CEO Update - After the spill... we need to work smarter and harder

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia


Speaking frankly...                                       

After the spill... we need to work smarter and harder

Another week in federal politics and unfortunately another leadership spill, the sixth I’ve experienced since starting as CEO at Mental Health Australia in 2011. 

What does it all mean for mental health in Australia? In short, it’s another big disruption and means that while many of us who are already stretched to capacity will now all have to work a lot smarter, and a lot harder to be heard.

It means we have to work smarter and harder to educate and brief another new round of Ministers and advisers. And it means we have to continue to work smarter and harder, to see good policy through to implementation.

When business leader Innes Willox told Radio National breakfast on Tuesday that ‘the lack of a clear energy policy, and six changes of Prime Minister, over the past decade has sapped business confidence,’.. I quickly thought you could very easily replace the word ‘energy’ with ‘mental health’ and ‘business’ with ‘sector’… and the statement would ring true for us as well.

Political instability and uncertainty has become the norm over the past decade, making it more and more difficult to advocate for substantial national initiatives, including substantial mental health reform. It has become more and more difficult to inform and instigate lasting and rewarding public health policy, which even with the best political will takes time, diligence and investment. The implementation of the NDIS is a perfect example.

In the next five minutes, or next week, or sometime in the very near future, we are likely to see a fifth Minister for Health sworn into cabinet, following the resignation of The Hon Greg Hunt MP yesterday.
With an election likely in May 2019, that number could easily rise to six before our next Federal Budget. 

That’s right, six in eight or so years, and an equally and possibly even more alarming statistic than seven Prime Ministers in eleven years… 

The numbers are as concerning as they are confusing. Without clarity and consistency at the federal level, confusion and uncertainty stops the broader mental health sector from doing what it needs to do… which ultimately saves lives.

Uncertainty around funding for service providers. Uncertainty about policy direction, uncertainty about the daily focus of improving our mental health system for all, is crippling our efforts to reform the mental health sector. 

For many of us, that’s a task we’ve been pursuing for years. We count our experience in years, and in many cases decades, and it’s that wealth of experience that should inform and influence substantial change.

Of our last four Ministers for Health, their terms can be measured in days. 
Sussan Ley was the longest serving with 751 days, followed by Tanya Plibersek (646 days), Greg Hunt (575 days) and Peter Dutton (461 days). 

To Greg Hunt’s credit we’ve seen a renewed focus on mental health and psychosocial support during his tenure as Minister.  I think it is a mark of his genuine commitment to mental health that I was still able to meet with him on Tuesday morning this week, as the political turbulence unfolded at Parliament House. I only hope it’s not a case of one step forward, two steps back.

Whatever happens, after yet another spill, I’ll be back on Monday ready to go, which I’m reliably informed will my 2,690th day at Mental Health Australia. 

Ready to be advocating for lasting mental health reform. Advocating for better outcomes for people living with the experience of mental health issues. Advocating for prevention and early intervention. Advocating for certainty and security of funding. And working smarter and harder to achieve our vision of mentally health people and mentally healthy communities.

Warm regards.

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer


Opportunity for a part-time Corporate Services Manager to join our team

Mental Health Australia is recruiting a Corporate Services Manager (up to 25hrs per week) who will report to the Deputy CEO. The successful applicant will be responsible for:

  • Maintaining an appropriate financial management framework and overseeing the effective delivery of the finance function,
  • Leading and managing a small team to ensure the efficient & effective operation of the Corporate Services function, and
  • Providing operational support for corporate governance, compliance and reporting.

Candidates for this role must have substantial experience in financial management and hold a relevant tertiary qualification and current CA/CPA accreditation. Applications close 5:00pm 31 August 2018.

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Next Week

On Monday I am looking forward to speaking at an RMIT student leadership forum.

On Wednesday, I will be meeting with Professor Admiral Chris Barrie AC RAN Ret. Chair of FearLess PTSD, followed by an internal planning session with the Mental Health Australia Executive team.

On Thursday, the Director of External Relations, Lachlan Searle and I will be participating in preparatory calls for World Mental Health Day and the annual Grace Groom Oration. Following these, Lachlan and I will be meeting with the National Farmers Federation.


World Mental Health Day 2018: Register your event

Mental Health Australia is asking members and other relevant organisations to support our World Mental Health Day (WMHD), October 10 messages about stigma reduction and the importance of seeking timely support for mental health issues. 

