CEO Update - “And what are you going to do about that?” - A tribute to Jackie Crowe

This week we learned that a friend, colleague, mentor, advocate, disrupter, innovator, mother and partner Jackie Crowe left us prematurely.

For those who knew her, Jackie was a force of nature. Jackie combined her own lived experience, her intelligence and her tremendous capacity for empathy to advocate tirelessly for reforms to the mental health system.

Jackie was a great friend to Mental Health Australia, and to the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum and National Register.

My most recent meeting with Jackie Crowe was in the context of her role on the Primary Health Network Advisory Panel on Mental Health. It will surprise no one who knew Jackie that she was talking about lived experience, about co-design, and about concrete ways of making things better for people living with mental illness.

Many is the time that Jackie would look across the table to ask with steely determination “And what are you going to do about that?” This was never asked in any abstract sense.  It was always asked as a direct challenge to those of us involved in the reform process to take real action at every turn.

Neither was this ever asked in a way that left you on your own. Jackie was a team player, ready to support and assist anyone, from anywhere, in their pursuit of real reform.  Whether this was sending a handy article on a topic of common interest, or asking RUOK with every promise of support and encouragement, Jackie built up others, inspired others, stood aside for others better placed to take the lead.

For me Jackie’s passing is a reminder of one of the great privileges that I experience working in this challenging area of public policy. I am fortunate to meet many people working in mental health as my work takes me across the country. Consumers, carers, academics, practitioners, service providers, politicians, parents, employers.

All passionate advocates for change. All doing too much with too little. All motivated by forces well beyond their pay check or the prestige of their positions. All not too far removed from the very personal effects that mental health issues can have. All driven by a passion to achieve a better outcome for people’s mental health.

That same passion that unites us can also bring us into disagreement and conflict. Jackie loved an argument, loved to explore ideas, loved reconciling divergent views. But Jackie also had a reputation for never holding a grudge, always being up front and direct about her differences, and always challenging the ideas and not the person.

Jackie was one of our great champions, and for many a great friend.  Jackie was also a wife and mother and while we grieve our loss, I hope we can also celebrate Jackie’s tremendous legacy. Not least the role that she has carved for lived experience and the central role of consumers and carers in designing the systems and services of the future.

Jackie’s memorial service will be held at 11.30am on Wednesday 1 November at Simonds Stadium, Kardinia Park (Level 1, Brownlow Stand) in South Geelong, Victoria.

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan, CEO Mental Health Australia

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