CEO Update from Mental Health Australia: Embrace Refugee Week 2022

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Embrace Refugee Week

As we come to the end of Refugee Week for 2022, members of the Embrace Lived Experience Group, Nevena and Shaima have been kind enough to share some words about their refugee experiences.

Content warning: Sometimes words can cause sadness or distress, or trigger traumatic memories for people. For some people, these responses can be overwhelming. If you need to talk to someone, help is available


The arrival of the “1992 war in Sarajevo” was transforming everything and everyone completely.

Livelihood was gone within seconds. Loss after loss became my second nature. Betrayal and the misanthropic actions of others (my neighbours, friends, even close family members) turned out to be a very painful experience. Then, these feelings – alienation, loneliness, grief, sorrow, misery, concerns, foggy mind, body pains, skin sensations  – manifested themselves through agitation, anxiety, and tension, but volcanic expressions of anger above all.

Everyday life was filled with constant internally and externally induced stress …

Six years later, in August 1998 we landed in Adelaide. Only 7 days later, we were ready to enter the world, where our identity was to be restructured, and our belonging regained.

Many findings would testify that refugees are resilient people. I would say that for sure I never had a single thought of ‘bouncing back’. Keeping going forward was what allowed me to develop new knowledge – mainly by being the best member of many libraries. Books were my best friends for a long period of time, and very often the only support system I had.

However, the life experience of constant change helped me to learn how to adjust quickly and calmly. Nowadays, the always new but constantly richer me, is very well trained and skilled in the art of awareness. This is an accomplishment that helps any trauma triggers to be recognised in a timely way.

Thank you to you, beautiful, kind and supportive people. You are the home where the real value dwells.


When I was in grade 7 in Afghanistan, my family and I fled to Iran due to the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan.

We lived in Iran as illegal refugees for about 3 years. In Iran, we did not have the right to access public health care services, go to school and university and work. My older brother suffered from mental health illness when we were living in Iran.

A few months after coming to Australia, my older brother’s mental health illness got very worse.  My family member and I could not speak English at all, and we did know where to go and seek support. This situation was extremely stressful and hard. When my younger brother and I were at school, we were not mentally present at classes because all we could think about was our brother’s illness and not the study.  My younger brother and I often had to skip school and to stay home with our older brother to ensure he did not hurt himself.

My message to people who are going through the same situation as me is, to stay strong and positive no matter what. 

Mental Health Australia is proud to lead the Embrace Project, which works to bring a national focus on the mental health of migrants and refugees. The Project values the contributions of members of our Lived Experience Group, who provide input on the mental health issues affecting them as individuals, carers, families and communities. The Project works to promote mental health services who are cognisant and responsive to the needs and experiences of refugees and migrants. 

For more information on the Project  visit


My Diary Next week

On Monday and Tuesday, I will be joining a meeting of the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum

I also have a TheMHS planning meeting, a meeting with the Global Health team, and a meeting of the Expert Advisory Group for the Initial Assessment and Referral Project.

On Wednesday, I have meetings about peri-natal mental health, and positioning AOD responses as part of the mental health landscape.

On Thursday, I have some in-person meetings with our Melbourne-based staff, and on Friday I have both an NDIA Disability Representative Organisations Forum, and a CALD Community COVID-19 Health Advisory Group meeting.

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Mental Health Australia members are invited to send us news, announcements, job vacancies, events or other notices for inclusion in the Weekly CEO Update newsletter. To do so, simply fill out this form by COB each Thursday for your notice to appear in the newsletter.

 Job vacanciesLived Experience Strategic Lead

A new, exciting senior manager role has been created for a person with a lived experience to lead the development of the lived experience voice in all Wellways activities, including governance, operations, workforce, business development, recruitment, quality and evaluation.

Find out more

Advancing Multicultural Australia

The Embrace Team recently attended and presented at the Advancing Multicultural Australia conference, co-hosted by the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA), and the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV). It was an amazing two days. More than 900 people attended the conference, and the atmosphere was electric.

What really stood out was that multicultural communities in Australia don’t face barriers to acknowledging mental health, they face barriers when accessing services.

This is why cultural responsiveness is so vital within the mental health space. Services, practitioners, Primary Health Networks and others must understand how to work effectively in a multicultural context. 

The speakers were incredibly passionate and truly highlighted the strength, vitality, and resilience of multicultural communities. Many speakers called for immediate action on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, it is high time for Australians to walk together to build a better future – a future built on foundations of truth and healing.

Australia has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit the reset button on how we behave towards one another.

For more information on the Embrace Project and Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia visit

Ruth Das presenting on behalf of the Embrace ProjectRuth Das and Ashumita Badhan at the Embrace Project booth during the FECCA 2022 ConferenceThe Uluru Statement from the Heart on display at FECCA 2022 conference 

Featured Members

Centre for Muslim Wellbeing Logo

The Centre for Muslim Wellbeing is a not for profit organisation with a vision of being a leading provider of services that builds flourishing individuals and vibrant communities in Australia. CMW has a focus on prevention and early intervention, advocacy, and raising awareness of the issues of mental health and social isolation within Muslim communities to ensure community members have the support they need before they get to crisis.

Primary & Community Care Services logo

Primary & Community Care Services (PCCS) is a local health organisation working to make it easier for people to access the health and community services they need. We provide access to community-based services that include nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, social work, care coordination and psychological support services.

