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banner: CEO Update, Mental Health Australia
Garma Festival
PHN Mental Health Guidance
NDIS Funding for LAC Support
Election updates
Medical Research Future Fund

This Week

Garma Festival 

Over most of the last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Garma Festival in East Arnhem Land. This festival provides a rich program of lectures and discussions led by key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, but also provides a deep immersion into the local culture - particularly that of the Yolgnu people gathering on Gulkula, a special part of their lands.

I will provide a longer update in future newsletters, but suffice to say here that I encountered a proud and rich culture, a strong community leaders young and old, roots to country that are so deep we can only really begin to glimpse them, palpable anger about ongoing injustices including the offences that have recently come to light at the Don Dale centre, but also clarity, strength and optimism regarding the future the people are building for their children and their children's children.

It also provided a chance to meet (and in some cases camp with) senior public servants and corporate leaders who also attend Garma to gain a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges affecting communities.

The photo I took at the bottom of this update captures (for me) something of the spirit of the Festival - a celebration of an ancient and strong culture and a commitment to a brighter future.

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PHN Mental Health Guidance Released

During the week, the Department of Health released a series of eight guidance documents for PHNs, to assist them with their new role of commissioning mental health services. A few key points we have identified are below. We welcome:

  • the recognition that the NDIS can not be the whole answer, as the NDIS will only cater for around 1 in 12 people with severe mental illness
  • the recognition that 'effective consumer participation needs to be appropriately resourced,' and hope this will ensure PHNs observe the NMHCCF’s position on paid consumer and carer engagement
  • the statement that 'PHNs will need to consider mechanisms for proactive advocacy and outreach'
  • the role of PHNs in encouraging GPs to address the physical health inequities of individuals with severe mental illness

However, we are concerned about:

  • the prohibition on PHNs commissioning psychosocial support, which is likely to mean people outside the NDIS will struggle to find psychosocial support
  • the requirement for each individual PHN to establish 'mental health specific clinical governance arrangements.' It would seem to be more efficient for clinical governance standards and arrangements to be nationally consistent
  • the continued under-emphasis of the potential role of peer workers, with PHNs merely encouraged to 'consider' the role of the peer workforce
  • the requirement that 'additional assessment arrangements for people with severe and complex mental illness will be expected to be developed by PHNs… These assessment processes will also need to link to… NDIS assessment'.  While we welcome the possibility of integrating assessment processes across PHNs, LHNs and NDIS, it would be more efficient for these processes to be developed at a state or national level.

Further information is required on:

  • the commitment that 'there will be national support provided to establish national training and accreditation systems for an appropriate workforce to deliver low intensity mental health services'
  • financial certainty, with the guidance referring to 'the three year implementation period,' but with funding only provided to PHNs for two years.
  • the guidance says that 'in some circumstances funding can be considered for workforce development' for the indigenous mental health workforce. But those circumstances are not specified, and so remain unclear.

The full guidance documents are available via the link below.

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NDIS Funding for LAC support

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is inviting organisations to apply for funding through an open competitive process to deliver services under the NDIS Partners in the Community Program, including Local Area Coordination Services and/or Early Childhood Early Intervention Services.

Funding is available to deliver services in the ACT, as well as identified areas of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia that have people scheduled to transition into the NDIS in 2017.

The grant round closes on Thursday 8 September 2016 at 2:00pm AEST.

For more information regarding the NDIS Partners in the Community Grants Round please visit the NDIS website.

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Election updates

Cathy O’Toole has won the seat of Herbert. Cathy was the CEO of SOLAS, a major mental health provider in north Queensland and part of the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia network. She was also President of the Queensland Alliance for Mental Health.

Both the government and opposition have announced their new frontbench. On the government side, there have been no changes relevant to mental health, with the Hon Sussan Ley remaining as Health Minister, the Hon Christian Porter as Social Services Minister, and the Hon Jane Prentice as Assistant Minister with responsibility for the NDIS. On the opposition side, the Hon Julie Collins has taken over responsibility for mental health, Senator Carol Brown is the new Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers, while the Hon Catherine King remains responsible for Health. We were also pleased to see the appointment of the Hon Andrew Leigh as Shadow Minister for charities and not-for-profits, and we look forward to working with him on our agenda to improve the way government and the NGO sector interacts.


Mental health and ‘lone-wolf’ terrorists

A couple of weeks ago, the Prime Minister asked the Commonwealth Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (Mr Greg Moriarty) to investigate Australian terror suspects’ potential links with mental illness. I will be writing to Mr Moriarty to express my concern that any work in this area avoids further stigmatising people with a lived experience of mental illness, their carers and families. This is a complex area, and I urge everyone to consider the materials produced by SANE Australia and Mindframe which are designed to support the reporting, portrayal and communication about mental illness, which will be important in framing any discussion papers or other public communication about this work.


Medical Research Future Fund 

Late last week our Director of Policy and Projects, Josh Fear, attended a consultation session run by the Department of Health on the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). Announced in the 2014 Budget, the MRFF’s capital will grow to $20 billion over the longer term with contributions coming from budgeted savings in the health portfolio. When the fund matures it is anticipated that annual disbursements of up to $1 billion will follow, with disbursements over the next four years projected to be close to $800 million. Consultations at this stage are focussing on strategies and priorities for the MRFF’s investments.

