CEO Update: How can the sector influence the Productivity Commission’s Final Report?

How can the sector influence the Productivity Commission’s Final Report?

One week on from the release of the Productivity Commission Inquiry’s Draft Report into Mental Health, I know our policy team will enjoy a well-earned break this weekend, having compiled such a detailed Preliminary Analysis for the benefit of members and stakeholders.  

Thank you to our dedicated policy and communications teams who have all contributed to this detailed analysis of the Draft Report. Our Preliminary Analysis, alongside last week’s Quick Scan Summary and Charter 2020 are all designed to help formulate further responses and submissions as the Productivity Commission undertakes Public Hearings over the coming months. In short, we can all still work to bolster and further improve the Final Report. 

From the outset there was a great deal of expectation surrounding the release of this report, and from our end that expectation still remains, having now had time to read and process the draft. 

First and foremost, Mental Health Australia welcomes the careful thinking and detail the Productivity Commission provided in the Draft Report, which has many positive aspects. 

It is a useful and contemporary statement of the breadth and depth of the community and economic impact of mental illness. It works hard to properly place the experience of mental illness in a broader social context. It has set out particular areas for focus, like housing, justice and education. And it has attempted to grapple with details of accountability and governance.

The Draft Report is also at times damning about national progress. For example, it states:

There is no clear national vision for mental health. Although the National Mental Health Policy 2008 declares that it ‘provides a strategic vision for further whole-of-government mental health reform in Australia’ there is little evidence that its development involved collaboration with non-health portfolios. This is consistent with the subject of the vision being the mental health system, rather than mental health outcomes. 

There is also a disconnect between the national vision statement and those developed by individual State and Territory Governments… While the vision statement in the National Mental Health Policy provides context, no jurisdictions refer to COAG’s vision in their strategic mental health plans.

Vol 2, p.898

With the timing of this Draft Report, and the Final Report to be delivered to Government in May 2020, we should also be mindful of a range of activities underway that may still influence the direction of future reform. The National Mental Health Commission is preparing Vision 2030. The Victorian Mental Health and Aged Care Royal Commissions are progressing. There is clearly work underway in relation to suicide prevention and a zero target, while the Morrison Government has already committed to the development of a childhood mental health strategy.

As always, the policy landscape is complex and as a sector we understand how little benefit comes from just applying more band-aid solutions. We also understand how easy it is to ignore recommendations, no matter how well written, if they do not interrelate with each other. Which is why we need to work together and keep assisting the Productivity Commission to realise the full extent of its ambition, as this report moves from the draft to final stage over the coming months.

In looking to provide the Productivity Commission with sector-wide feedback it is interesting to consider hypothetically: if everything in the Draft Report was implemented fully and completely, would it have enough of an impact to really shift the national response to mental illness?  

Some critical elements appear to be missing, like a concept of recovery, structures to support broader consumer and carer systemic advocacy, and a clear commitment to community-based services. So the question now is: how can the sector work with the Productivity Commission to further articulate a suitably ambitious reform agenda that represents generational change? It is not simply enough to do what we are doing now, but better.

Kind regards,

Melanie Cantwell
Acting CEO


The Notice of Annual General Meeting has already gone out to Voting Members. A general meeting of Mental Health Australia Ltd will be held at the National Press Club of Australia, National Circuit, Barton, ACT on Monday 25 November 2019 at 5.30pm. Members should arrive at 5:15pm for registration. 

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Mental Health Australia’s Preliminary Analysis of the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report

Mental Health Australia has compiled a detailed Preliminary Analysis of the Productivity Commission Draft Report.

You can read the Preliminary Analysis here.

Productivity Commission hearings

The Productivity Commission will seek further information and feedback following the release of the draft report on 31 October 2019. The Productivity Commission is advising they will hold public hearings on the following:

  • 15 November - Canberra
  • 18-19 November - Melbourne
  • 20 November - Geraldton
  • 21 November - Perth
  • 25-26 November - Sydney
  • 28 November - Broken Hill
  • 2 December - Rockhampton
  • 3 December - Brisbane
  • 9 December - Launceston

Adelaide and Darwin public hearings will be held at dates to be advised in early 2020. Please note registrations to attend or participate in the hearings is not open yet. 

