CEO Update: Acknowledging those on the front line

Acknowledging those on the front line

Summer for me is usually associated with too much food, lots of afternoon naps, and more time with my kids as they finish up school. However, if the first six days are anything to go by, summer will be a devastating struggle for much of our nation.

The fires raging around the country have already been labelled as completely unprecedented in their expansiveness and ferocity, with more than two million hectares of land cumulatively destroyed. Rural communities have reached crisis point, with the drought causing extreme water shortages, and no relief from rain in sight

This hit home for me as I flew from Canberra to Melbourne for Merinda Epstein’s Retirement Oration and Celebration. Having not done this trip in some months, I was shocked at the landscape below me, drier and browner than I can remember having seen it in decades. 

A smoky haze has enveloped Canberra, and social media feeds and the news show me that it is far worse in Sydney and across other parts of the country. All of this paints a pretty dire picture for the next three months of summer. 

However I have been grateful for recent welcome reminders that, during times of crisis, we can often see an upsurge in community support and camaraderie. Just this week I read there have been nine times as many applications to join the Rural Fire Service as this time in 2018. This just shows the spirit of Australians, who want to get in and help where they can.

A spokesperson for the Rural Fire Service stated

“Since the first of September, we’ve had more than 9000 applications to volunteer through the RFS website as well as people calling and approaching local brigades directly.”

It was his final comment that inspired me the most:

“There’s always a place for people to support the firefighting efforts, even if they’re not on the front line.”

It is easy to get so caught up in advocating for policy change at a systemic level, especially these past few months with the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, that sometimes we don’t acknowledge enough the real and practical everyday things communities around Australia are doing to support and care for each other’s health.

This RFS spokesperson’s comment brought to mind those community efforts within our sector that are on the front line, those dedicated grassroots communities who do what they can with what they have to help out and support those in need. Those groups that are underfunded and understaffed, but still make such significant difference to people in need. 

I am not in any way suggesting systemic reform is not urgently needed, nor am I discounting the considerable efforts of our sector in bringing about that reform. 

But seeing the overwhelming response of communities to the devastation of these fires reminded me that policy change is far from effective without the continued and hard-fought labours of those who are on the front line. Amidst advocating for systemic reform, we should not neglect to do all we can to support their efforts. 

My kids are collecting 10c bottles this summer to donate to the bushfire appeals. It’s their own small way of trying to provide community support in this time of widespread need.

Kind regards,

Melanie Cantwell
Acting CEO

Make a submission to the Productivity Commission now

The Productivity Commission invites interested people and organisations to make a written submission. If you have something brief to say, you may want to make a comment rather than producing a submission. Comments may be used by the Commission to inform its final report. An issues paper was produced to assist participants in preparing a submission to the public inquiry. It outlined a range of issues about which the Commission sought information. 

Opportunity for further comment is now sought on the Draft Report. Submissions are due by Thursday 23 January 2020.

Make a comment

Read the issues paper 

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Productivity Commission hearings

The Productivity Commission will seek further information and feedback following the release of the draft report on 31 October 2019. The Productivity Commission will hold public hearings on the following:

  • 2 December - Rockhampton
  • 3 December - Brisbane
  • 9 December - Launceston

Adelaide and Darwin public hearings will be held at dates to be advised in early 2020. Please note registrations to attend or participate in the hearings is not open yet. 

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Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

The Embrace Multicultural Mental Health team delivered a presentation at Mental Health Australia’s Members Policy Forum on Tuesday 26 November at Parliament House. The team presented to over 120 delegates from the mental health and suicide prevention sectors around Australia on the work the Embrace team has been doing, and the importance of culturally responsive services.


Project manager Ruth Das passionately convicted attendees that cultural responsiveness in Australia is no longer an option, with such a vast proportion of Australians having a multicultural background. Ruth directed attendees to the Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia, and encouraged the Productivity Commission to include more on CALD communities in its Final Report.


Ali Noura and Tandi Kuwana, two representatives from the Embrace CALD mental health consumer and carer group, also spoke. They shared some of their own stories as multicultural Australians who have accessed mental health services, some of the challenges they have faced, and some advice they would give to mental health services on how to improve services for people from CALD communities - encouraging all present to “embrace compassion.”





Mental Health News

Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System releases interim report

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has delivered its interim report to the Victorian Government. 

Read more

Open Arms community and peer support program expands nationally

Support for veterans and their families who may be struggling with mental health conditions or at risk of suicide, will be enhanced through the Community and Peer Program which is currently being rolled out across Australia. The program, run by Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling (Open Arms), connects veterans and family members who may be struggling with their mental health, with peers who bring a lived experience of mental health issues and, importantly, of recovery. 

