CEO Update - Mental Health Advocacy: The total is greater than the sum of the parts

Kaitlin Saunders

This week 80 delegates from more than 50 national Mental Health Australia member organisations, and representatives of the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum, gathered at Parliament House in Canberra.

The day’s deliberations focussed on 2 main objectives:

  • What do we expect from Government as we head towards the May budget?
  • What commitments do we demand from our political leaders as we head towards the next federal election?

Many of the members present had participated in Mental Health Australia’s Parliamentary Advocacy Day some 12 months earlier.

The lesson learned from that Parliamentary Advocacy Day was that a sector that is united can be a very powerful voice for change. That the voices of those living with the experience of mental illness matter. That service providers and others can set aside their particular interests in order to pursue the greater good.

This year’s Member’s Policy Forum considered opportunities for a shared advocacy agenda for the year ahead:

  • Strengthening consumer and carer representation and co-design
  • Investing in prevention and early intervention
  • Rebuilding community-based mental health
  • Addressing the service gaps that are opening up as the NDIS is rolled out
  • Addressing the crisis in rural and remote mental health
  • Improving mental health in Australia’s workplaces
  • Developing and expanding the mental health workforce, especially the peer workforce
  • Ensuring affordable and equitable access to services and programs
  • Tackling the root causes of stigma and discrimination

The current political environment is a very challenging one.

We need a decade of reform, but political momentum is frequently measured by the hour or by the day.

We seek to promote a message of unity and hope, but the media cycle thrives on conflict and division.

The public discourse is louder and louder, but many of our stakeholders are voiceless.

Mental Health Australia is just one small voice, operating from a small office in a non-descript suburb of Canberra, less than 10 kilometres from Parliament House. Even when we shout at the top of our voice, there are times we are hardly heard above the din.

But Mental Health Australia members operate across the county, and people living with mental illness live in every town and every suburb in every part of every state and territory.

When all of our voices in all of those places speak with one voice, it’s a voice that cannot be ignored. The total is greater than the sum of the parts.

As we head into an important 12 months of advocacy, I invite you to consider how you might add your voice to the growing chorus demanding better mental health for all Australians.

Click here to see an extended video of our Members Policy Forum at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday.

Warm regards

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

Rate this article: