CEO Update - Dear Santa, it's been a while

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia

Speaking frankly...                                       

Dear Santa, it's been a while...

And I hope you don’t mind me writing to you again after such a long time.

I know you have heard from my kids in the meantime, and they’ve been pretty happy with the result, so I thought I’d try my hand again.

It’s been quite a year, and I know what your first question is going to be, ‘Have you been good?’

To be honest, like so many of my friends and colleagues, I’m a bit weary, so it’s a bit hard to make that judgement objectively.

We have certainly worked hard.

We started the year talking to those most effected by the NDIS, and recommended some important changes. It has taken a while, but we are pleased to end the year with the NDIS agreeing to address our concerns.

We saw a budget that increased Commonwealth investment in mental health, even if there is much more to do.

We helped to trigger and then conduct a review of how PHN’s were approaching their new task of addressing mental health issues, and with our colleagues have more important recommendations to the government.

Perhaps most importantly we assisted KPMG to produce a report that has demonstrated the enormous return on investment that is available to governments and the wider business community if only they would invest in the right things.

Most recently we arranged for 100 delegates from across the country to visit Parliament House to remind members and senators that mental health should be a key priority in the lead up to the next election.

Yet despite all this progress, I recognise that we end yet another year with too many people in distress.

It seems that social dislocation and exclusion, financial stress, insecure employment, experience of trauma, and family tensions are on the increase.

We also end another year with too much strain on the net we use to try and catch each other when we are distressed. The old net has too many holes and gaps, and seems to be further and further stretched each year.

But I guess the real question on your mind is, ‘What does he want for Christmas?’

Well Santa, I’ve been pretty lucky along the way, and don’t want for much. But I do have a few things on my list.

If you could help us sort out the ongoing challenges associated with the NDIS that would be great. What you gave us last year was good, but you know what it’s like to get a present on Christmas morning and don't have the batteries to get it going!

I’d also really love it if we could get a good result from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health too. You have given us plenty of inquiries before, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but it would be great to have one that really lasted, and is acted upon. Perhaps we need one that we can all share?

My last request is a bit more personal, so I’m not sure whether you can deliver it.

I see many colleagues and friends who are pretty tired, and even a bit dispirited. In December, it can seem like each year gets harder and harder instead of better and easier.

If you can help, I’d like for us all to have a bit of a break, to find restoration however we might, and to return with optimism and opportunity for the year ahead.|

If you could do that for us I am sure we could all agree to be a bit kinder to each other, and a bit more patient with each other. Like those long family trips in the car for Christmas holidays, we can get a bit grumpy by the end day. But in spite of the disputes about which music to play, we are still on the journey together.

I have to go now Santa. I have eight days work to fit into my three days left!

I hope you can find your way clear to answer a few of these requests and I’m sure you’ll also receive many more.

I also hope my many colleagues, friends and family members get at least some break and return to the New Year with the energy and resolve to make progress on our important work together.


Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer

Productivity Commission Mental Health Policy Network

The Mental Health Australia Policy team's focus in the new year will be on the Productivity Commission Inquiry into mental health. As our Chair Jennifer Westacott said at the Parliamentary Advocacy Day last month, this inquiry is a once in a generation opportunity for the mental health sector.

The inquiry will examine the effect of mental health on people’s ability to participate in and prosper in the community and workplace, and the effects it has more generally on our economy and productivity.  

Many of you will already be thinking about your submissions to the inquiry - due 5 April 2019 - and how you will shape your advocacy for your core business within the mental health sector. At the broader level it will be important for the sector to be cohesive in its responses to the high level terms of reference. To that end, during the inquiry, Mental Health Australia will bring members together by convening a Productivity Commission Mental Health Policy Network to discuss the progress of the inquiry, the major policy issues in the Commission’s issues paper (to be released next year) and the draft report (to be released at the end of next year).

The first Policy Network teleconference will be held at 2pm on Thursday 31 January.  Members will be emailed an agenda and teleconference details the week before.  

We look forward to working closely with our Members and key stakeholders throughout the inquiry and have also offered to assist the Productivity Commission’s consultation with the sector, and I hope to advise you about that further early next year. 

Productivity Commission inquiry into the role of improving mental health to support economic participation and enhancing productivity and economic growth.

Housing for people with mental health issues

Mental Health Australia recently wrote to Commonwealth, state and territory Housing, Health and Justice Ministers calling for greater prioritisation of young people with mental health issues in homelessness policies and programs, a measure that would incur significant long term savings and benefits.

This information sheet which we sent to the Ministers, provides a summary of the measure, estimated return on investment and projected savings, taken from recommendations in the 2018 Investing to Save report

Prioritising housing for young people is a perfect example of how the mental health system would be well served by reconfiguring current budget processes to better recognise the longer-term and cross-portfolio impacts on mental health as a result of investment in social determinants, in this case housing, and the flow on benefits to other portfolios such as employment, health and justice.