Read more 

Mission Australia’s 2019 survey highlights the need for genuine youth engagement

Mission Australia’s annual survey report shows that mental health is still the top concern of more than 25,000 young people aged 15 - 19 in Australia. The report highlights that mental health is a broad and overarching outcome of many issues identified by young people including financial stress, a lack of confidence in achieving their goals, prevalent rates of bullying and a sense of hopelessness of having influence on decision-makers.

Read more 

Australia’s most authoritative healthcare data report published

A new data report shows that Australian health care continues to improve across a range of clinical areas - however distinct deteriorations in maternity and mental health indicators speak to broader issues. 

Read more 

Labor to support a Royal Commission into veteran suicide

Labor has announced this week it will support a Royal Commission into veteran suicide. Official figures released last week showed a disturbingly high rate of suicide among current and ex-service men and women - with more than 400 deaths since 2001. 

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Government welcomes #youcantalk campaign

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, says the Morrison Government welcomes the #YouCanTalk campaign, which encourages Australians struggling with their mental health to reach out and find support. The awareness campaign is a collaboration between several organisations, including Beyond Blue, Everymind, headspace, Lifeline, ReachOut, RU OK?, SANE Australia, the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention, Roses in the Ocean and the Black Dog Institute. 

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On Monday, Harry Lovelock, Director – Policy and Projects will attend the NDIA Industry Reference Group Meeting in Geelong.

Also on Monday, Melanie Cantwell, Acting CEO and Kylie Wake, Acting Deputy CEO will be participating in the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum meeting in Melbourne. 

The Mental Health Australia Board will be meeting by teleconference on Wednesday afternoon.


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. Mental Health Carers Australia grew out of the national movement of ARAFMI organisations across Australia. Originally ARAFMI was an acronym for Association of Relatives And Friends of the Mentally Ill. The first ARAFMI group was formed in Sydney in 1975 by a concerned group of carers who identified the need for a service that would specifically address the concerns of carers, relatives and friends. The movement quickly spread to other States and to the Territories and ARAFMI became the primary provider of services for carers of people with a mental illness in Australia. Mental Health Carers Arafmi Australia was incorporated in October 1998. Now they are known as Mental Health Carers Australia.
Mission - To be the voice of mental health carers to enable the best life possible.
Vision - The leading national voice.

Act-Belong-Commit - Mentally Healthy WA is a community-based health promotion campaign that encourages people to take action to improve their mental health and wellbeing. This evidence-based campaign was developed primarily from research undertaken by Curtin University into people’s perceptions of mental health and the behaviours they believed protected and promoted good mental health. Following a successful pilot phase in six regional communities in Western Australian (2005–2007), the campaign was expanded state-wide.
Website - Facebook - Twitter - Instagram -



Australian Psychosis Symposium: “Re-wiring Circuits”

Calling all clinicians and scientists involved in the treatment and research of psychotic disorders! This is a not-to-be-missed update on approaches to cognitive, learning and motivational recovery in psychotic disorders, particularly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Details: 4 March 2020 at the Primus Hotel, Sydney

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Community Mental Health Australia 3rd National NDIS and Mental Health conference

Courtesy of Community Mental Health Australia and the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia,
we are pleased announce the CMHA 3rd National NDIS and Mental Health Conference is taking Expressions of Interest for Conference Bursaries.

What does the bursary cover?
A bursary to attend the conference will cover registration for the two full days, with a co-contribution of $75 from the bursary recipient. This bursary does not cover any travel, accommodation or meal expenses to attend the conference. By putting in an Expression of Interest you agree to cover these costs. Bursaries are open to people with lived experience of mental illness either through your own direct experience or as a carer for someone living with mental illness.

Details: Adelaide Convention Centre, March 30 to 31, 2020

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National Mental Health Commission: Vision 2030 Key Concepts Consultation Paper

Vision 2030 is a long-term blueprint for a successful, connected and well-functioning mental health
and suicide prevention system meeting the needs of all Australians. Vision 2030 will be delivered in two phases. The Commission has committed to completing the initial work in producing the Vision 2030 report before the end of 2019. This will be followed by a Roadmap to be completed by mid-2020. 

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Watch some highlights from our Grace Groom Memorial Oration held on Monday 25 November at the National Press Club of Australia

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mental health, community, policy, reform, bushfires, support