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Join the team: Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health Australia

Mental Health Australia has begun recruiting for our new Chief Executive Officer. Reporting to the Board, the Chief Executive Officer provides strategic leadership to promote and meet Mental Health Australia’s aims and objectives and to represent the interests of our members. It is a highly influential role which works closely with stakeholders to advocate for and grow the long-term investment in mental health funding. Engaging with members, consumers and carers and other stakeholders, you will lead the work to advocate for a better mental health system, through improved systems design and interface.

Read the full position advertisement

Congratulations to the 2019 Mental Health Prize winners

Congratulations to the CEO of the National Mental Health Commission, Suicide Prevention Advisor to the Prime Minister, and former Mental Health Australia Board Member Christine Morgan, and mental health advocate and World Mental Health Day Ambassador Joe Williams on the well-deserved recognition of all their hard work and dedicated advocacy for mental health. 

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Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News


Workshops - The Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia

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.

Embrace Multicultural Mental Health (the Embrace Project) will be holding free workshops around Australia across 2019-2020 to support implementation of the Framework by mental health services, Primary Health Networks, individual practitioners and others. The workshops will provide an overview of the Framework and explore how it can be tailored to best meet your needs and the needs of your local community.

Workshop dates are listed below, along with indicative dates for early 2020 (to be confirmed with all states and territories). Please click here to register for a workshop near you.

Adelaide, SA: 19 November 2019
Brisbane, QLD: 4 December 2019
Perth, WA: TBC February/March 2020
Darwin, NT: TBC February/March 2020
Canberra, ACT: TBC



Mental Health News

COAG Health Council meeting communique - 31 October and 1 November 2019

Health Ministers from the Commonwealth, each state and territory and New Zealand met in Perth at the COAG Health Council to discuss a range of national health issues. 

Mental health a COAG priority

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, says Health ministers have unanimously agreed to work in partnership to address the nationally critical issue of mental health.

Better use of medicines has a role in mental health care

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia is urging the Government to tackle the challenge of improving the use of medicines in the treatment of mental ill health. “Mental ill-health is a major health challenge in Australia and we welcome the Productivity Commission’s commitment in its Draft Report on Mental Health to improving prevention, detection and treatment,” Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President A/Prof Chris Freeman said. 

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Working to reduce youth suicide in Alice Springs

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, has used his visit to Alice Springs to meet with and hear from local organisations who are working to address youth suicide in the region.

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Australian Digital Health Agency 2018-19 Annual Report tabled

The Australian Digital Health Agency 2018–19 Annual Report has been tabled in the Australian Parliament, outlining the Agency’s outcomes and operations between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2019. “The 2018–19 Annual Report shows the Agency is making significant progress toward the key priorities set out in the National Digital Health Strategy, endorsed by all state and territory governments through the Council of Australian Government (COAG) Health Council,” says Agency Chief Executive Officer, Tim Kelsey.

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Northern Territory Mental Health Coalition: Productivity Commission Draft Report 

The mental health burden of disease is much higher in the NT compared to the national average. In the NT mental health conditions contribute to 16.3% of the burden of disease, compared to 7.4% in Australia as a whole. The mental health system in the Northern Territory operates at the intersection of complex interrelated social, cultural and historical determinants in a primarily remote context. Mental health system reform should be considered across health, justice, housing and social support including families and community sectors and leads to a better integrated and coordinated mental health system.

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National Consumer Peak Alliance established

This week saw the establishment of a National Consumer Peak Alliance led and owned by state peak bodies that will influence, lead and advocate on behalf of people who experience mental health challenges. The National Alliance includes peak bodies from:

  • Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC)
  • Being (NSW Consumer Advisory Group )
  • Consumers of Mental health WA (CoMHWA)
  • ACT MH Consumer network
  • SA lived experience leadership and advocacy network
  • Flourish Tasmania

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Schools need social workers: AASW welcomes call for improved wellbeing in schools

The AASW welcomes the interim report on mental health by the Productivity Commission, and its emphasis on schools as places where young people’s mental health concerns can be addressed early and effectively.  AASW National President Christine Craik said the call by the Commission to have ‘wellbeing teams’ in schools aligns with the Association’s long-term advocacy for social workers in all schools.

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On Monday, I will be attending meetings up at Parliament House. 

On Tuesday, Harry Lovelock, Director - Policy and Projects will be presenting at the MIFA Biannual Conference in Sydney.