Mid-Year economic and fiscal outlook 2018-19

On Monday, the Australian Government released its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook outlining funding decisions taken since the Budget in May. Those relating to mental health (some of which have already been announced) include funding for headspace, support for farmers in hardship and development of a National Mental Health Workforce Strategy:

  • $6.1 million over five years from 2018-19 to establish headspace satellite sites in Mount Barker and Victor Harbor in South Australia, and Margaret River in Western Australia
  • $51.8 million over four years from 2018-19 for PHNs to commission increased youth mental health services via headspace 
  • $26.9 million over four years from 2018-19 for mental health and well-being support for farmers in hardship 
  • $1.0 million over two years from 2018-19 to develop a National Mental Health Workforce Strategy.

The Australian Government will also provide $1.3 billion over four years from 2018-19 to establish the Community Health and Hospitals Program to fund projects and services supporting patient care and reduce pressure on community and hospital services. There is an indication that funding will be provided on mental health related projects and services however it is unclear what exactly this will entail.

National Multicultural Mental Health Project Update

As the year comes to a close, I’m pleased to share an update on the National Multicultural Mental Health Project, and look to what’s ahead for 2019.


Since the public announcement of the project in May this year, our focus has been on coming together with lived experience and professional experts from across the mental health and multicultural sectors. Together, we’ve shaped and begun a significant program of work which we’re confident will help us move towards a more equitable mental health system, which reflects and responds well to the needs of Australia’s multicultural population.


A key focus of our work program is on the redevelopment and ongoing national promotion of the Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (the Framework), which helps services to evaluate and enhance their cultural responsiveness. We look forward to continuing to reach out to Primary Health Networks, mental health services and interested providers in 2019, and to begin a series of dedicated workshops on the Framework around Australia.


Next year will also see the redevelopment of the project’s website into an up-to-date knowledge network on multicultural mental health. This will involve mapping what evidence-based resources and tools are currently available, and identifying priorities and resource gaps which need to be addressed. We look forward to launching the project’s new branding and website during 2019.


Moving forward, the project will continue to have a strong focus on working with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities around mental health awareness and stigma reduction, and an additional focus on establishing a data collection and reporting strategy.


We are delighted to have already seen the project energised and enhanced by the contributions of our CALD Mental Health Consumer and Carer Group and Stakeholder Group. We are also deeply grateful for our ongoing alliance with the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) and the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) in delivering this project.


If you’d like to stay up-to-date with National Multicultural Mental Health Project news, please click here to subscribe for updates.

Mental Health Australia - Save the dates* for 2019

Tue 19 Mar & Wed 20 Mar
Mental Health Australia Board Meeting and Members' Policy Forum
Tue 2 Apr
Federal Budget
Fri 5 Apr
Submissions Due - Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health
Thur 10 Oct
World Mental Health Day 2019
Mon 25 Nov
Mental Health Australia Annual General Meeting
Mon 25 Nov
Grace Groom Memorial Oration
Tue 26 Nov
Mental Health Australia Members' Policy Forum

*Please note: Dates are subject to change. All changes will be communicated via the weekly Mental Health Australia CEO Update.


Collaboration the key to mental health action

The National Rural Health Alliance, Mental Health Australia and Royal Flying Doctor Service has welcomed the findings of a Senate Committee’s Inquiry into Accessibility and Quality of Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Australia. The three organisations backed the Inquiry’s recommendation to develop of a national rural and remote mental health strategy.

The Inquiry proposed a strategy would address the low rates of access to services, workforce shortages, the high rates of suicide, cultural challenges and the social determinants of health and mental health in rural and remote areas.

“This latest inquiry supports a number of previous inquiries and reports that make the case for action on prevention, early intervention and treatment of mental health issues. The collaborative nature of this cross-party Senate Committee report and the recommendations give hope for a unified way forward in tackling these longstanding challenges,” Mental Health Australia CEO Frank Quinlan said.

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Neami Group appoints inaugural CEO of Me Well

The Neami Group is excited to announce the appointment of Fred JP Van Steel as inaugural CEO of Me Well, the Group’s NDIS service provider. Mr Van Steel brings to Me Well a wealth of experience in executive leadership and management roles across the commercial and not-for-profit sectors.

“We’re delighted to appoint Fred JP Van Steel as the first CEO of Me Well. While maintaining a shared vision and mission with Neami National, Me Well needs to find new ways to respond to the changing environment of the NDIS and implement learnings rapidly as we grow. We’re confident that Fred’s experience [...] will ensure Me Well success into the future” said Neami Group Board Chair, Sonia Law.

