CEO Update: Celebrating an ancient and continuing culture, and supporting new families

Celebrating an ancient and continuing culture, and supporting new families

Image: Bobbi-Lee Hille Photography - Have a look at more of Bobbi-Lee’s amazing work here.

I really appreciate that in Australia, we are reminded to attend to particular aspects of life and community through the emergence of special days or weeks. Following COVID-related postponement, this week is both NAIDOC week (8-15 November) and Perinatal Mental Health week (8-14 November). You can find more information and resources here Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week and here Perinatal Mental Health Week 2020.

This week we have taken up the invitation to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as together we celebrate NAIDOC week. This year the NAIDOC week theme, “Always Was, Always Will Be,” recognises that First Nations peoples have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.

At the same time, during Perinatal Mental Health Week we have been considering the research which shows that 1 in 5 new mums and 1 in 10 new dads will experience perinatal depression and anxiety. Further, statistics show that depression and anxiety may be more common for mums and dads who have been depressed before, have less practical, emotional or social support or are feeling the burden of financial stress.

What a powerful mix of focus areas this week – the celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and the need to pay attention to young families as they confront the unique challenges of a new baby.

It has reminded me of a memorable meeting with medical campaigner Dr John Boffa some years ago in 2012 – the year he was nominated for Australian of the Year (Northern Territory) for his work with aboriginal communities.

He had been invited to speak at the workshop I was attending about a thoughtful new program he was involved with – the Australian Nurse Family Partnership Program for Aboriginal infants and their mothers in Central Australia.

The work was focussed through partnership with community, providing nurses and health workers for young pregnant Aboriginal women. These nurses became a central part of the support team through pregnancy and birth until the child was two years old. The team were finding some remarkable results in reduced infant mortality and reduced involvement in child protection services, amongst other wonderful outcomes.

This was a program that fundamentally understood how best to celebrate and build early attachments through close support with the young mums. And it provided a strong cultural foundation for the development of social and emotional wellbeing in the little people.

But what I remember most was Dr Boffa’s story of the “two year old graduations” and his own surprise at the observable difference the program had made in the language capability of the toddlers. This was important - we know how critical language development is in helping us make sense of our world.

Modern Australia has a lot to learn from First Nations cultures, not least in our approach to mental health. The holistic approach to the health and wellbeing of First Nations cultures in many ways exemplifies a more integrated, person-led mental health ecosystem which we aspire to, and can provide impetus and guidance for addressing social determinants of health. 

Mental Health Australia supports the themes of the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration, which includes that:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and healing combined with clinical perspectives will make the greatest contribution to the achievement of the highest attainable standard of mental health and suicide prevention outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

At Mental Health Australia we celebrated this NAIDOC week by inviting staff to share about First Nations people who have personally inspired them, and together create a “Wall of Fame” celebrating these leaders and their impact. And we continually seek feedback from the parents on our team as to how best they can be supported in their journey, be it through flexible working arrangements or a quiet place to breastfeed.

Let’s continue to celebrate the oldest continuing living culture on earth, and reflect too on changes and challenges that come with new life.

Have a good weekend.

Leanne Beagley

Reminder: Mental Health Australia Annual General Meeting

Reminder that the Annual General Meeting of Mental Health Australia Ltd will be held on Thursday 10 December 2020 at 2.30pm (AEDST). Due to extraordinary circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for the continued safety of everyone in our community, this meeting will be held virtually using Redback webinar.  A link to the virtual AGM will be sent to all registered members prior to the meeting.

To register your attendance at the AGM, or to request a proxy form please email Kath Sequoia at with your name, organisation and contact details.



On Monday I’ll be talking about the role of leadership in converting policy into practice with a team at Charles Sturt University and also meeting with ESSA (Exercise and Sports Science Australia). 

On Tuesday I have a Mentally Health Workplace Alliance Meeting, whilst on Wednesday I am meeting with a number of member organisations whilst I am in Melbourne.

