CEO Update - It takes strength to be an 'accidental activist'

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia


Speaking frankly...                                       

It takes strength to be an 'accidental activist'

In a week where an 8-year-old Canberra school girl successfully persuaded Kelloggs to start using ‘awesome girls’ in their advertising, an ABC journalist had to publicly air allegations of sexual harassment to be taken seriously. Both these stories have reminded me of the daily struggle for gender equality and respect in this country - a struggle which directly impacts the mental health of many.

Grace Groom, the former CEO of the then Mental Health Council of Australia, was a strong, strategic, committed and caring women. 

While sadly I never had the opportunity to work with her, nor get to know her, the legacy of her commitment to mental health reform is well known within the sector, and people often remind me of the mark she made before passing away too young.

To honour Grace Groom, and her legacy, Mental Health Australia has invited Tracey Spicer to deliver this year’s Grace Groom Memorial Oration on Monday 26 November.

The Oration will be the 12th since Grace’s passing in 2006.

A career journalist and presenter, Tracey Spicer is most recently credited for bringing the #MeToo movement forward in Australia, and is the first to admit that she’s become an ‘accidental activist’ following on from #MeToo and then the #UsToo movement. 

Tracey’s recent ‘femoir’ – part memoir, part manifesto – The Good Girl Stripped Bare highlights a career of discrimination and barriers facing women in the workplace, and the impact it had on her, and her family.

Just like Grace Groom, Tracey Spicer’s strength and courage to tell her difficult stories to the benefit of others, and not just women, has helped many I’m sure.

Honoured with an Order of Australia earlier this year for her work in the media and as an ambassador for charitable and social welfare groups, including more than 20 years as a Goodwill Ambassador for World Vision, her passion for empowering women and girls in the developing world, has been replicated tenfold at home in Australia this year.

Personally, as a father of three young adult daughters, I often reflect on the professional world they are entering and how it may have changed a generation on from when my wife and I first started in the workplace. And how these ‘accidental’ activists have helped drive that change.

Of course there is still much do, just like our own daily battles to reform and improve the mental health sector. But thanks to strong voices like Tracey Spicer’s, and many others like her, serious issues like harassment, equality, and basic respect are finally being aired. More importantly, they are being listened to and acted upon.

To have Tracey deliver this year’s Grace Groom Memorial Oration is huge honour for Mental Health Australia and we’re looking forward to sharing that honour with members, friends and guests at the National Gallery of Australia in a couple of weeks from now. You can still book tickets here.

And if you didn’t see the story about Daliah Lee and her letter informing Kelloggs that ‘girls can do something awesome too’, it’s well worth a read. 

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer

Submission to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry

Mental Health Australia's most recent submission responds to questions around the adequacy of current protections for consumers with mental health issues accessing insurance and superannuation products. The submission describes how people with mental health issues experience problems accessing the insurance market on fair terms, and proposes some regulatory and other solutions, including greater enforcement and monitoring of the current requirements on insurers under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Our submission also discusses the link between actuarial data and underwriting practices, issues which the Royal Commission did not have time to consider during its hearings.

Read the full submission on the Mental Health Australia website.


Come and work for Mental Health Australia

We have an opportunity for a passionate Administration and Project Officer (NMHCCF/ National Register) to join our team in Canberra on a full-time basis. The successful candidate will be responsible for providing admin and project support to the National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum (NMHCCF) and National Register of Mental Health Consumer and Carer Representatives.

To be considered for this role you must have demonstrated experience in providing administration and project support requiring a high degree of judgment, initiative, confidentiality and sensitivity.

Visit the webpage for more information and the Position Description.

Next Week

On Monday and Tuesday I will be in Melbourne attending business and government workshops for the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. I will also be speaking as part of an NDIS Transition Session at the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia Conference.

On Thursday I will attend meetings at Parliament House.


Australian Medical Research and Innovation Priorities 2018-2020

The second round of priorities for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) for the period 2018 to 2020 were released this week. For the first time, important areas of health research integral to good mental health care, such as Primary Care Research, Consumer-Driven Research and Public Health Interventions, were earmarked as national priorities. Other focus areas for research include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Ageing and Aged Care.

The $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund was established as an endowment fund to provide a sustainable source of funding for vital medical research and is the single largest boost in health and medical research funding in Australia’s history.

