Julian Leeser's call for action on mental health

New chapter: Berowra MP Julian Leeser is applauded by fellow federal MPs. Picture: Andrew Meares

New chapter: Berowra MP Julian Leeser is applauded by fellow federal MPs. Picture: Andrew Meares

The death of his father by suicide was the subject of Julian Leeser’s maiden speech to federal parliament.

The Berowra MP recalled the sound of his mother’s footsteps coming towards his room one night when he was 20.

“Seared on my mind from that night was the speed of her approach and her scream as she flung open the door of my bedroom, sobbing: 'Dad's gone, Dad's gone'," he said. “I went down the hall to my father's office, where he worked late into the night for his clients.

Hope: Berowra MP Julian Leeser said in his maiden speech he would be an advocate for better mental health policy. Picture: Andrew Meares

Hope: Berowra MP Julian Leeser said in his maiden speech he would be an advocate for better mental health policy. Picture: Andrew Meares

“There I found his pyjamas in a pile and on the glass-topped table in the hall, was a note, like so many of the notes from my father, written in red pen on the back of a used envelope. It said, simply: 'I am sorry Sylvia. I just can't cope, love, John'.”

He talked about the weeks before his father’s death, the long hugs he gave, and the signs he now believes were evident in his father’s behaviour.

Not a day goes by, he said, when he doesn’t regret some of his own selfish actions the night before his father’s death, refusing to polish his brother’s shoes.

“Suicide, they used to say, is a victimless crime, but they never count the loved ones left behind,” he said.

Mr Leeser used his father’s story to call for more action on mental health.

“In my own electorate we have had more than 100 people take their own lives in the last eight years. And across Australia eight people die by suicide every day,” he said.

“During my time here I will always be an advocate for better mental health policy.”

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