On Thursday the Mental Health Australia Board will be meeting.

On Friday I have the Primary Health Reform Steering Committee, the Safety Quality Principal Standing Committee SQPSC) and later a Vision 2030 Roadmap Advisory Committee meeting.


Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

The Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (the Framework) is a free, nationally available online resource which allows organisations and individual practitioners to evaluate and enhance their cultural responsiveness. It has been mapped against national standards to help you meet your existing requirements, with access to a wide range of support and resources. 


Mental Health News

Sharp decline in mental health for young Australians

COVID-19 is continuing to lead to worsening mental health outcomes for young Australians, with the highest levels of psychological distress for 18- to 24-year-olds observed this year, new analysis from The Australian National University (ANU) shows. 

Read more

Putting the mental health of Victorians first

Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, says this has been the toughest year many of us have ever lived through. As Victoria begins slow recovery, this year’s Budget invests in the health and wellbeing of our loved ones, by continuing the fundamental rebuild of Victoria’s mental health system. 

Read more

Mental Health Victoria welcomes $235 million Recovery Workforce investment in support and services

Mental Health Victoria welcomed the $235 million investment from the Victorian Government in the state’s Recovery Workforce which will create 500 new jobs across mental health, family violence, health and child protection. 

Read more

Supporting South Australians through COVID recovery

An extra $15.1 million to support the mental health of South Australians through the COVID-19 pandemic is being provided in the State Budget 2020-21 by the Marshall Liberal Government. 

Read more

Older persons COVID-19 support line extended

National Seniors Australia is pleased at the Minister for Aged Care’s announcement that the Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line has been extended until June 30, 2021. 

Read more

Government launches enhanced headspace in Busselton

Young people in Busselton and surrounds will now have easier access to mental health services with the opening of an expanded headspace satellite service this week. 

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NSW Suicide Register major step towards saving lives

The launch of the NSW Suicide Monitoring and Data Management System is a significant milestone in suicide prevention. Access to accurate, reliable and rapid information about every suicide and suspected suicide has the potential to save lives.

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Psychiatrists celebrate Indigenous workforce during NAIDOC Week

At the beginning of NAIDOC Week, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) marked the week with the celebration of psychiatrists, trainees and Psychiatry Interest Forum members who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. 

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Member Profiles

Australian BPD Foundation Ltd
Australian BPD Foundation is a group of volunteer consumers, carers and clinicians who passionate in encouraging a positive culture around Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and promoting the ready availability and accessibility of appropriate services for everyone impacted by BPD.

Junaya Family Development Services
Junaya is a Community Based Family Support organisation for families with children 0 - 18 years old. JFDS runs a specialist project which supports families with children or young people experiencing learning difficulties and/ or challenging behaviours within the Blacktown LGA. We also offer Family Development Programs for the broader Western Sydney area that provide empowering, effective, efficient, and potentially transforming strategies, tips and resources which families can use to make positive change in their lives.



AIHW update: AIHW sub-site Suicide & self-harm monitoring

Please be advised that the AIHW sub-site Suicide & self-harm monitoring has been updated. As part of the sub-site’s regular update schedule, mortality data have been updated to include 2019 statistics. Updated mortality data can be found in the following data sections: Death by suicide in Australia, Populations & age groups, Geography, and Behaviours & risk factors. In this release data reported in Populations & age groups – Suicide among young people have been amended.

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The Community Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Research Network (CMHDARN): Research Skills webinar series 

Are you conducting research in the mental health and alcohol and other drugs sectors? Would you like to know more about conducting research with people who have lived experience? 

The next webinar in the CMHDARN Research Skills webinar series will explore co-design; what it means, how to engage with co-design in research in a meaningful way and how to get started. 


  • Webinar 4 - Co-design in Research 

  • Date: Friday 20th November 

  • Time: 10:30-11:30am

Read more



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