CEO Update - 5 December

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This Week

Parliamentary breakfast

We marked the last sitting week of the year with a breakfast briefing for politicians on Wednesday morning in conjunction with the Parliamentary Friends of Mental Illness. 

I provided the Members, Senators and advisors present a briefing on our Blueprint for Action on Mental Health and spoke about the need for politicians from all sides to come together and implement lasting reform. I was encouraged that the briefing promoted so many questions from Members and Senators and I hope that we can start to build even greater awareness as Budget 2015 deliberations get into full swing. My thanks to all those who attended.

Jack Heath of SANE Australia (co-convenors of the Parliamentary Friends along with the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia) also spoke about the success of the SANE online forums and introduced SANE’s Guide for Electorate Offices which provides parliamentarians and their offices the practical information and advice they need to help visitors whose lives are affected by mental illness. 
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CEO Forum

I am writing my update today from a CEO’s forum convened by David Bowen, CEO of the NDIA. As you will have seen from our press release last week, we are increasingly concerned about the impact that the combination of NDIS uncertainty and lack of decision making regarding other related programs like PHaMS and ATAPS is having on programs and services that people currently rely on. This was an issue that we raised at the Parliamentary Breakfast earlier in the week, and we hope to raise our concerns again today. It is my hope that now that the Government has received the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of mental health that might clear the way for some important decision making in the weeks and months ahead.


Board meeting

The Mental Health Australia Board met this week for the last time in 2014, welcoming new members Patrick Hardwick and Alison Xamon. The Board recognised that now that the Government has received the National Mental Health Commission’s Review we are hoping for swift action on reform. Our Chair, Jennifer Westacott, has written to both the Treasurer and the Health Minister following the Board meeting to re-emphasise the urgency of action on mental health reform and re-presenting our Blueprint for Action on Mental Health as a starting point for consideration. 
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PM&C Advocacy

Our Director of Policy and Projects, Josh Fear, and I met with representatives of the Department of The Prime Minister and Cabinet this week to discuss the Federation Whitepaper process. We have been eager to ensure that the process addresses some of the issues that mental health programs and services face, existing as they do at the cusp of Commonwealth and State and Territory Government relations. This will be a long process but I remain convinced that if such processes, driven by the Prime Minister, tackle issues like mental health it could produce progress that portfolio ministers find it difficult to achieve.

Later in the week we met with the PM&C officials responsible for the NDIS, joined by David Meldrum from MIFA, and outlined some of the concerns and frustrations that we are experiencing in that area.  In particular, we were able to outline some of the concerns around Tier 2 supports, and the apparent failure to plan adequately for continuity of service for people currently receiving support.


National Shelter

I also met with Adrian Pisarski from National Shelter this week to discuss the impact of housing issues on people who experience mental health issues. We are exploring some opportunities for Mental Health Australia and its members to work with National Shelter to develop some new policy options in the housing area.  More information to follow.


National Complex Needs Alliance

This week, our Communications Director Chris Wagner attended the National Complex Needs Alliance meeting in Canberra. The meeting was well attended by the community sector and politicians alike and included an address by the Hon Kevin Andrews, Minister for Social Services.

The meeting also included the launch of the Alliance’s new website and position paper. We are proud to be part of this important group, as people with a lived experience of mental illness, as well as those who care for them, are too often faced with multiple complex issues in their lives.
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Tell us about World Mental Health Day – Win a copy of Brekky Central

A reminder that we have ten copies of Adam Boland’s best-selling book ‘Brekky Central’ to give away, just in time for Christmas. To win a copy, all you need to do is provide us feedback on this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign. We are keen to hear your thoughts on the campaign to help us improve it for next year. It only takes a minute to complete, and will put you in the draw to win!
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Parliamentary news

National Mental Health Commission Report

Amidst the argy bargy in the Senate this week you may have noticed an attempt by the Greens and Labor to force the Government to release the interim reports of the National Mental Health Commission - provided to Government as part of the review process.  While these attempts failed (Governments of any persuasion seldom, if ever, release such progress reports) I have certainly encouraged the Minister’s office to make the final report of the Commission - which they received on Monday - available to the sector. I remain hopeful that the Government will release the report once they have had the opportunity to consider it, and perhaps once state and territory governments have also had the opportunity to consider it.  We will be watching eagerly!