When the MRFF was first announced, health advocates were concerned it would support only clinical research, and would not invest in other areas of need such as preventative health, the social determinants of health or health system performance. Happily, early indications from the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board indicate that the MRFF will have a broader remit reflecting the weight of stakeholder opinion on priorities for investment. With mental illness associated with a larger burden of non-fatal disease than any other category of disorder, we can anticipate the MRFF will indeed support a range of research initiatives on mental health, including investigations into systems-level issues.

More information on the MRFF can be found via the link below.

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NDIS Readiness Webinar – Improve IT4NDIS

Late last month, we advised about a free NDIS readiness webinar, which was being run by The Virtual IT Department, NDS and Mental Health Australia.  The webinar was part of the ImproveIT4NDIS project. The project is designed to deliver an accelerated IT Planning and System Selection Program for providers seeking to build their ICT literacy and capability including a road map for upgrading or selecting a system(s) in preparation for the NDIS.

The webinar quickly filled up, and at the moment, we are not able to offer any further sessions. If you are still interested, could you please let us know at, and once we have an idea of further demand, we can gauge whether it will be possible to run additional webinars.

Further information is available from the website.

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Parliamentary news

Strengthening our mental health workforce (VIC)

Work is underway to ensure Victoria has a skilled, adaptable and available mental health workforce that meets the needs of Victorians with a mental illness and their families. Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley released the Victorian Mental Health Workforce Strategy which outlines the Andrews Labor Government’s plan to attract, develop and retain the best possible mental health workforce. The strategy focuses on how we best equip and skill our workforce to help those in most need such as Aboriginal mental health, rural and regional mental health services. The cornerstone of the strategy is the statewide Centre for Mental Health Workforce Learning and Development. Full details are available from the website.

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Next Week

On Monday I will be attending the opening of Palliative Care Australia's new office.

I will be in Melbourne on Wednesday to speak at the Disability Employment Conference.

On Thursday I will be on the Gold Coast to speak at the 17th International Mental Health Conference.

Josh Fear will be in Melbourne on Thursday to attend the VICSERV Member Forum.


New approach to suicide prevention implemented in NSW

Australia's largest integrated suicide prevention program is expected to reduce suicide deaths by 20% and suicide attempts by 30%. In 2014, over 2800 Australians died by suicide and around 65,000 made an attempt. A new approach to suicide prevention, developed by researchers at Black Dog Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP), will be rolled out in four locations across NSW. Called Lifespan, this evidence-based 'systems approach' involves the simultaneous implementation of nine strategies proven to reduce suicide. It was developed in partnership with researchers, clinicians, community organisations, Indigenous health groups and people with a lived experience of suicide and mental illness. For more information please visit the website.

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Review finds consumer-operated services are effective in supporting recovery

Mental health services controlled and run by people with lived experience of mental illness are effective in supporting recovery, according to a report released this week by the Mental Health Commission of NSW. The report, titled The effectiveness of services led or run by consumers in mental health: Rapid review of evidence for recovery-orientated outcomes, looked at evidence collected from countries around the world. To download the report please visit the website.

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Consumer Engagement: How can we better involve consumers in co-creation to improve healthcare?

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) are pleased to present an interactive workshop on consumer engagement in innovation and value creation in healthcare. While consumers continue to be involved as active participants in managing their own health, the focus is now moving forward to include consumers to be involved in innovation and value creation in healthcare. This is a topical area of health system development both globally and nationally and in turn, the focus of this one day, intensive workshop event. Full details, including registration are available from the website.

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Education/training bursaries open to young carers

This week our friends at Carers Australia launched the application process for their Young Carer Bursary Programme. There are more than 300,000 young carers in Australia, caring for someone with a disability, mental health issue, illness, alcohol or other drug problem, or who are frail aged. Young carers may help out with cleaning or cooking, getting a relative or friend about the house, helping with medication, keeping them safe, showering or dressing them, or just watching out to make sure they're OK. If you are a young carer who is looking to continue studying at high school or TAFE, an apprenticeship or as an undergraduate at university, check the eligibility requirements and apply for a bursary now. Further information and the online application can be accessed via the website.

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Invisible Discriminator campaign

Our friends at beyondblue has launched the Invisible Discriminator campaign which aims to highlight the impact of racism on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The campaign calls on all Australians to recognise that subtle or 'casual' racism can be just as harmful as more obvious forms. Visit the website to find out more and get involved.

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2017 Annual Information Statement Consultation 

The Annual Information Statement is an ongoing obligation for all registered charities. The ACNC is proposing to make some changes to the 2017 Annual Information Statement to make it easier for charities to complete.Your feedback is vital. Click the link below for more information and to have your say. The consultation closes 4 October 2016.

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Mental Health Commission of NSW to host global mental health conference in 2017

The  Mental Health Commission of NSW is proud to be hosting the latest International Initiative For Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) Exchange in Sydney early next year. Registrations for the matches (also known as Themes) and the Exchange are open on the IIMHL website.

Your organisation must be a member of IIMHL before you can register, but membership is free and can be done on the website.

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Submit your stories and contribute to the Peer Work Hub

The Peer Work Hub is an online resource for employers and organisations wanting to develop their peer workforce. To continue to develop and grow the resource people are being encouraged to share their stories of positive or innovative peer work in NSW for possible inclusion in the Hub. To submit a story or for more information please click on the link below.

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Last chance to apply for Consumer Sponsorship Opportunity: TheMHS Conference 2016

This year, as part of TheMHS Conference, Being has the opportunity to support a limited number of consumers from across New South Wales to attend the Conference this August in Auckland. This includes transport, flights and accommodation which will be organised by Being for the successful applicant(s).

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Warm regards,
Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer
Garma Festival
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