National Register - VIC Representative Profiles

Kaitlin Saunders

If your organisation is seeking consumer and carer representation, please click here to find out more about the selection process. Please note that all requests for representation will be referred to the consumer and carer driven selection process - it is not possible for an organisation to request an individual representative.

Suzie Adam, Carer Representative

My name is Suzie Adam and I am one of the original National Register members being honoured to have been chosen for a third time to represent the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. I am a Carer Member of the register and am President of Peninsula Carer Council Inc., one of the largest volunteer support groups in Australia with a membership of over 150.  I have many years experience, being one of the first Family Carer Consultants at Monash Health, and now hold the role of Family Engagement Practitioner at Dandenong YPARC (Youth Prevention and Recovery Care service).

I hold a Master of Social Sciences in Family Therapy after completing my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Humanities, whilst caring for three family members with various physical and mental health issues and finding that there was nowhere I could go for support.  I have held many advocacy roles over the years, a personal favourite being Carer Co-Chair of the MHCC Workgroup for the Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Work and am presently part of the Expert Reference Group for the D.H.S. evaluating the Early Psychosis services throughout Australia. I believe if we are able to catch mental health issues in adolescents, our loved ones have a far better chance of a valued healthy life.

Evan Bichara, Consumer Representative

Evan is a long time MH Consumer Advocate for the diverse Australian populations, including the mainstream.

Evan has extensively studied his field well having attained a Certificate IV in Community Disability Services trained in working closely with people who require special needs. Evan further attained a Diploma in Community Development, a Post Graduate diploma in Case Management.

With encouragements from friends, family and neighbours Evan per sued into Mental Health following a setback & from his scientific studies in obtaining a MH Advocacy role within the Victorian Trans-cultural MH Service within the St Vincent’s Hospital serving all the Multicultural communities at local state and federal levels. In that role Evan ran successfully 2 major Cultural groups for 16 years.

Evan’s passion is bringing healing to people who have been through a rough experience. Evan helps people including their families to find healthy perceptions & strengthen their relationships so that peace, whole & safe mediums can be linked by community. Evan knows that there is no single approach that is right for every individual….so Evan has been in the job trained on numerous modalities of approaches in getting people back on their feet.

Judith Drake, Consumer Representative

I’m an independent Melbourne-based consumer activist passionate about social justice, human rights and mental health reform. I have extensive experience across diverse areas including reference/advisory groups, research evaluation, support group facilitation, training and events, document/website review, peer support (including with volunteer emergency service workers) and family violence prevention. I’ve presented to a parliamentary enquiry, a federal health minister, and at conferences around Australia on diverse topics: consumer participation, trauma-informed practice, dissociation, self-care, disclosure, mental health service improvement, self-harm and the hearing voices approach. I hold formal qualifications in psychology, business, and training & assessment and have completed additional courses such as applied suicide intervention skills (ASIST), Intentional Peer Support (IPS) and Consumer Leadership. Highlights for me include helping coordinate the 2013 consumer-led, multi-disciplinary World Hearing Voices Congress (Voices Vic), receiving a Mind Community Award (2016) for Outstanding Contribution by a Client to Service Improvement and being on the Victorian Mental Health Tribunal Advisory Group (TAG). I believe in working collaboratively, respectfully and authentically to bring about real change that improves people’s lives.

Joanna Farmer, Consumer Representative

I work as a policy evaluation and research consultant, and am also currently studying for a masters in evaluation. I love that my work gives me the opportunity to meet a diversity of people and work on a range of health policy issues, with consumers, government and health services. My own lived experience of mental ill-health has also taught me about the importance of advocating, for my own health, and to use our stories to improve the mental health system.

I’ve previously worked with youth mental health organisations, including headspace and Orygen. I think it’s important that we establish the foundations for mental health early in life – so that people who need them can access services for their recovery as early as possible, but also more broadly, everyone has an appreciation for how important mental wellbeing is to live life to the full. I’m passionate about reaching out to make sure that everyone has a voice in shaping health policy, especially communities that might face layers of stigma when accessing mental health support, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and LGBTI people.

Rachael Lovelock, Carer Representative

Rachael Lovelock is a manager, advocate and family/carer leader who draws on her own lived experience and background in community development to lead, design and implement advocacy strategies, systems and processes at Wellways Australia.

Rachael advocates for platforms that ensure lived experience is heard, rights are upheld and principles of co-design are at the heart of policy, quality systems and services provision. 

Rachael’s previous roles have included working as a family practitioner, service coordinator and consultant for carer participation and leadership. With experience in direct service, group facilitation, program coordination, training and project management her work has contributed to policy development, service design and advocacy.

Rachael is passionate about working with families and carers, her approach is informed by a belief that families and carers need support in their own right. Carer support is essential to assist people to identify with their own journey, reconnect to physical and emotional wellness and return to mutually supportive relationships. When families and carers are connected to their own journey they can better support recovery oriented care.

Marie Piu, Carer Representative

CEO Tandem – Peak body for Victorian Mental Health Carers

Marie is passionate about advocating for a health system which supports consumers, families, carers and service providers working together in partnership to strengthen outcomes for people facing mental health and wellbeing challenges. She is thrilled to be entrusted with the leadership of Tandem as she has been in a caring role for her mother since she was a young child and has firsthand experience of the power of working in partnership.

Marie is a registered psychologist and member of the Australian Psychological Society. Her postgraduate studies in Applied Psychology provided her with the theoretical underpinning and professional skills for her future focus on systemic advocacy. She has been lobbying for service improvement, accountability and family/carer inclusion in care throughout her professional career. She has worked for nearly three decades to ensure that marginalised community members, many impacted by serious mental illness and their families/carers, have access to better care and community services and that there are policies, procedures, professional guidelines, and wherever possible, an authorising environment in place to support this.

Marie has held Senior Management roles, managed multidisciplinary staff and multiple national and state-wide programs and projects in a broad range of contexts including: Community and Mental Health, Trade Union and Policing, with extensive experience and interest in working with Aboriginal and Multicultural Communities.

Lisa Sweeney, Carer Representative

From a young age, I have had personal experience supporting two family members with a lived experience of mental illness. This early insight into public mental health hassled me to follow educational and vocational pursuits in public policy and health with the aim of improving mental health services. I work as a public servant, and also as a naturopath focusing on adjunctive mental health.

I am involved in a number of mental health causes including the Board of Tandem - Victoria’s peak body for mental health carers, and Australians for Mental Health – a national mental health advocacy campaign led by people with a lived experience of interacting with the mental health service sector.

In my (not so spare) time, I really enjoy sharing my journey as a mental health carer through writing and have published blogs pieces in forums such as HuffPost. I do this in the hope it can help me make sense of some of my own experiences, as well as maybe assist other carers navigate their own situation.

My key areas of interest include psychosis, supporting young consumers and carers, and holistic and integrated mental healthcare (including promoting treatment choices).

There are a total of 5 consumer and 5 carer representatives from VIC currently on the National Register.

Please note that representative profiles are not currently available for all National Register members.

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