Expert panel to consult on rural health incentives and training

The Australian Government this week appointed an independent expert panel to consult on how the General Practice Rural Incentives Programme (GPRIP) can best encourage doctors to towns in rural, regional and remote areas. The panel will consult over the next month and seek public submissions about how GPRIP could be better targeted. Written submissions can be lodged via
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Developing a mentally healthy workplace - report

The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, of which Mental Health Australia is a member, this week released a report revealing what works in regards to workplace mental health. Developing a Mentally Healthy Workplace: A review of the literature, was produced by the University of NSW and the Black Dog Institute and identifies six success factors for a mentally health workplace and a five-step process for embedding them. The full report can be downloaded from the website. 
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Suicide and hospitalised self-harm in Australia: trends and analysis

Suicide and intentional self-harm are significant public health problems in Australia, with the number of Australians who died by suicide averaging around 2,000 each year since the mid-1980s, according to a report released this week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). For over a decade, more than 20,000 Australians have been admitted to hospital each year as a result of intentionally self-inflicted injuries. The report, Suicide and hospitalised self-harm in Australia: trends and analysis 2010-11, can be downloaded in full from the AIHW website.
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Dr Louisa Alessandri Research Grant - call for applications (WA)

A new $40,000 research grant was launched this week in WA. The Dr Louisa Alessandri Research Grant is aimed at benefiting the lives of people with disability and will be awarded to a West Australian individual and/or organisation to undertake an applied disability research project. Applications for the grant are open until 30 January 2015 and full details are available from the website.
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages more likely to have a disability

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report this week that shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages are more likely to have a disability than non-Indigenous people. There are currently over 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with disability and the report also shows that their unemployment rate was nearly three times as high as the comparable rate for non-Indigenous people. Full details of the report can be found on the ABS website.
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NDIS Quarterly Report released

The latest NDIS Quarterly Report has been released and shows that around 8,880 people are now receiving support under the scheme. This is also the first report to include information on the launch sites in the ACT, Barkly (NT) and Perth Hills (WA). The full report can be downloaded from the website.
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First NSW advocate for children and young people

The NSW government this week announced the appointment of the state’s first Advocate for Children and Young People, Andrew Johnson. Mr Johnson will represent the interests of all young people under the age of 25, giving them a voice on government policies, programs and decisions which impact on their lives. 
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Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference - call for abstracts

The 2nd Annual Australian & New Zealand Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference will be held at Outrigger, Surfers Paradise, May 18-19, 2015. The conference will cover assessment, prevention, treatment and recovery. Eating disorders and obesity are becoming more prevalent in Australia and require our urgent attention. Authors or organisations interested in submitting a paper or presenting a workshop are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words outlining the aims, contents and conclusions of their paper or presentation; or about their intended role in a workshop. Full details can be found at the website.
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Primary Mental Health Care in the Digital Age Conference

The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses is hosting their Primary Mental Health Care in the Digital Age Conference next March. The conference will explore the impact of technology on mental health and wellbeing, and the impact on clinicians’ capacity to deliver primary mental health care.  The conference is a supportive forum where clinicians can share their practice experiences with other clinicians, and have the opportunity to hear from leading experts in e-mental health including  Professor Helen Christensen from the Black Dog Institute and Associate Professor Jane Burns of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre. Full details are available from the website.
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Mental Health Policy, Research and Evaluation Leader - beyondblue

Our friends at beyondblue are currently advertising for a new senior position - Mental Health Policy, Research and Evaluation Leader - that will assist the CEO on strategy and policy advice. Applications close on Wednesday 17 December, to apply for the job or for more information please visit the website.
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Warm regards

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

Mental health begins with me!


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