On Wednesday, I will be attending the Towards Zero Suicide Prevention Forum in Canberra, led by Christine Morgan, National Suicide Prevention Adviser to the Prime Minister. Following the forum, Lachlan Searle, Director - External Relations and I will be meeting with Dr Stephen King of the Productivity Commission. 

On Thursday, Mental Health Australia staff will be attending Minister Stuart Robert’s National Press Club address.

On Friday, the senior team and I will be meeting with senior bureaucrats at the Department of Health. 


Member Profiles

For over 20 years, Emerging Minds (previously the Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association – AICAFMHA) has been dedicated to advancing the mental health and emotional wellbeing of Australian infants, children, adolescents and their families. Emerging Minds develops mental health policy, services, interventions, training, programs and resources in response to the needs of healthcare professionals, children and their families. These include online resources, practical books, DVDs, online and face-to-face training. They partner with family members, national and international organisations to implement evidence based practice into the Australian context.
Website: Facebook Twitter: 


Lutheran Services Graceville Centre is an integral part of the healthcare community on the Sunshine Coast. They work with clients who are living with intellectual, cognitive or psychiatric disabilities. They help people explore the key concepts of hope, connectedness, active sense of self, personal responsibility and discovery. Their ultimate goal is to assist people in fulfilling their potential so that they can live with as much independence as possible.
Website -…



Blue Knot Foundation: Practical Guidelines for Clinical Treatment of Complex Trauma

Blue Knot Foundation, Australia’s National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma has launched new 2019 updated Practice Guidelines for Clinical Treatment of Complex Trauma. Co-authored by Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, President and Pam Stavropoulos PhD, Head of Research these clinical guidelines update the 2012 internationally acclaimed and extensively endorsed Practice Guidelines for Treatment of Complex Trauma and Trauma Informed Care and Service Delivery.

The 2019 guidelines have also been extensively endorsed by leading academics, clinicians and researchers in the complex trauma and dissociation field prior to their release, including by the peak international body – ISSTD: ‘truly remarkable – masterful - ground-breaking - milestone’. 

They provide an integrative guide for diverse practitioners working with complex trauma and dissociative clients.
In addition a companion guide to the 2019 Guidelines – combined Complementary Guidelines which provide an overview of the differences between working with complex trauma clients and standard counselling approaches as well as a guide to therapist competencies for working with complex trauma and dissociation have also been released.

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Position available: Deputy Mental Health Complaints Commissioner

Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC) is seeking a Deputy Commissioner. Reporting to the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner has overall responsibility for the effective delivery and integration of the core functions of complaints resolution and review work, investigations, education and engagement activities, and the provision of specialist advice and recommendations relating to safeguarding issues and service improvements. The Deputy Commissioner leads and manages the operations of these teams within the office to ensure that practices and processes reflect relevant legislative requirements, standards and the MHCC principles.

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National Suicide Prevention Conference 2020: Abstract submissions now open

Suicide Prevention Australia invites submissions of abstracts for presentation at our National Suicide Prevention Conference 2020. If you’d like to share your ideas, research, or latest thinking on suicide prevention at one of the most significant sector conferences of the year, then here’s your chance. Submissions are due by 5pm AEDST on Friday, 6 December 2019.

The 2020 conference theme, One Voice – One Vision reflects the need for a unified approach in our quest to reduce suicide rates. The five program streams for 2020 are policy, research, programs and services, innovation and priority populations.

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Position Available: Director of Policy and Advocacy at FECCA

FECCA is hiring a Director of Policy and Advocacy FECCA is looking for a Director of Policy and Advocacy to support the existing team in the implementation and evaluation of social policy in relation to people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and provide high level advice on emerging policy issues.  The candidate must have highly developed conceptual and analytical skills, and experience in providing considered, sensitive and concise policy advice on complex issues which may be publicly sensitive.

Applications close Monday 11 November.

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AHURI and Mind Housing Conference: Register now 

AHURI invites you to join them at the Mercure Sydney on Wednesday, 19 February, 2020 for their next national one-day conference— Housing: the foundation for mental health — held in partnership with Mind Australia.
This AHURI one-day conference, presented in partnership with Mind Australia, draws on new national data to examine the reciprocal links between the mental health and housing trajectories of individuals. The research offers new evidence on circuit breakers that can interrupt the downward trajectory in which many people find themselves. The official launch of the final report from the AHURI and Mind Australia Trajectories research project underpins the conference. 