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New Coordinator-General of the Office For Mental Health and Wellbeing

Dr Elizabeth Moore will be leading the new vision for mental health and suicide prevention when she takes up the new position of ACT Coordinator General of the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing. Dr Moore has been a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and has worked in both public and private hospital and community settings. In addition, Dr Moore has held clinical and administrative positions in mental health. Dr Moore also volunteers with a not for profit organisation involved in youth mental health and multicultural wellbeing.

As Coordinator General, Dr Moore will be helping to create the Territory-wide mental health services system needed to meet the needs of the community, from prevention and early intervention through to rehabilitation and recovery.

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Young veterans at increased risk of mental illness and suicide

Young people who transition out of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) are at an increased risk of developing a mental illness and are twice as likely to die by suicide than young Australians in the general community, a new report has found. The report, The Next Post: Young people transitioning from military service and mental health, co-authored by Orygen and Phoenix Australia recommends targeted interventions and services to be developed to support this vulnerable group.

Dr Simon Rice, a senior research fellow at Orygen, said young people who leave the military with less than four years of active service are at increased risk for depression, panic attacks, suicidality and alcohol-use disorders. The report found this increased risk of mental ill-health could be attributed to a number of factors including exposure to potentially traumatic events on operations, or leaving the service involuntarily.

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Congratulations to Sue Murray at SPA

Former Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) CEO and current Director, Quality & Innovation, Sue Murray, announced her retirement earlier this week. Sue has been a passionate advocate for suicide prevention in Australia, and has demonstrated an adeptness at engaging diverse stakeholders in SPA's shared mission. At Mental Health Australia, we have worked closely alongside SPA and Sue, who has been an exceptional and long-serving sector leader.

No doubt many of you from the sector will join us in congratulating Sue on her significant contributions to suicide prevention in Australia and wishing her well in her retirement.

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Member Profiles

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) is a national peak body for counsellors and psychotherapists and for professional associations in the counselling and psychotherapy field in Australia. Their mission is to represent the profession to communities and government, and to develop the evidence-base relating to the art and practice of counselling and psychotherapy.
PACFA promotes the development of the practice of counselling and psychotherapy, and respects and supports the diversity of approaches within the profession. 

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Mentis Assist is one of Victoria’s primary not-for-profit, non-government, community managed mental health service providers supporting people with mental illness and psychiatric disabilities. With a 30 year history in the provision of high quality mental health support in the Southern/ Bayside/ Peninsula region and more recently in the areas of Casey and Cardinia, they have supported thousands of people from all walks of life as they achieve their goals. Mentis Assist supports individuals and their families, offering a range of services including one on one outreach and in office support, service and care co-ordination, group activities, family support and a suite of training and meaningful activity options. 



Review of Peer Work Hub - contribute your ideas!

The Peer Work Hub is an online resource for employers who are seeking to grow their mental health peer workforce. The NSW Mental Health Commission is reviewing the content of the Peer Work Hub to make sure its information is accessible and relevant. We invite you to take part in this review by completing a short survey. The Commission will use the results to inform our review of the Peer Work Hub and in our advocacy efforts to grow and strengthen the peer workforce. The survey is anonymous.

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SANE's Topic Tuesday: Lived Experience Forums

The next Lived Experience online forum will take place on Tuesday 20 November at 7:00 pm. The topic for this Forum, Creating and Maintaining Social Connections, comes out of the results of the community poll on the same subject. The Forum will feature a special guest from the Peer Ambassador program @jess_27 to share insights from her own lived experience. 

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Business Development Manager/ Bid Writer Position (Full-time)

Marathon Health is seeking a results-driven person to join the Business Development Team. The role will secure new business for Marathon Health through first class bid writing and proactive engagement with funders. The successful candidate will help people living in regional, rural and remote NSW and the ACT to access better health care closer to home. This is a permanent position. Applicants must be Canberra, Bathurst of Sydney based.

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2019 TheMHS Summer Forum

The next TheMHS Summer Forum will take place in Sydney from 28 February to 1 March 2019. The Forum topic is Community Mental Health Systems: Human Rights and Services and features international and domestic speakers like Professor Pat McGorry and Professor Maree Teesson. To register, visit 

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New digital body image program for boys

The Butterfly Foundation has recently launched Australia's first digital body image program for boys! RESET is a digital education program designed to start a deeper conversation with boys about negative body image and eating disorders. The program supports schools and other youth organisations in raising awareness of body image issues, reducing stigma and encouraging help seeking in boys. 

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