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Speaking frankly...                                       

Shouting insults serves no one well

This week, the political discourse has included allegations of sexist comments and abuse in the Australian Senate.

Subsequently, on ABC breakfast radio, the Senator accused of this sexist abuse said the following:

"I think you’re mischaracterising it as sexist abuse when it's just abuse. I am an Australian. I will tell people they’re bastards or bitches or to f-off irrespective of their gender".

It reminded me of President Trump’s attempted justification of some of his worst sexist remarks when he claimed what he had said was simply “locker room banter” and, therefore, somehow excusable.

As I observed at the time of the Trump comments, I think the Senator misunderstands what constitutes 'normal'  Australian behaviour.

In the Australia I live in, people do not routinely tell people they’re bastards or bitches or to f-off, and they certainly don't do so in a workplace. If the Senator’s comments were made in our workplace - at Mental Health Australia - it is hard to imagine any other outcome than his dismissal, particularly in the light of his refusal to apologise, and his propensity to repeat and inflame the comments.

Comments from a member of parliament who on being sworn in takes an oath to ‘well and truly serve the Commonwealth of Australia’...How then do such abusive comments 'well and truly' serve our nation?

This same week the Australian newspaper carried a front page story telling of the concerned Principal of St Andrew’s Cathedral School who was contemplating instructing teachers not to answer their phones in the face of abuse from certain parents, and that he was even contemplating banning those parents from school property on the basis of their abusive behaviour.

The Principal had become concerned that he was having to 'interact with too many parents who have verbally abused, physically threatened, or shouted at a staff member'. He went to observe 'a considerable increase in parental anxiety ... that may reflect increasing anxiety in society generally'.

Two stories of abusive conduct in communities that should be respectful. Two incidences that highlight how our own words and behaviours can either contribute to increased angst, or alleviate it. 

One only has to scroll through some of the comments on Facebook or Twitter to see how quickly people resort to name calling and abuse in pursuit of often legitimate public policy goals.

My fear is that all the name calling, all of the mockery and negativity, and all of the questioning of motives, frequently serves to shut down genuine and constructive debate rather than enhance it.

In mental health, we work in an area where people are often distressed. An area where good people have strived for reform, only to be frustrated and disappointed with progress. The challenges we work on are non-trivial, and the consequences of our failure to achieve real reform can mean life or death for people who frequently have little or no voice.

It is only where we find common ground that we begin to make inroads. When criticism is limited to the well-intentioned solution-focused kind; where differences of opinion unite and diversity is embraced, then our efforts to create positive change can be enhanced rather than stifled.

Having a true conversation and engaging in robust public debate is far more nuanced and far more beneficial to all than shouting ever more abhorrent insults, in ever louder voices.

Warm regards.

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer


Australia's new Digital Health Strategy

Australians will be able to access new digital health services following the official launch of Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy. The strategy will help deliver improved health services including coordinated real time care for patients with chronic illnesses. The Agency’s top priority is the creation of a My Health Record for every Australian by the end of 2018, unless they choose to opt out by October 15. Doctors, pharmacists and authorised healthcare providers will be able to access patients' My Health Records to assist in their treatment, access to prescriptions and advance care planning.

For further information on My Health Record go to

Next Week 

On Wednesday, I will be participating in consultation sessions on the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 with Belinda Highmore, Acting Director of Policy & Projects. 

Later in the day, Belinda and I will be meeting with the Productivity Commission to discuss the review of the National Disability Agreement.


Mental Health Australia Member Profiles

Mental Health Carers Australia is the only national advocacy group solely concerned with the well-being and promotion of the needs of mental health carers. Their mission is to be the leading national voice of mental health carers, and to enable carers to lead the best lives possible. Mental Health Carers Australia grew out of the national movement of ARAFMI (Association of Relatives & Friends of the Mentally Ill) organisations across Australia.  Website 

The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH), an initiative of the University of Newcastle, conducts high quality research and delivers evidence-based programs to improve the mental health and wellbeing of rural and remote residents in NSW. The Centre focuses on: the promotion of good mental health and the prevention of mental illness; developing the mental health system to better meet the needs of people living in rural and remote regions; and understanding and responding to rural suicide. CRRMH also works in partnership with Aboriginal communities to reduce Aboriginal suicide and suicide related behaviour. Website -



