CEO Update - 18 September

 CEO Update, Mental Health AustraliaGrace Groom Memorial Oration

This Week

Board meeting

This week the Mental Health Australia Board came to Canberra for its quarterly meeting, and to set its mind to the current challenges we face as a sector.

In particular, as we now assume that the Government is close to responding to the work of the National Mental Health Commission and the Expert Reference Group, our focus turns to implementation and transition.  Assuming (indeed hoping) there is a substantial reform task ahead of us, we must ask “How can we be ready for reform?”, “How can we get from where we are now, to where we need to be?”, “What new skills, arrangements, structures, infrastructure, etc will be required in the improved mental health system of the future?”.  Previous reforms have not failed for want of good policy, they have failed for want of well executed implementation, including planned, staged transition.  As the “countdown to reform” continues we must all ready ourselves for change, and we must insist change is carried out in such a way that avoids the gaps and system failures that could see people who experience mental illness left behind.

Importantly the Board recognised the recent efforts of Mental Health Australia staff, who have continued to work at a frenetic pace in spite of the ongoing uncertainty regarding our core funding (which we remain hopeful will be resolved in the next two months).

Carer Gateway Advisory Group Meeting

On Monday I attended a meeting of the Carer Gateway Advisory Group. Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells addressed the group and made a plea both to the advisory group and the Department that the project ensures genuine access for all who will need it - including particular sensitivity to the needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse peoples and other groups.  The project remains on a very tight timeframe and this makes the challenge of achieving “co-design” an even more difficult task.

National Rural Health Alliance Annual Dinner

This week I was pleased to attend the National Rural Health Alliance Annual Dinner, possibly the last for its Executive Director Gordon Gregory, who has been in the role since 1993.  I have been honoured to work alongside Gordon for some of that time and was pleased to have the chance to recognise his extraordinary contribution to rural health, including his particular interest in rural mental health.  His replacement will have large shoes to fill!

NSW Health’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan Consultation

On Monday Josh Fear attended a consultation to inform the development of NSW Health’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). Each NSW agency will be preparing a DIAP over the coming months in response to commitments states and territories have made through the National Disability Strategy. It will be interesting to see the approach that other jurisdictions take to deliver on the Strategy.

Queensland Mental Health Commission

On Tuesday I was pleased to join the Queensland Mental Health Commissioner and a group of government and non government representatives (including Mental Health Australia members and Eddie Bartnik from the NDIA) to discuss plans for the NDIS roll-out in Queensland.  As in other jurisdictions, there are many questions that remain about how the NDIS will interact with existing and future mental health systems, and the purpose of the forum was to consider those issues and plan for the future.  While some of this uncertainty is expected to be resolved once the bi-lateral agreements are published (see the note on this below) it seems essential all stakeholders are engaged in these discussions to ensure unintended consequences are avoided, and problems are identified and resolved quickly.

NDIS bi-lateral agreements

On Wednesday Prime Minister Turnbull signed bi-lateral agreements with Premier Andrews of Victoria and Premier Baird New South Wales on the transition to full roll-out of the NDIS. To call the bi-laterals ‘much-awaited’ is an understatement, because key decisions about the future of mental health (and many other) programs in scope for the NDIS have not been made by governments just nine months from the start of the transition period.

In an unexpected twist, it seems that we must wait a while longer to see the detail of the actual agreements; what we know so far comes from the interpretation of the agreements by the NDIA and by the NSW and Victorian governments. This information includes a transition schedule based on geography (e.g. region A starting on this date, region B starting on that date) but not by program. In other words, we don’t yet know what has been agreed (if anything) about programs like Partners in Recovery, Personal Helpers and Mentors, Day 2 Day Living or Targeted Community Care: Mental Health Respite’.

The NDIA’s fact sheets includes the question ‘How will I know when my program/provider will be moving to the NDIS?’ The answer provided is ‘The NDIA, Commonwealth Government and [the State Government] will work in partnership to ensure everyone is informed.’

While the actual agreements, once published, may bring greater clarity, it seems more likely that we’ll need to await a new set of announcements by the NDIA on its implementation and transitional plans for each jurisdiction before we can be more certain about the future of mental health programs under the NDIS. We are informed that these plans will be released in October or November this year.

Further information about each bi-lateral can be found here:

We expect that the NSW and Victorian bi-laterals will be followed by similar agreements between the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions in the near future (with the exception of Western Australia, where the findings of the MyWay trial will need to emerge before any decision is made by the WA government).

In the meantime, if you have received any specific information about the future of Commonwealth or State/Territory mental health programs in scope for the NDIS following the bi-lateral announcements, we’d love to hear about it. Please get in touch at

Ernst and Young review of the NDIS Act

On Thursday Josh Fear met with the team from Ernst and Young responsible for reviewing the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act. The Act requires an independent review after two years, with a focus on the Act and the Rules but not the performance of the NDIA or the success of the Scheme as a whole.

In addition to talking to stakeholders, the review team will be taking written submission up to the 9th October. If you have any comments about the Act, or case studies which highlight areas where the Act might be improved, please get in contact at

More information about the review can be found on the NDIS website.
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World Mental Health Day - promotional materials available

October is nearly here, and so is World Mental Health Day 2015!  Each year on 10 October, Australia takes a moment to think about the millions of people who have a mental illness. This year, we are again looking at ways we can break down stigma and encourage people to seek help if they need it, while connecting communities and individuals with a keen interest in mental wellbeing. To help us promote “Mental health begins with me” this October please order free promotional materials by clicking on the link below. You can also make a mental health promise and share it with friends and colleagues.

