Forensic mental health services in Tasmania

Dr Leila Kavanagh1,2

1Tasmanian Health Service, Hobart, Australia, 2Institute of Psychiatry, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (non remunerated), Rio de Janeiro, Brasil


The aim of this presentation is to focus on the delivery of Forensic Mental Health Services in present day Tasmania. The presenter will begin by taking into consideration historical aspects in the delivery of mental health care in Australia. This will include the transportation of convicts from Great Britain and the establishment of the first asylum in Australia. This will be followed by the advent of de-institutionalization, where the presenter will offer an opinion (which may be considered controversial) in relation to its aftermath; the Criminalization of the Mentally Ill. The author will then explore various psychiatric conditions encountered in prisons, which in the presenter’s opinion have become modern day asylums. This will be followed by the structure of Tasmanian Forensic Mental Health Services and the delivery of mental health care to the mentally ill in prison, taking into account limited resources to provide such care. The author will then provide insight into the provision of comprehensive mental health care, in a multidisciplinary context, to Forensic Patients in Tasmania (mentally ill and intellectually disabled individuals who have been found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity) in inpatient and outpatient settings. The provision of Forensic expertise to Civil Mental Health Services in Tasmania will be explored, as well as the attempts by our service to divert mentally ill individuals, before the Magistrates’ Courts on summary offences, to the Mental Health System instead of the Criminal Justice System. The provision of expert evidence before the Magistrate and Supreme Courts of Tasmania, by Forensic Psychiatrists and Psychologists, will also be discussed. Finally the author would like to open the forum for discussion on ways in which to improve Forensic Mental Health Services in Tasmania (and in other Jurisdictions); sharing experiences from Forensic Mental Health Services in other Australian States and Territories.


Dr Leila Kavanagh is a multilingual staff specialist employed by the Tasmanian Health Service as Forensic Mental Health Services’ Statewide Specialty Director. She is also the Director of Advanced Training in Forensic Psychiatry in Tasmania. A medical graduate from UTAS, she completed her training in Psychiatry and Advanced Training in Forensic Psychiatry in Sydney. She completed her Masters in Forensic Mental Health at the University of New South Wales. She has over 17 years of experience in Forensic Psychiatry and was previously employed by NSW Corrections’ Health Service, and then by NSW Justice Health, in a variety of clinical roles. Before returning to Tasmania, she also worked part time in a private capacity, in General and Forensic Psychiatry in Sydney and in Petersham (where she catered to the migrant population). She was accepted for inclusion on the List of Experts for the International Criminal Court, The Hague in 2010. She assisted in the development of the Masters Course in Forensic Mental Health at the University of New South Wales, where she was a co-joint lecturer. She is affiliated with the Institute of Psychiatry at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (IPUB – UFRJ), on an honorary basis, where she has contributed to the development of Forensic Psychiatric Services and where she is involved in research. She has presented on a variety of forensic topics internationally and in Australia.

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