NDIS marks five years

This week marked the fifth year since four NDIS trial sites were launched in 2013. Since that time, the number of Australians receiving disability support for the very first time has increased to 45,000 under the scheme. Despite ongoing criticism, 90% of participants have rated their satisfaction with the NDIS planning process as either good or very good, and 90% of parents or carers of children up to school age say the NDIS has helped their child's development. 
Recent NDIS announcements include the rollout of the Quality and Safeguards Commission to oversee quality and safety for people receiving support through the NDIS, and the implementation of the NDIS Practice Standards - Worker Screening Rules legislation developed to support the safe delivery of services and supports.
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Saving Lives. Saving Money: A snapshot of mental health in Victoria

Mental Health Victoria has launched a major report which maps out the economic case for investment in Victoria's mental health system. According to the report, Saving Lives, Saving Money the Victorian mental health system now lags behind other Australian states and territories and this is having a growing impact on consumers, emergency services, hospitals, homelessness services and the justice system in the state. 

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Additional funding keeps Australian icon flying high

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is making the most of the additional $84 million announced in the budget by extending its existing services and establishing a new mental health outreach program for people in rural and remote areas. From 1 January 2019, a new Mental Health Outreach Clinic program will provide professional mental health services to areas where there are currently few or none.
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Dietitians Association of Australia welcome new CEO

Mental Health Australia member, the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), has welcomed Mr Robert Hunt as their new CEO. Robert has a background as a CPA, and has previously been CEO of St John Ambulance Australia and the Australian Institute of Building. Robert has previously held the role of Deputy Chief Executive of Business and Corporate Services for the Australian Medical Association.
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$1,000 prize for the best suicide prevention campaign ad

Young people aged 18-24 are invited to submit their proposals for a short suicide prevention campaign ad for a chance to win $1,000. The creative teams behind the top 25 submissions will take part in a summit where they’ll spend time with suicide prevention experts and creative consultants. Teams will start making their ads at the summit and finish creating them over the following weeks. The competition, run by the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with beyondblue, is also supported by Mindframe. Applications close at 5pm on 20 July 2018.

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SANE Forum: Distress Tolerance for #TopicTuesday

#TopicTuesday is a monthly online forum focusing on a different topic each session. The next Topic Tuesday forum will take place on 17 July 2017 from 7pm (AEDT) and will answer the question: How do you cope when you feel like you can’t? Participants can share their experiences of coping with uncomfortable emotions - What works? What doesn’t? And what would you like to do more of to support you on your recovery journey? 

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Stress Down Day

Stress Down Day is a fun and easy initiative to reduce stress and raise vital funds for Lifeline. This year Stress Down Day will take place on the 24 July 2018. To take part, Lifeline is encouraging organisations and individuals to organise their own Stress Down Day at work, school or with your friends at home! Find activity suggestions, learn more or register your event below...

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Empowering people with disabilities without exploiting their support workers

Mental Health Australia members are invited to a one-off lecture by Professor Tom Shakespeare - a leading disability expert in the UK and Europe - speaking about his research with people with disabilities and support workers in the UK. He will talk about how new models of social care that facilitate greater flexibility, freedom and empowerment. He will also present new risks to workers as support work becomes increasingly insecure. This is particularly relevant to Australia with the introduction of the NDIS and the impact this has had on the casualisation of the disability workfroce. Lecture will be held on Thursday 19 July in Melbourne.

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CEO position available with OzHelp

OzHelp, one of the nation’s leading providers of workplace mental health, well-being and suicide prevention services, is advertising for the position of Chief Executive Officer. The successful candidate will be an experienced executive with a clearly demonstrated ability to deliver results within a client-centred for-purpose organisation. The new CEO will work to strengthen and extend the impact of OzHelp, enabling it to reduce suicide and improve the mental health and well-being of people in workplaces nationally. 

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2018 National Suicide Prevention Conference: pre & post-conference workshop tickets still available

There are still tickets available for a number of workshops taking place in the lead up to and following the 2018 National Suicide Prevention Conference. Pre-conference workshops take place on Monday 23 July and post-conference workshops on Friday 27 July at the Adelaide Convention Centre. These workshops offer a unique opportunity to learn from international and local experts in suicide prevention and they sell out fast! Registration is essential.

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TheMHS Conference Early Bird closes soon

The 28th annual TheMHS Conference will take place in Adelaide from 28-31 August 2018 and the Early Bird registration closes midnight Tuesday 17 July 2018. The 2018 theme is 'Hear the Whisper, Not the Roar' and features keynote presenters Matt Ball, Australia’s Mental Health Nurse of the Year; Shannon Jaccard, former CEO of NAMI in the USA; and Michael Brown, Mental Health Coordinator for the UK National Police Chiefs’ Council, as well as 300 diverse presentations and symposia over three days.
To register, visit

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