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MHCCACT: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training in November

Mental Health Community Coalition ACT invites you to attend Lifeline ASIST: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, a two-day course on 14 & 15 November 2019. Would you know what to do if someone talked to you about having thoughts of suicide? This two-day program is designed for people who want to feel more confident and competent in helping a person at risk of suicide. ASIST is a highly interactive, practical, practice-oriented workshop.

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2020 National Men’s Health Gathering

By now, you may have started preparing your abstract for consideration in the 2020 National Men’s Health Gathering program. As the submission deadline of Monday, 2nd December is approaching, why not set aside 20 minutes to complete your submission today? The 2020 Gathering will be held from Wednesday, 13th to Friday, 15th May at the Rydges Melbourne and is an excellent opportunity to share your knowledge and discoveries with your industry colleagues. Your abstract must be completed and submitted by the portal close date of Monday, 2nd December 2019.

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Launch of Community of Practice series for NDIS Support Coordinators in the ACT

The Mental Health Community Coalition ACT in collaboration with the ACT Office of Disability is launching a Community of Practice series for NDIS Support Coordinators in the ACT. You are inivted to the inaugural Community of Practice on 14 November between 10:00 am-2:00 pm, in Pilgrim House. This event is an opportunity to help design the future Communities of Practice for NDIS Support Coordinators. 

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Royal Commission into Aged Care, Quality and Safety Community Forum

The Royal Commission Community Forums are an opportunity for members of the local community to hear about the work of the Royal Commission and for those who register to make a statement, to offer ideas on the challenges, strengths and opportunities to improve aged care. 

The Commission wants to hear stories about aged care and how aged care could be improved. We would especially like to hear from older people, families, carers and  care workers.  As there is usually a high demand from community members to speak about their direct aged care experience at the forum and limited speaking places, we recommend you register your intent to be a speaker as soon as possible.

You are invited to attend this Community Forum and to pass this invitation on to community members. Your assistance in promoting this forum would be appreciated by the Commission.The Royal Commission into Aged Care, Quality and Safety will be holding a Community Forum as follows:

  • Time: 9.30 to 12:30
  • Date: Wednesday 27 November 2019
  • Venue: NEX @ Wests City (Newcastle Exhibition & Convention Centre)
  • Address: 309 King Street, Newcastle West NSW 2302

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Network MindOUT  Webinar: Sydney Queer Muslims

Sydney Queer Muslims is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing social support, education and resources to individuals and families in NSW. They advocate for better access to mental health care and safer pathways for people escaping family violence. This webinar will highlight some key issues affecting LGBTQ+ Muslims in Sydney as well as what Sydney Queer Muslims is doing to address them.  Specifically, we will be discussing a recent pilot project that Sydney Queer Muslims conducted with the support of National LGBTI Health Alliance that allowed us to increase our capacity to help our community.


  • Tuesday 19th November, 2019
  • NSW, VIC, ACT, QLD and TAS: 1pm to 2pm
  • SA and NT: 11.30pm to 12.30pm
  • WA: 10am to 11pm

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Nepean Blue Mountains PHNMental Health Planning Forums

Nepean Blue Mountains PHN is partnering with Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District to hold both face-to-face and online community forums, inviting people who use local mental health and suicide prevention services to help shape the way services are planned and designed for the future. A face to face forum will be held in each of the local government areas.

Registration is essential for catering purposes and to receive a pre-forum information package, and a light meal will be provided. Support persons are welcome to attend. Please register your support person separately. 


  • Blue Mountains: Wednesday December 4, 1.00 pm - 4.30 pm - Register by Tuesday November 26
  • Hawkesbury: Monday November 25, 1.00 pm to 4.30 pm - Register by Wednesday November 20
  • Lithgow: Friday December 6, 10.00 am to 1.00 pm - Register by Thursday November 28
  • Penrith: Tuesday December 3, 5.30 pm - 9.00 pm - Register by Monday November 25

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Volunteering Australia: Announcement of Volunteering Resource Hub

Volunteering Australia is delighted to announce they will be establishing a national Volunteering Resource Hub. The Resource Hub will be a centralised place where volunteer management professionals can go to for resources, tools and templates.

Please take VA’s short survey to have your say on what should be included in the Resource Hub.

If your organisation has volunteering resources it would like to contribute then VA want to hear from you. You can submit resources by emailing them to, sending them via WeTransfer, or uploading them to Dropbox.       

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