CEO Update - 27 November

 CEO Update, Mental Health AustraliaMental health reform starts today

This Week

Mental health reform starts today

Obviously the announcement of the Government’s response to the National Mental Health Commission Review dominated the week.

We were very pleased to host a teleconference for our members with Mark Cormack from the Department of Health outlining the reforms just prior to the public announcement.

It was encouraging to be at the launch to hear the Prime Minster frame a discussion around “mental wealth” as a national asset more valuable than any asset that exists “under the ground”.  Encouraging too to hear Minister Ley commit the Commonwealth Government to taking a leadership role on mental health.  There are bound to be many challenges in the implementation of the measures, but at least we have now started the process.

You will have seen our reaction in the media, and I do not intend to repeat all that here, but suffice to say I am delighted we can now move out of “review mode” and into “implementation mode”.  As you know too well, we have been under review for so long now that there have been very few new initiatives and developments, and great uncertainty about existing ones.  Yesterday’s announcements did not answer all of these uncertainties directly, but it has cleared the way for a range of decisions to be made.

In this context I am now optimistic we can get on with the business of implementing change, solving problems, and building the mental health system that we all aspire to.

The Government’s full response to the review can be accessed via the Department of Health’s website and includes a fact sheet and summary of government actions

We have also compiled a range of articles discussing the package below:

I also filmed a short video outlining our initial thoughts on the reform package:


Pharmacy Guild of Australia Annual Dinner

I attended Parliament House many times this week, including as the guest of the Pharmacy Guild at their annual Parliamentary Dinner.  The dinner celebrates the contribution of community pharmacy and this year heard from speakers including Greens Leader Richard Di Natale, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Minister for Health Sussan Ley.

National Disability Awards Dinner

Next evening I was at Parliament House again for the National Disability Awards Dinner.  This is always a great event, celebrating the achievements and contributions of people who live with disability.  As the International Day of People With a Disability approaches on 3 December, it is important to reflect on the many gifts and talents and contributions of people with disability rather than the tabloid “disability burden” discussion that too often dominates our public discourse.

National Coalition for Suicide Prevention and Fifth National Mental Health Plan

On Tuesday Josh Fear attended a meeting of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention (NCSP) Leadership Group in Sydney. Representatives of NSCP members gathered to discuss priorities for inclusion in the Fifth National Mental Health Plan, which is likely to feature suicide prevention as a major area of focus. Delegates discussed how government can facilitate innovation to maximise the contribution of the suicide prevention sector to reducing rates of suicide and self-harm.  

Still on the Fifth Plan, last Friday Josh also attended the first meeting of the Reference Group on the Fifth Plan. The Reference Group is one of several advising the Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Principal Committee, which is responsible for developing the Fifth Plan.

If you were at our most recent Members Policy Forum you would recall that we launched a report on how to improve the way government works with the non-government sector. The report by Rooftop Social Research, Commissioning and Contracting for Better Mental Health Outcomes, is the culmination of consultation and analysis over throughout this year in response to member feedback about contracting practices that get in the way of better outcomes. In the coming weeks and months we hope to discuss the report’s key messages with government officials responsible for various streams of reform affecting mental health.  

Thank you to those who contributed to this important study through our workshop in May and other targeted conversations.
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Policy and Pulse - ACOSS event

On Tuesday Josh also attended Policy and Pulse: the Australian Community Sector Policy and Research Forum 2015, co-convened by the Australian Council of Social Service and the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW. The forum considered the proposal by ACOSS for a Community Service Guarantee: the idea that Australians should expect a minimum standard of service across domains such as health, housing, early childhood education and disability support, funded by tax reforms which channel the required resources into the right services. I’m sure we’ll hear more from ACOSS on the Community Service Guarantee as we head into an election year in 2016.

