CEO Update - Dual prize winners making recovery possible

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia


Speaking frankly...                                       

Dual prize winners making recovery possible

So often in mental health, the discourse focuses on the failings of the system, the lack of support, poor service integration, under-funding... 

That’s why it was refreshing last week to see the focus shift with two outstanding mental health advocates and innovators acknowledged for their contributions to mental health care as dual winners of the 2018 UNSW Australian Mental Health Prize

Two outstanding professionals with passion, drive and commitment who - with over 80 years of experience between them - have transformed the mental health service-scape and made mental health recovery more attainable for so many Australians. 

Among the winners of this year’s prize awarded at UNSW last Friday, was Mental Health Australia Board member, Janne McMahon OAM. 

For Janne, it’s her own experience of mental illness that drives her passion to ensure that the voices of people with lived experience are heard. Throughout her extensive career, Janne has tirelessly pursued better outcomes for people living with mental illness, and has been instrumental in improving understanding and treatment for people with BPD, in particular.

Janne helped develop the NHMRC Clinical Practice Guidelines for BPD, led the BPD National Training Strategy and lobbied politicians for the establishment of the South Australian BPD Centre of Excellence where she is a member of the Steering Committee. She has appeared before ten parliamentary inquiries, served as a member of numerous expert reference and working groups, and is the founder of the Private Mental Health Consumer Network. 

Janne shares this year’s prize with veteran psychiatrist Gavin Andrews AO who, throughout his 60 year career, has been responsible for significant changes and improvements to mental health care. Professor Andrews helped introduce and establish cognitive behavioural therapy in Australia, developed the first set of clinical practice guidelines in psychiatry and established that National Survey of Mental Health. His work has had a fundamental impact on the way mental illness is diagnosed and treated in Australia. 

What each of these long lists of career achievements translate to in a practical sense, is a better prognosis for people living with mental illness. 

We know via results of the National Survey of Mental Health that recovery is possible. For some, this is thanks to treatment and support that is more accessible and more effective. And it is people like Professor Andrews and Janne who have helped shape these services, ushering out the old ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key approach’ to mental health care.

Not only the prize winners, but all of this year's finalists - among them, another of Mental Health Australia's Board members, Jono Nicholas - have played a significant role in improving the approach to mental health care over the decades, making recovery more possible than ever.

So among all the attention rightly given to service gaps, fragmented services, and barriers to care, it is important to pause and acknowledge the success stories. That's why Awards like the Australian Mental Health Prize are so important to ensure the efforts of dedicated and talented individuals like Janne and Professor Andrews, and all of this year’s finalists, do not go unrecognised or become buried beneath the deluge of stories about challenges and systemic failures. 

These Awards are a timely reminder that there are plenty of others like this year’s prize winners performing ground-breaking work in mental health and transforming lives for the better. 

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer

This year’s Australian Mental Health Prize Winners and Finalists

Gavin Andrews, NSW Joint winner: In a 60-year career in mental health Emeritus Professor Gavin Andrews has been an innovator, clinician, teacher and researcher. He is among the world’s most highly cited scientists in this field. He is responsible for preparing the first ever set of clinical practice guidelines in psychiatry; the first National Survey of Mental Disorders; and a range of online courses for people with common mental disorders. 

Janne McMahon, SA Joint winner: Janne has worked as a mental health consumer advocate since 1997. She is the Founder and Executive Officer of the Private Mental Health Consumer Carer Network (Australia), a member of the SA Health Practitioners Tribunal, and a Board member of Mental Health Australia. Janne has been instrumental in the establishment of the SA BPD Centre of Excellence and is a former Patron of the Australian BPD Foundation. In 2008 she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of her advocacy work.

Matthew Johnstone, NSW Finalist: Matthew is a passionate mental health advocate. He develops and delivers illustrated programs, videos and talks on mental health, resilience and wellbeing. Matthew has written, illustrated and photographed eight books, six of which have been local and international best sellers. Matthew has done creative consultancy for the Black Dog Institute, The Golden Door Elysia, Geelong Grammar, the government of Norway, CommBank, Sydney Trains and many other major corporates.

Vivienne Miller, NSW Finalist: Vivienne has worked in mental health services in Australia and England for more than 45 years in many capacities: crisis intervention; suicide prevention and intervention; group analysis; management of quality improvement programs; creative arts therapy; therapeutic communities; and activity-based programs. She is a co-author of the National Standards for Mental Health Services (1996) and an advisor to the National Mental Health Workforce Standards.  Since 1996 she has held the position as Conference Director of TheMHS Conference.

Jonathan Nicholas, NSW Finalist: Jono Nicholas has a 21-year history and commitment to improving youth mental health. With almost ten years’ service as the CEO of ReachOut – Australia’s leading digital mental health service for young people. Jono has also been a much valued member of the Mental Health Australia Board.  In June this year Jono announced his departure from ReachOut and is currently the Managing Director of the Wellbeing Outfit. Jono has background in psychology and public health.

Jane Pirkis, VIC Finalist: Professor Jane Pirkis is the Director of the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. She has qualifications in psychology and epidemiology. She is particularly well known for her work in suicide prevention and has conducted world-first research looking at how the media in all its forms might be used as a force for good to save lives. Her work has informed Australian and international guidelines for journalists on safer ways to present suicide-related stories.