 Mental Health News

Announcement of new Department Secretaries

Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has announced announcing an intention to recommend to the Governor-General the appointment of four new secretaries of Australian Public Service departments. Jim Betts will be appointed as Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts. Jan Adams AO PSM will be appointed as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Natalie James will be appointed as Secretary of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations. Jenny Wilkinson PSM will be appointed as Secretary of the Department of Finance. Additionally, David Fredericks PSM will be leaving his role as Secretary of the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, to lead the newly created Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

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Lived experience justice to lead mental health review

As part of the reform of Victoria’s mental health and wellbeing system, the Victorian Government is putting lived experience at the heart of an Independent Review that will dive deeper into the criteria, regulations and future legislation for compulsory mental health treatment. As soon as the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act passes the Parliament, the Independent Review will begin. Justice Shane Marshall AM has been appointed as Chair of the Independent Review, which will also look at how mental health decision-making laws in Victoria can be aligned with other medical decision-making legislation.

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Calling on recruits for new winter relief workforce to help protect NDIS participants

The Hon. Bill Shorten MP, Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, is calling on qualified disability support workers to join a register to cover potential workforce shortages and critical shifts over the winter months. The Winter Relief Workforce register ensures the continuity of supports for NDIS participants in the event the community is hit with workforce shortages.

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NDIS pricing boosted to support participants

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants will have better access to safe supports following the completion of the Annual Pricing Review. From 1 July 2022, price limits for all NDIS supports delivered by disability support workers will increase by 9 per cent, including a 2 per cent temporary loading in 2022-23, and all current NDIS plan budgets will be automatically increased to account for these price limit changes. The financial impact of these changes is contained within the existing budgetary projections. “These improvements will better support participant outcomes and reduce workforce turnover by funding better conditions for NDIS workers,” The Hon. Bill Shorten, Minister for the NDIS and Government services said.

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Manual of Resources for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention

The Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention has developed a collection of practical resources and tools that people, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous, can use to make a real difference in promoting positive mental health and social emotional wellbeing, and preventing suicide in First Nations communities. The Manual can be accessed online here, and has over 400 resources and links including written resources, videos, podcasts and apps. The resources are across the full spectrum of suicide prevention, have been developed by or with First Nations peoples, and are for individuals, friends and family, communities, practitioners, service providers and service commissioners. For further information or to book a demonstration of the Manual, contact the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention.


New release from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: National Perinatal Data Collection

The health of both mothers and babies can have important lifelong implications. In 2019, there were 303,054 babies born to 298,567 mothers in Australia. Explore the characteristics and health of mothers and their babies through interactive data visualisations, and in-depth information and trends on the antenatal period, labour and birth, and outcomes for babies at birth. This web report also provides information on stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths, including causes, maternal characteristics, timing and investigations.

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A transition plan for Activ support workers with disability

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth today announced the Australian Government will provide grant funding of up to $7.8 million to Western Australia disability employment provider, Activ Foundation, to keep its large-scale industrial work sites open for another 18 months to better support the transition of employees into new placements. This is part of the Government’s election commitment to improve employment outcomes for people with a disability. In May, Activ Foundation announced its intention to close its large-scale industrial work sites in Western Australia, where more than 750 supported employees with disability currently work. The closures were to commence from mid-July 2022.

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Mental Health Opportunities and Resources

Public Submissions on the Draft Implementation Plan for the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia (GDPSA) is inviting submissions on the draft Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration Implementation Plan (the Implementation Plan).

Submissions close on 15 July 2022.

The Implementation Plan sets out a 10-year plan to implement the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration (the Declaration). The Declaration outlines 5 key themes to achieve the best possible mental health and SEWB system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Find out more 

National Rural Health Conference

The 16th National Rural Health Conference will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 2–4 August 2022.

The full program for the 16th National Rural Health Conference is now available online. The program includes details of keynote, invited and concurrent speakers. Keynote speakers now include well-known journalist and author Stan Grant.

Find out more 

Research project – how patient groups want to interact with the pharmaceutical industry 

The Patient Voice Initiative (PVI) in collaboration with CaPPRe are looking for participants from a diverse range of positions including representatives of patient groups, patient advisory and support groups and/or online patient community leaders and advocates.

If you are willing and able to participate in this online survey (approx. 25 minutes), please register below.


Focus group ­­– barriers to effective responses to mental health conditions and drivers of antidepressant prescribing

The Department of Health has commissioned Nous Group to undertake a review of the drivers of antidepressant prescribing behaviours, with a particular focus on children and adolescents.

The review will seek to understand what is currently in place to support best practice responses to mental health conditions, the drivers of antidepressant prescribing, and what changes could be made to support more effective responses to mental health conditions.

On Thursday 4 August 4:00-5:00pm AEST, Nous will hold a virtual focus group with representatives from mental health organisations. Due to limited numbers, only 1-2 representatives from each organisation can attend. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact

If you would like to attend, email by Thursday 21 July (CC to register your interest.

BEING Connected

BEING – Mental Health Consumers is pleased to invite peer workers across NSW to join our inaugural peer worker professional development and networking event: BEING Connected.

Held over two days  – Monday 27 & Tuesday 28 June 2022, at the Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park – this event provides an opportunity for NSW peer workers to learn about professional development and the benefits of connecting with peers. 

There will be multiple guest speakers from throughout the mental health and suicide prevention sectors, including NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey and former NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley (plus more to be announced).

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National Suicide Prevention Conference 2023

Suicide Prevention Australia’s National Suicide Prevention Conference 2023 will be held over 1 – 4 May in Canberra. This event provides a gateway to unite suicide prevention experts to showcase evidence-based solutions and robust discussion, focused on solutions for saving lives.

Find out more and register  

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