Integrating Mental Health and the NDIS conference

On Wednesday Josh chaired the morning session of the third Integrating Mental Health and the NDIS conference in Sydney. Participants heard keynote presentations from David Butt from the National Mental Health Commission and John Feneley from the NSW Mental Health Commission. Those who were at the first conference in 2013 will recall many delegates signing an open letter to the Prime Minister outlining their concerns about the Scheme’s design and implementation, many of which remain pressing today.
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Positions available - MHiMA Project

A reminder that we are currently recruiting for two positions based in our Canberra office – a Project Manager and a Project Officer - for the Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHiMA) Project. The temporary positions will be for a period of 6-7 months until the 30 June 2016. We will be recruiting people with strong knowledge, understanding and experience working with people from CALD backgrounds. People from CALD backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

Applications close Monday 30 November.
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Parliamentary news

Senate Committee into violence and abuse of people with disability calls for Royal Commission

After harrowing evidence provided to the Senate inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability in institutional and residential settings, the Community Affairs References Committee has tabled a report with urgent recommendations that include a Royal Commission investigation into the issue. 
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Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation

Also launched this week was the first national healthcare ‘atlas’, illuminating variation in health care provision across Australia. The Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation presents a clear picture of substantial variation in healthcare use across Australia, across areas such as antibiotic prescribing, surgical, mental health and diagnostic services. Some variation is expected and associated with need-related factors such as underlying differences in the health of specific populations, or personal preferences. However, the weight of evidence in Australia and internationally suggests that much of the variation documented in the atlas is likely to be unwarranted.
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ProBono - State of the Sector Survey

The role of advocacy, sector collaboration and improving the method of government funding agreements are the top priorities for Australia’s Not for Profit sector, according to the 2015 national survey by Pro Bono Australia. The sector also pointed to capacity building, human capital, red tape reduction, the continuation of the charity regulator and measuring social impact as further priorities.
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Healthy Families

Over the next six months, beyondblue will be developing Healthy Families – a website to help parents, prospective parents and guardians take care of their own mental health and raise healthy, resilient kids. To make sure we give families the right tools and information, we’re starting out by asking as many different families as possible exactly those questions – “What do you need from us? What would be helpful for you?” 

If you are interested in getting involved please visit the website for more details.
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No 2 Bullying Conference

The No 2 Bullying Conference being held on the Gold Coast, 18 - 19 April 2016 will feature presentations that are thought-provoking, researched and evidence-based which investigate best practice approaches to generational change. The Conference will focus on key principles and best practice for creating a generational change towards bullying and will examine bullying in schools, workplaces and cyberspace. For full details or to submit an abstract please visit the website.

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SANE Australia bereavement workshops

Many health professionals ask what is expected of them, how they can assist, and what are the legal implications when responding to someone bereaved by suicide. The SANE Mental Illness and Bereavement Workshop answers these questions, by drawing on the personal experiences of people with lived experience. Open to all health workers, managers and executives, the workshop will visit capital cities and regional centres in NSW, Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria. Of this year’s participants 92% of reported increased confidence in their ability to support people and 82% thought the training was very important or essential.
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International Indigenous Health Conference - registrations open

This year’s International Indigenous Health Conference generates interests from First Nation’s Peoples throughout the world. The conference agenda has now been finalised with more than fifty featured keynote speakers. As the conference has been centred around the sharing of information, increasing network and access to programs, what a great opportunity it will be to have more than fifty experts gathered under one roof, over the course of this three-day conference, from various states and territories of Australia and international First Nation’s speakers freely sharing knowledge, ideas based on successes of programs implemented at the community, national and global level. The conference is being held in Cairns from 1-3 December.
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Royal Commission - call for submissions

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is calling for submissions on issues relating to advocacy and support and therapeutic treatment services.

It is important for the Commission to hear what services victims and survivors need, what was useful to address the impact of the abuse and how services can better support survivors. Survivors, victims and service providers are encouraged to have their say. For more information or to lodge a submission please visit the website.
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Warm regards

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

Mental Health Begins with Me!


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