Last year the cross promotion amongst Mental Health Australia members provided a huge boost for the campaign. Please consider how your organisation might support us this year by making and sharing promises and promoting and distributing 1010 resources.  Please contact to explore the many opportunities that exist for you to directly support the national campaign.

Thanks for your support.
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Distributed Advocacy Day

Our Distributed Advocacy Day is gathering steam with delegations being formed and meetings scheduled with local MPs and Senators. If you or someone you know is interested in advocating for mental health reform in your local area please contact us and we will send you the details. Meanwhile, this part of the ‘Countdown to Reform’ campaign is now online, and we encourage you to share this with people far and wide, to help broaden the impact of this important advocacy work.
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Grace Groom Memorial Oration - tickets on sale

As advised last week, tickets for the 2015 Grace Groom Memorial Oration are now on sale. The Grace Groom Memorial Oration was established to pay tribute to the former Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health Australia. Grace left an outstanding legacy and her contribution to the mental health sector in Australia is recognised by this annual event.

This year’s event will be orated by Professor Mike Slade, clinical psychologist, academic researcher and consultant in mental health services. Many of you will be familiar with Professor Slade’s work and we are looking forward to hearing what promises to be a very entertaining and informative address. More details are available from the website. 
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Join ABC News and 612 ABC Brisbane for Heads Up

A landmark federal government survey has found the number of children seeking help for mental health has doubled since 1998. ABC News and 612 ABC Brisbane are hosting a free community forum to discuss youth mental health tonight at ABC Brisbane HQ and you’re invited. The forum will be broadcast live on ABC TV from 7.30pm and ABC News 24 from 8pm. 
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Royal Commission release child sexual abuse redress and civil litigation findings

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has made a wide ranging raft of recommendations to governments across Australia relating to redress for survivors of child sexual abuse and reforms to legal processes involved in bringing abuse claims to court. Among the 99 recommendations, the Commission has proposed a single $4 billion national redress scheme established by the Australian Government with a minimum payment of $10,000, a maximum of $200,000 with an anticipated average payment of $65,000. Visit the website to download the full report.
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Media resources for reporting mental illness and suicide in LGBTI communities 

A reminder that our friends at the Hunter Institute of Mental Health under the Mindframe National Media Initiative, in partnership with the National LGBTI Health Alliance have developed a range of new media resources for reporting mental illness and suicide in LGBTI communities. The online quick reference resources aim to support the challenges media face when reporting stories related to mental illness and suicide in the LGBTI community. The launch of the resources coincided with World Suicide Prevention Day, and recognises the challenges and the disproportionate rates of suicidal ideation and mental illness in LGBTI communities. Visit the website to download the resources. 
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Carers Australia seeks Mental Health Respite case studies 

Carers Australia have been advocating to the Department of Social Services that funding for the Mental Health Respite: Carer Support programme should not transition into the NDIS. Along with several other mental health and carer-specific programmes which are also transitioning into the scheme, they believe this programme should be maintained outside of the NDIS as it is unclear that it will be used to fund carers of package recipients and carers of people who are not eligible are likely to lose the supports the programme offers.  The Department have requested that Carers Australia develop a greater evidence case for funding retention, and so they are seeking case studies which illustrate why the programme shouldn’t transition. If you would like to share your story please contact Anna Morison via the link below or call 02 6122 9909.
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Exercise Your Mood Month

September is Exercise Your Mood Month! Our friends at the Black Dog Institute are running this national campaign designed to increase community awareness of the importance of regular exercise for maintaining good mental health. Exercise can help boost serotonin, which plays a key role in the brain in regulating mood, sleep and appetite. It can increase your levels of endorphins, which have natural mood-lifting properties. Exercise can also provide a distraction from worrying and provide an increased sense of control while promoting social interaction. For more information about the campaign and ways to get involved please visit the website.
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Swell is looking for your peer recovery stories

Swell: the online recovery toolkit for people with mental distress and addiction and the people with work with them is currently being developed. The team are starting to develop content for workers. There will be 60 challenges in 10 life domains. Each challenge includes a two page article on what works, a conversation guide and a peer recovery story. All people who submit a story will get a free login to the Swell resources. People who submit a story that is published will receive an Amazon gift voucher worth NZD $200 and a free copy of ‘Madness Made Me’ by Mary O’Hagan. The stories will be edited in collaboration with the authors who will decide if they want their story to be an anonymous or not. Email your inquiries to or visit for more details.
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Blue Knot Day - 26 October

Blue Knot Day is ASCA’s national awareness day celebrated in October every year. On this day, ASCA asks all Australians to unite in support of the 5 million Australian adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse.

This year’s Blue Knot Day is on Monday 26th October 2015, with events held throughout the country during the week of October 26 to November 1. See what events have already been scheduled in your area. Building on our overarching message that “recovery is possible”, this year’s Blue Knot Day has a theme of “supportive communities help survivors recover”. ASCA is asking all communities to be receptive and supportive to the survivors who live within their local communities. Visit the website for details on how you can get involved.
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Society for Mental Health Research Conference 2015 - early bird registrations available

Early–bird registration is now available for SMHR 2015. Register before Friday 19 October 2015, and save up to $50 off the standard full registration rates. SMHR 2015 ‘Building a healthier future’ will be held at the Sofitel Brisbane Hotel 2-5 December 2015. This year’s conference theme has been developed to reflect both the broad range of mental health and psychiatry research from the sub-cellular to translation and implementation science as well as the spectrum of diagnoses that are covered. Visit the website for full details.
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Warm regards,
Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer  

Mental Health Begins with Me!


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