Reminder for Board Director nominations – close 5pm 31 October 2018

Mental Health Australia's Board Director election process has commenced. Delegates of Voting Member organisations have received an invitation to nominate to one of four upcoming vacancies on the Mental Health Australia Board. Three Elected Director positions and the Elected Director nominated by a Carer Member are available. 

Voting will open 6 November 2018. Voting Delegates will receive instructions at that time on how to vote. You must be the organisation’s Member Delegate to apply for the Board.

Please contact Returning Officer Melanie Cantwell if you have any queries, at or Ph: (02) 6285 3100.

Next Week

On Tuesday, I will be heading to Sydney for an Australian Mental Health Funders' Forum.

On Wednesday, the Mental Health Australia Governance Committee will be meeting via teleconference. Following this, our Director of Consumer and Carer Programs, Kylie Wake and I will be attending Jennifer Westacott’s National Press Club address in Canberra.

Thursday, I will be heading to Melbourne for a meeting of the beyondblue Independent Evaluation Advisory Committee.

While in Melbourne, I will also be taking part in a panel discussion at the 2nd Annual NDIS and Mental Health Conference. This conference will be attended by members of the Mental Health Australia Policy team.

Our Senior Policy and Projects Officer, Emma Coughlan, will also be taking part in the National Mental Health Commission's Mental Health Leaders Fellowship Residential Program next week.


National apology to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse

On Monday, the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, delivered an important National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse in the House of Representatives. The apology follows the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was delivered to the Australian Government on 15 December 2017.

Many mental health organisations around the country welcomed the Apology as an important step in addressing the profound impact the trauma of sexual abuse has had on the mental health - and on the entire lives - of victims and survivors. 

During the National Apology, the Prime Minister also announced survivors will be able to access the psychological services they need to improve their lives.

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RACP calls for immediate transfer of remaining children off Nauru

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has urged the Australian Government to immediately transfer all remaining children and their families off Nauru, after new reports reveal one in four children on Nauru are suicidal.

"This morning's reports are shocking, but they are entirely consistent with what I saw when I visited the Nauru detention centre in 2014, said Professor David Isaacs, Paediatrician and RACP Fellow.

"As doctors, we have compelling evidence that detention and uncertainty have severe and damaging impacts on the health and wellbeing of people, particularly children. The situation now amounts to nothing short of a medical emergency," he said.

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First aged care Quality and Safety Commissioner announced

On Wednesday, Minister for Health, Greg Hunt and Minister Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, appointed Australia's first aged care quality and safety Commissioner to lead the new and independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Highly respected and experienced health sector leader Janet Anderson will oversee establishment of the Commission, as it prepares to start intensified compliance monitoring from 1 January 2019. The appointment represents a significant milestone in the journey towards a better, safer aged care system in Australia.

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Member Profiles

Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health is the world’s leading research and knowledge translation organisation focusing on mental ill-health in young people. Their leadership and staff work to deliver cutting-edge research, policy development, innovative clinical services, and evidence-based training and education to ensure that there is continuous improvement in the treatments and care provided to young people experiencing mental ill-health.

Website is external)



McAuley Community Services for Women provides much needed services for women and their children who are escaping family violence, and for women who are homeless. McAuley was created in 2008, when the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea joined two of its long-running services – McAuley House (formerly Regina Coeli) and McAuley Care (formerly Mercy Care). McAuley House provides accommodation for women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, 24-hour crisis accommodation, and an integrated program assisting women who have experienced family violence or homelessness to get back into the workforce.

Website is external)


Register for the upcoming Grace Groom Memorial Oration and Parliamentary Advocacy Day/Members' Policy Forum

A reminder to members and friends of Mental Health Australia to register your tickets for this year's upcoming Grace Groom Memorial Oration (on Monday 26 November), presented by journalist and media personality Tracey Spicer. You are also reminded to register your place at the Parliamentary Advocacy Day and Members' Policy Forum which will take place the following day on Tuesday 27 November from 9:30am at Parliament House, Canberra.

Visit to register for these separate events.

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National Arts & Disability Strategy consultation meetings

Australian Government and state/territory cultural ministers have agreed to renew the National Arts and Disability Strategy (NADS) for 2019. A national consultation process has been announced and will run until 3 December 2018. The consultation is the first step in renewing the NADS in consultation with arts and disability stakeholders. This is a chance for people with disability, organisations and carers to contribute stories and ideas about arts and disability. Individuals and organisations can make a written, video or audio submission, complete the online survey, or come to a face-to-face meeting. Upcoming face-to-face consultations will occur in Darwin, Broome, Melbourne, Geelong and Canberra.  

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Become a mental health peer worker

Mind Australia will run a one day workshop for anyone with a lived experience of mental health issues and recovery (either directly or as a carer) who would like to become a mental health peer worker. Peer workers use their unique perspectives to inform change within mental health services.

This is a paid course running on Monday 12 November in Heidelberg in Victoria. Learn more via the link below.

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Blue Knot Day

Blue Knot Day is Blue Knot Foundation's national awareness day celebrated in October every year. On this day, all Australians are asked to unite in support of the 5 million Australian adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse.  This year, Blue Knot Day will be held on Monday 29 October, with events and activities happening throughout Blue Knot Week, from Monday 29 October until Sunday 4 November.

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