CEO Update - Healing isn't about fixing what's broken, it's about restoring connections and sharing responsibility...
Healing isn't about fixing what's broken, it's about restoring connections and sharing responsibility...
Yesterday, Mental Health Australia staff took part in a traditional ‘healing circle’, a NAIDOC Week event exploring Aboriginal cultural beliefs around healing or ‘recovery’ and its links to country and community.
Aunty Matilda spoke about how, in her own culture, the emphasis is not on the illness, problem or dysfunctional behaviour that needs to be fixed. Instead, there is this idea of a pathway that a person follows over the journey of their lifetime. Staying on this pathway delivers a sense of meaning and achievement, and an ever-developing sense of purpose and identity. ‘Healing’, in the Aboriginal sense of the word, is required when a person strays from this pathway.
In Indigenous cultures, it is the shared responsibility of those who take part in the healing circle – community members, family, friends and Elders – to ensure that a person finds their way back to their pathway and stays the course. The idea that communities bear responsibility to solve one another’s problems and assist each other’s healing is a powerful one.
We have much to learn from this traditional wisdom that has enabled Indigenous cultures to survive and thrive in Australia, without many of the social ills that afflict their communities today, for thousands of years prior to colonisation.
In March last year, during a visit to the Ngalkanbuy Clinic on Elcho Island, I was fortunate enough to accompany a local mental health worker on her morning rounds to visit clients and other local community health facilities. As she shared her views with me, it couldn’t have been clearer that so much of what we impose on our Indigenous communities, with the very best of intentions, often makes no sense and serves to perpetuate systemic oppression.
After decades of lamenting social, political and health inequalities between white Australians and our First Nations’ Peoples, only in recent years have we begun to understand the value of traditional knowledge and healing practices to overall health and wellbeing.
In mental health, Indigenous concepts of wellbeing, illness and healing can teach us a lot. Learnings about our interrelationships with other people, our communities, our past experiences, and our environment can help us to develop systems and strategies to better support the needs of all Australians – regardless of ethnic, linguistic or cultural background – who experience mental health issues.
That is why it is so important to embrace events like NAIDOC Week and to make the most of opportunities that expose us to views and concepts usually viewed through a more mainstream cultural lens. This is so important if we are to solve the riddle of how to tackle mental illness and adequately support people across the cultural divide.
We know that Indigenous adults are 4 to 7 times more likely to experience mental health issues than non-Indigenous Australians. We know that Indigenous adults are still 7 times more likely to experience substance abuse disorders, and that risk of suicide among Indigenous Australians is 6 times greater than for non-Indigenous Australians.
NAIDOC Week reminds us of the importance of sharing wisdom and knowledge across cultures, of learning from the past, and of connecting and celebrating the cultural diversity that exists in Australia.
This year’s theme 'Because of her we can' is also an opportunity to celebrate the contributions that Indigenous women have made and continue to make to our understanding and awareness of contemporary Indigenous issues.
First Nations women were the carriers of the dreaming stories, songs, languages and knowledge that kept their culture strong for 65 thousand years prior to colonisation. And although Indigenous women continue to play active and significant roles at all levels of Australian society today - evidenced in one way by the impressively high rates of female representation on boards of Indigenous corporations - their roles are too often invisible, unsung or diminished.
The reminder of the strength, contribution and resilience of First Nations women is aptly timed to join the growing chorus of voices calling on men to do more to grow a culture of respect around women and girls on the back of the #MeToo movement.
And it is aptly timed to rally all of us in mental health to seek out and embrace Indigenous ideas of healing to enrich our knowledge base, improve our practice approaches, and develop the kinds of relationships and services that will be taken up and deliver outcomes in Indigenous communities.
But the most important thing we can take away from traditional Aboriginal healing practices and beliefs this NAIDOC Week, is a sense of community responsibility towards our First Nations’ Peoples for the wounds inflicted by past policies and events. And an understanding of the role that healing on a national level plays in closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes.
Chief Executive Officer
On Monday, I will be participating in a National Disability and Carer Advisory Council (NDCAC) Co-Chair Meeting via phone before attending the launch of the Australian Mental Health Leaders Fellowship at Melbourne University.
I will be in Sydney on Tuesday to attend a Suicide Prevention Australia workshop where we will be working to set advocacy priorities for suicide prevention.
I will be participating in a webinar on Wednesday hosted by the Australian Digital Health Agency. This webinar will provide an overview of the communications for consumers during the My Health Record opt-out period. Following this, I'm off to Melbourne for a panel discussion for the Australian Mental Health Leaders Fellowship around the topic: Leadership Challenges in Mental Health and Health Care.
On Thursday, I will catch up with Marc Purcell, CEO of the Australian Council for International Development, and our Director of Consumer and Carer Programs at Mental Health Australia, Kylie Wake, will attend the Australian Mental Health Leaders Fellowship placement coordinator meeting.
