater accountability, consistency and standardisation in all interactions between those who provide services and those who receive them.

The Act provides for care, treatment and rehabilitation in the least restrictive manner and gives limited powers to make orders for involuntary treatment.

The Act and supporting documents

  • Mental Health Act 2009
  • Plain Language Guide
  • Clinician’s Guide and Code of Practice

The Office of the Chief Psychiatrist is developing a series of fact sheets about specific aspects of the Act. These documents will be made available as they are completed.