To support the campaign, individuals and organisations can register an event, make a #mentalhealthpromise, share promises on social media, support our social media campaign, and undertake workplace activities that promote positive mental health for employees. For more suggested ways to get involved or support the campaign, please read or download the 2018 partner pack. All queries, or to offer your organisation's support as a partner for 2018, please email:

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Government continues commitment for Mates in Construction 

This Tradies National Health Month, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace has announced additional funding of $1 million to help Mates in Construction expand its suicide prevention program to rural and remote areas of the state. “We know that mental health and suicide are serious issues within the construction industry,” Ms Grace said. Mates in Construction targets mental health and suicide prevention at a local level, primarily on construction sites, with support from all stakeholders.

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#chatsafe, new guidelines help young people talk safely online about suicide

The world’s first guidelines to support young people in communicating safely online about suicide have been released today by Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health. The guidelines, called #chatsafe:  A young person’s guide for communicating safely online about suicide are the first to be informed by evidence and were developed in partnership with young people. Dr Jo Robinson, head of suicide prevention research at Orygen, said there previously had been little information available to help young people safely discuss suicide online. 

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Member Profiles

The Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia work to assist individuals and families on their journey to recovery. They work with and alongside participants towards improved outcomes in the areas of mental health, physical health, social connectedness and equal opportunity in all aspects of life. Peers: consumers, carers, families, friends; are at the heart of design and delivery of all Fellowship programs. 
Website is external)



FearLess Outreach is a charity that works with people living with the consequences of post traumatic stress. Their members come from all walks of life including those living with PTSD and their families or people who want to do their bit to make the lives of people living with post traumatic stress more enjoyable and fulfilling. Their work complements the activities of other community-based organisations and government agencies that provide services to people with post traumatic stress. 
Website is external)


42nd World Hospital Congress

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association and Queensland Health welcomes hospital and health service leaders from around the world to Brisbane for the 42nd World Hospital Congress, 10-12 October 2018. The World Hospital Congress is a unique global event that brings key health leaders together annually to share views and experiences, network and develop excellence in healthcare and hospitals leadership. 

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Strong, consistent NDIS quality and safeguards now in place in NSW and SA

The new, independent NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission began operating in New South Wales and South Australia on 1 July 2018. It will improve the quality and safety of NDIS services, investigate and resolve problems, and strengthen the skills and knowledge of providers and participants across Australia. Find the information kit for stakeholders, peak bodies and advocates below or visit

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IFIC recruiting a Director of Programmes

The International Foundation for Integrated Care (IFIC) are recruiting a Director of Programmes to be based in the Oxford office in the UK. Working in collaboration with IFIC’s CEO and the senior management team (SMT), the Director of Integrated Care Programmes will be responsible for the development, oversight, coordination and organization of IFIC’s full portfolio of programmes. 

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Last call for abstracts - 15th National Rural Health Conference

The National Rural Health Conference is the largest conference specifically focusing on rural health in Australia. The National Rural Health Alliance has announced the last call for abstracts to be submitted to the conference to be held in Hobart in March next year. “We have decided to extend the period to Friday 31 August to allow sufficient time for as many contributions as possible,” Alliance CEO Mark Diamond, said.

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Ashley de Silva announced as ReachOut's new CEO

Earlier this week, ReachOut Australia announced Ashley de Silva will be appointed new CEO. Mr de Silva is currently ReachOut’s Deputy CEO and his promotion follows the decision by current CEO to stand down at the end of 2018 after 10 years in the role, and 20 years with ReachOut in total. “I am confident that Ashley will do an incredible job as CEO,” Mr Jono Nicholas said.

We look forward to working with Ashley and his team and I wish him well in the new role.

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Review of DVA online professional development survey

You are invited to participate in an online survey to inform the Department of Veterans’ Affairs' review of its online professional development programs to better understand the requirements and incentives that motivate health professionals to complete these programs. The review stems from a Senate Inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel, The Constant Battle: Suicide by Veterans. This survey will help DVA make the online programs’ requirements and incentives more relevant to health professionals.

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Mental health sector gathers for TheMHS

Almost 1,000 delegates from the mental health community will gather in Adelaide next week for the 28th TheMHS Conference. Hosted by the South Australian Mental Health Commission and the Mental Health Coalition of SA, this year's keynote speakers are diverse and will challenge the thinking and practice of all delegates. Visit the TheMHS website for last minute registrations...

While I can't get to Adelaide for this year's conference, I wish delegates well and look forward to hearing more about the conference deliberations.

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