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New adult community mental health services to support Canberrans

A redesign of adult community mental health services will aim to deliver more streamlined, accessible and responsive services in the ACT.

Territory Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury said the new community-based mental health services would deliver more effective care, particularly those experiencing major impacts from moderate to severe mental illness. New services include a centralised intake, assessment and referral service to provide greater and quicker access to mental health services; a home treatment service to prevent unnecessary hospitalisation or assist people to transition from hospital back into the community; individual specialist therapy programs; intensive support for vulnerable groups with highly complex needs; and an approach to continuing care that focuses on individual strengths.

Minister Rattenbury said reducing the impacts of mental illness and reducing the rates of suicide and self-harm across the ACT was a key priority for the ACT Government.

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Christine Morgan appointed CEO of National Mental Health Commission

Last week, Minister for Health the Hon Greg Hunt announced the appointment of Christine Morgan (one of our Board Directors) to the role of Chief Executive Officer of the National Mental Health Commission.

Christine is a highly experienced leader with a deep exposure to the mental health sector. She has demonstrated experiences as a highly credible chief executive in the sector as CEO of the Butterfly Foundation since 2009. Christine has grown Butterfly into a widely respected and highly effective national organisation for people with eating disorders and their carers in Australia. 

As the new head of the nation’s pre-eminent body on mental health issues, Christine will bring an expert mind and articulate voice to advocating better understanding of mental health

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Member Profiles

The mission of the Psychosis Australia Trust (PAT) is to support organisational investment and policy capacity to carry out priority-driven research into schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Established as an umbrella organisation and knowledge bank for research and services related to psychosis in Australia, the immediate goals of PAT are to:

  • Review current research programs and activities being in relation to psychotic disorders and develop an evidence-based approach to allocating priorities for further research
  • Carry out research and research-related activities in relation to psychotic disorders
  • Link the priorities of researchers with those of Australians who have the lived experience of psychosis, through our partnership with consumer and carer organisations across Australia
  • Promote and facilitate the translation of research into practice in relation to psychotic disorders thereby reducing the burden of disease




Working in partnerships Ruah Community Services aims to empower and inspire their clients to achieve their personal aspirations. Their vision is for flourishing communities through active participation and wellbeing of people with complex needs. Through their work, RUAH aims to empower vulnerable and disadvantaged people to create meaningful change in their lives through provision of quality support services.



Beyondblue partners with Monash University & Austin Health for mental health research

Beyond Blue will provide $300,000 over three years for two research projects that aim to improve mental health outcomes for Australians. In a partnership with Monash University and Austin Health, Beyondblue will conduct research into mental health guidelines in general practice and the identification and management of depression for expecting and new mothers. Both projects will be funded by the Commonwealth Government through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and will each receive a $150,000 boost from Beyondblue. 

Beyondblue Board Director Michael Kidd AM said both projects filled a vital research gap in two areas that traditionally had not received research funding.

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Seeking Expressions of Interest from consultants interested in sustainability

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) is looking to establish a register of consultants around Australia to assist in pursing sustainability initiatives. As a consultant, you will be expected to be able to advise on sustainability opportunities as they arise including:

  • Reviewing funding applications as developed by a Member,
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  • Planning for sustainability of the Member.

For clarity, the consultant will not write or draft the funding and grant applications but assist by reviewing the applications and providing appropriate advice confidentially directly with the Member concerned.

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New NDIS pricing arrangements

The NDIS is implementing a range of new pricing arrangements to assist providers in delivering high quality, innovative NDIS supports to participants with complex needs. The current system of two levels of price controls for assistance with self-care and social and recreational activities will be replaced with three levels as follows:

  • Level 1 – standard needs (as per 2018/19 price guide) 
  • Level 2 – complex needs (5.6% loading in alignment with current approach)
  • Level 3 – very complex needs (new loading of 10.3%)

There will also be an introduction of a Temporary Support of Overheads (TSO) on levels 2 and 3 consistent with a TSO introduced on standard needs which occurred on 1 July 2018. The TSO will remain in place at 1.25 per cent in 2019/20 and will be removed in the following year. 

The new pricing arrangements will come into effect 1 February 2019

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Triple J's Hottest 100 helping Lifeline support more young Australians

Triple J is teaming up with Lifeline for this year's Hottest 100 to help them connect with more young people who are struggling. This announcement comes after Triple J's What's Up in Your World survey  earlier in the year revealed mental health to be the most pressing issue affecting young people right now. You can support Lifeline by making a donation or buying this year's Hottest 100 t-shirt.

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New resources from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has developed a new National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (second edition) User Guide for Health Services Providing Care for People with Mental Health Issues and a Map of the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards (second edition) with the National Standards for Mental Health Services (NSMHS). Both of these resources are designed to support delivery of safe and effective health care for people with mental health issues across healthcare settings.

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