CEO Update - Ending homelessness together, all 25 million of us

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia

Speaking frankly...                                       

Ending homelessness together, all 25 million of us...

This week, Australia's population - exceeding all forecasts - hit 25 million.

While some around Australia found cause for celebration in this population milestone, there is another corresponding population milestone that ought to be lamented and deplored: that of our nation’s homeless.

As the population clock ticked over 25 million just after 11pm on Tuesday night, the country’s homelessness population can be expected to have reached some 125,000 (if homelessness rates at the 2016 Census are anything to go by).

The increase in the nation’s homeless population can’t be attributed to population growth alone. The causes of homelessness are complex and multi-layered. But the effects are relatively consistent and equally debilitating.

Experiencing homelessness makes it harder to find work, maintain relationships and good health. People without an adequate or stable place to call their own are more isolated and more likely to experience mental illness and issues with drugs and alcohol.

But we don’t need to look far to find examples of actionable, enduring solutions. Recently we saw the New Zealand Government commit $100 million to house all the nation's homeless in time for winter. In Auckland alone, this resulted in 83% of the city's homeless successfully moved into appropriate, safe and permanent housing under the city's Housing First program. 

Mental Health Australia and KPMG's 2018 report Investing to Save showed that a Housing First model here in Australia would be likely to generate three times its implementation costs in the short term. Over the longer term, the returns would be much greater. This is supported by strong evidence that Housing First models work, not only to reduce homelessness, but also to address its effects on a person’s mental, physical and social health.

We often talk about homelessness in economic terms, but it's important to remember that the real cost of homelessness is a human one... It's the cost to the mental health of a single parent constantly jostling kids from one unstable home to another. It's the cost to the physical health of an older person who spends a night chilled to the bone while sleeping in a car. It's the cost to a young person's education where constant housing stress and disruption makes study impossible. 

I remember a woman who had been homeless here in the ACT telling me how she parked her car at the airport with her children. When they awoke in the morning, she told her kids she had driven there so they could watch the planes taking off. A treat for her children in the face of despair...

We should feel proud of this recent population milestone - largely achieved via the welcoming of upwards of 250,000 migrants annually - for what it says about our generosity, our diversity and our prosperity as a nation.

But that pride ought to be tempered by the knowledge that, by and large, that prosperity and generosity isn't extended to the 125,000 Australians who will be homeless tonight. This includes families, children, elderly, pregnant women, survivors of violence and abuse, people with disability or mental illness... some of the country's most vulnerable.

The theme of this year's Homelessness Week is “Ending homelessness together’’. This is a reminder to all of us that there needs to be a united front and strong will to tackle Australia’s homelessness crisis.

Because as our nation grows into the future, so too does the homelessness problem unless there is community will for governments to implement the kinds of solutions we know make a real difference in people’s lives.

Warm regards.

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer


Australia's Mental and Physical Health Tracker

Australia’s Mental and Physical Health Tracker is the first Australian study to quantify the risks of physical health conditions contributing to a wide range of mental health issues including anxiety and depression. Released by Professor Allan Fels AO of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration Advisory Board member on 7 August, the latest national report card reveals the strong links between chronic physical ill health and mental ill health.

The national report card should be read in conjunction with the background paper that provides context and extends the data summarised in the report card.

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Next Week

Next week I will be taking a short break, hopefully involving some warmer weather and a camping trip.

On Tuesday, Belinda Highmore and the Policy team will be hosting the final meeting of the Project Expert Group for the Optimising Support for Psychosocial Disability project.



Workforce initiatives to improve Aboriginal mental health in Victoria

The Victorian Government is investing $8.4 million to boost the number of Aboriginal health workers in the system and provide more culturally appropriate mental health services in the state. The funding will support two new workforce initiatives including an Aboriginal Mental Health Traineeship Program and the provision of ten new clinical and therapeutic mental health positions.

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Federal Government announces $190m in drought support

Today’s announcement of $190 million in aid for Aussie farmers takes the Government’s total drought relief package to $576m. In a statement today the Government said it would announce another phase of its support drought response in coming weeks and that it is developing measures to improve the drought resilience of rural communities. The Government will invest $11.4 million in mental health support initiatives, including additional funding for Primary Health Networks in drought affected areas. 

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New report shines a spotlight on Australia’s ‘rough sleepers’

A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) provides insights into this complex and vulnerable group in our society. The report Sleeping rough: A profile of Specialist Homelessness Services clients, uses 4 years of Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) data to build a comprehensive picture of this group, the challenges they face and the services they use. The report shows that compared to other clients of SHS rough sleepers are generally older males, often with drug, alcohol or mental health issues.

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Member Profiles

Mental Health First Aid Australia

Developed in 2000, Mental Health First Aid Australia (MHFA) is a national not-for-profit organisation focused on mental health training and research. The organisation aims to address the issue that, while people often know a lot about physical health problems, ignorance of mental health is still prevalent. MHFA fills the gap left by regular first aid training by delivering training sessions that teach people how to help those experiencing mental health problems.
Website - 


Converge International

Converge International was founded in 1960. They are one of the most experienced corporate mental health care providers in Australia. Converge specialise in psychology and mental health. They help people develop a healthy culture and provide support and intervention in sensitive situations.
Website - 


Topic Tuesday Lived Experience Forum: Motivation

Next Tuesday's Topic Tuesday Lived Experience Forum looks at motivation and mental health... How do we find motivation in our day to day and what are our challenges and successes? What are our inspirations and our obstacles? Topic Tuesday is an online monthly forum for people with mental health issues. The next forum will happen on Tuesday 14 August, from 7pm - 9pm AEST. 

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Every day is R U OK? Day

R U OK? Day is still six weeks away. But asking “Are  you R U OK?” is not just a question for a single day  – it’s meaningful conversation  starter  for  everyday  of  the  year. R U OK? has developed four simple  steps to help navigate this conversation:

1.Ask  R  U  OK?
3.Encourage  action
4.Check  in

Today is the day to start a conversation that could change a life. Find out how to ask at

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Stronger Communities Programme

The Stronger Communities Programme (SCP) provides grants of between $2,500 and $20,000 to community organisations and local governments for small capital projects that deliver social benefits for local communities. The input of the community is a key element of the SCP. Projects are selected by MPs and their community consultation committees, and are then submitted to the Government for assessment. The Programme has committed funding to over 5,000 community–based projects across Australia.

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New research to understand participant choice in the NDIS

National Disability Services (NDS) are partnering with the Institute for Choice at the University of South Australia to conduct a survey about how current (and prospective) NDIS participants make choices about service providers, what they value and don’t. The online survey also gives people an opportunity to comment on associated issues like the quality of planning, access to advocacy, and the availability of services and supports. NDS has developed resources to support people to participate in the study, available here.

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Register a stall for the ACT Mental Health & Wellbeing Expo 2018

The ACT Mental Health and Wellbeing Expo is an annual event that takes place in Mental Health Month each year. The event aims to showcase programs and services in the ACT region that benefit people experiencing mental health issues, to raise awareness, and encourage people to seek help. This year's expo will be held in Garema Place on Thursday 11 October from 11am - 2pm. Mental health service providers and all wellbeing-focused programs in the ACT are encouraged to register.

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