Mental Health Australia Member Profiles
The Mental Health Coalition of South Australia is the peak body for the non-government mental health sector in South Australia. Their vision is for all South Australians affected by mental illness to receive the support they need to live well in the community. Through their work, MHCSA aims to reduce stigma around mental illness, represent the sector and promote the role of the sector, and support people affected by mental illness.
Website - www.mhcsa.org.au(link is external)
The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH), an initiative of the University of Newcastle, conducts high quality research and delivers evidence-based programs to improve the mental health and wellbeing of rural and remote residents in NSW. The Centre focuses on: the promotion of good mental health and the prevention of mental illness; developing the mental health system to better meet the needs of people living in rural and remote regions; and understanding and responding to rural suicide. CRRMH also works in partnership with Aboriginal communities to reduce Aboriginal suicide and suicide related behaviour.
Website - www.crrmh.com.au/
EndED Butterfly House, Australia’s first residential eating disorder treatment facility announced
The Turnbull Government will provide $1.5 million for Australia’s first residential eating disorder treatment facility on the Sunshine Coast, helping hundreds of patients each year. The joint project led by Sunshine-Coast-based endED organisation and the Butterfly Foundation will establish endED Butterfly House. “This centre will provide specialist care to hundreds of people experiencing eating disorders, through in-patient and best practice treatment programs,” said Minister for Health Greg Hunt.
Indigenous women leading the way in gender equity on boards
As NAIDOC Week focuses on Indigenous women, there are calls for Australia's biggest companies to look to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-run corporations because of their strong female representation. Low rates of women on boards is a perennial problem, with the latest goal to reach 30% representation across the ASX 200 by this year unlikely. But for one sector of Australia's business community, the issue is non-existent. Of the top 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations, overseen by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC), 400 had at least 30 per cent female directors.
Emerging mental health leaders gather for a week of learning and networking
Forty future leaders in the field of mental health will gather next week to begin a 12 month program that will expand their knowledge and develop their skills alongside expert facilitators and mentors. The fellowship program, led by the National Mental Health Commission, is the first of its kind in Australia and is designed nurture the skills and talent of emerging leaders who have a passion and commitment to improve mental health outcomes for all Australians.
Project Air Strategy Consumer & Carer Day
The theme for this year’s Consumer and Carer Day on 1 November 2018 will be ‘Recovery’ where stories from people with lived experience and family and carers will be shared. Attendees will also have the opportunity to hear about the latest research in the recovery field and have the opportunity to voice their views on issues central to the treatment of personality disorders. A number of small travel and registration bursaries are available those who would otherwise be unable to attend.
NDIS self-management: What's involved?
On Thursday 2 August the NDIA will be hosting a webinar for NDIS participants, families and carers who want to self-manage their NDIS funds. The webinar will deliver information and insights about what's involved, how to self-manage your NDIS funds and your responsibilities as a self-manager. Find out whether self-management is right for you...
Broaden your skills to support people feeling suicidal
SANE Australia is excited to announce a final round of capacity building workshops in Melbourne exploring mental illness and suicide prevention. Built on SANE’s Suicide Prevention and Recovery Guide, this non-clinical workshop encourages health professionals to reflect on their role in suicide prevention: How do you support people who are suicidal, respond to those bereaved, work with families and put the consumer at the centre of care? Workshops are for mental health workers, case-workers, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, counsellors, peer-workers, social workers, youth workers and students.
Stress Down Day
Stress Down Day is a fun and easy initiative to reduce stress and raise vital funds for Lifeline. This year Stress Down Day will take place on the 24 July 2018. To take part, Lifeline is encouraging organisations and individuals to organise their own Stress Down Day at work, school or with your friends at home! Find activity suggestions, learn more or register your event below...
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention conferences
The 2nd National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference and the 2018 World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference will this year combine to collaborate on solutions that work in suicide prevention for Indigenous people and communities. This combined event recognises that indigenous communities, both nationally and internationally, share common histories and confront similar issues stemming from experiences of colonisation. Conferences take place in Perth from 20 - 23 November 2018.
iGen: Understanding the connected generation
Orygen and UNSW’s Centre for Ideas are pleased to invite you to an important conversation about the future of young people and the impact technology is having on their lives. Join Dr Jean Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, and a panel of experts, for a discussion facilitated by Hamish Macdonald at the Sydney Opera House Studio on Thursday 19 July 2018, from 6:30 pm.
Gippsland 2018 Health & Community Services Conference
The Gippsland Health and Community Services Conference will be held this year on 15 October during World Mental Health Week. Key note speakers from around the country will convene at the Latrobe Regional Hospital for one day to share their latest research and wealth of industry experience. See the link below for a timetable of presentations and email Michelle Dabkowski at email@example.com to register early.
Call for Abstracts: Working with Trauma Conference
You are invited to be part of the 2019 Psychotherapy & Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) Working with Trauma Conference. Held in Sydney on 22 - 24 February 2019, the conference brings together a selection of local and international speakers involved in specialist fields of psychotherapy, counselling and education. Visit the website to learn more about submitting an abstract.