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Health Bulletin 12 March 2021

In this edition: Can you require workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?, CSIRO secures licence to develop medicinal cannabis, Secondary students in Ovens Murray and Mallee to receive more mental health support and The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has been released.

The latest insights from our Health Law team: 

Can you require workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

CSIRO secures licence to develop medicinal cannabis

Secondary students in Ovens Murray and Mallee to receive more mental health support

The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has been released.

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Can you require workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

As the COVID-19 vaccination program commences in Australia, employers are questioning whether they can require their employees to receive a vaccine.

This question is complex and must weigh up the competing obligations of employers to ensure they can provide a safe workplace, and the rights of an individual to decide what goes into their body. Currently the Federal Government has indicated that the vaccine roll-out will not be mandatory on the grounds that there are arguably few workplaces in which it would be reasonable to require staff to have COVID-19 vaccines, in light of other measures which could be implemented.

For more information, Russell Kennedy has published this alert: No jab, no job? Not at this stage for COVID-19 vaccinations. Please contact the Russell Kennedy Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety team if you have any questions about whether a vaccine can be mandated by an employer.



CSIRO secures licence to develop medicinal cannabis

The CSIRO, Australia’s national scientific agency, has secured a new licence enabling it to develop medicinal cannabis products in partnership with local manufacturers. Medicinal cannabis is highly regulated in Australia, but is used to help conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and well as assisting in managing chronic pain and certain side-effects of chemotherapy, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approving over-the-counter pharmacy sales of a low does form of cannabidiol, in December 2020. Other medicinal cannabis products, including for example oils, capsules, oil sprays and lozenges, are also available with a prescription through the TGA’s Special Access Scheme.

The grant of this licence means the CSIRO is the only independent Australian research institute permitted to develop drug manufacturing protocols in the field of medicinal cannabis. The CSIRO has a secure facility, its Botanical Extracts Lab in Melbourne, in which it undertakes commercial research with cannabis products.  The CSIRO also uses this lab to extract therapeutic ingredients, analyse active ingredients and components, develop manufacturing processes, improve bioavailability and/or shelf life of products, evaluate dosing technology/devices and design synthetic cannabinoids.

The work being undertaken by the CSIRO involves working with cannabis growers and medicine manufacturers, with the organisation developing manufacturing protocols and developing prototypes, with such technology to be transferred to manufacturers to enable large scale production.

To read more about the CSIRO’s new licence to develop medicinal cannabis products, click here.     



Secondary students in Ovens Murray and Mallee to receive more mental health support

On 25 February 2021 the Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Minister for Mental Health, the Hon James Merlino, announced that secondary students in the Ovens Murray and Mallee will soon be able to access school-based mental health support.

The initiative consists of the roll out of mental health practitioners at thirty one schools and is part of the governments’ Mental Health Practitioners program. The program will see qualified mental health professionals in every government secondary school campus across the state, including psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and mental health nurses.

The mental health practitioners will offer counselling and early intervention services, and coordinate support for students with complex needs, linking them with broader allied and community health services.

All government secondary schools will receive between one and five days a week support from a mental health practitioner depending on the size and requirements of each school. Specialist schools with secondary aged students also benefit from funding to recruit a school-based mental health practitioner, who will provide support to students and families.

To access the Hon James Merlino’s media release, click here.




The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has been released

The Final Report of the Royal Commission in Victoria’s Mental Health System (the Commission) was tabled in Parliament by the Victorian Government on 2 March 2021. In the past two years, thousands of Victorians have engaged with, been consulted by and offered evidence to the Commission. The Final Report reflects an emphasis on the lived experience of Victorians and paves the way for a new holistic approach to mental health treatment, care and support.

The Final Report makes 65 recommendations, which add to 9 recommendations made in the Commission’s Interim Report. The Victorian Government has committed to delivering on every single recommendation of the Commission. Once delivered, these recommendations will see system-wide changes that will create a mental health and wellbeing system that is contemporary and adaptable.

For more information, Russell Kennedy has published a detailed alert: The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has been released. Please contact the Russell Kennedy Corporate and Commercial team if you have any questions about how the Commission’s proposed recommendations may impact your business.

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