CEO Update - Peer work in Australia - a new future for mental health

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia


Speaking frankly...                                                                

Mental Health Australia CEO Frank Quinlan is on holiday this week so we asked Consumer Advocate and former National Mental Health Commissioner, Janet Meagher, to be our guest blogger and outline a project she and her colleagues have been working on...

Peer work in Australia - a new future for mental health

I would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness in the mental health community of some landmark activity that has been going on to develop a unique and significant upcoming book: Peer Work in Australia- a new future for mental health.

The book is a work of intense dedication, with an imperative and belief that we must document the current situation and focus on developments into the future for peer work in this country. It’s development and production has been a triumph of collaboration; co-produced and written by 29 leading ‘lived experience’ peer workers, lived experience advocates and allies from across Australia. 

It consists of a collection of evidence and perspectives collated to reflect and inform the mental health and broader human services and disability sectors on current thinking, practice, literature, activities and challenges of lived experience peer work in this country. 

Some of the writers and contributors (plus over 40 other people who workshopped some of the material) have pioneered peer work in Australia. Others have focused on researching and reporting about the efficacy and experiences of peer workers and services. Further perspectives are from the point of view of those allies who opened doors to enable persons with lived experience and peer workforces to take their rightful, respectful place in services. The publication’s development has been financially supported by a collaboration between Mind Australia and Flourish Australia.

Very few realize that the development of peer work in Australia has a thirty-year history. It has evolved from being a disruptive consumer-led practice to being accepted as an important element of good recovery. People with mental health issues, families and service providers now expect peer work to be a part of the mix of support offerings that are available. This book, a world first, seeks to articulate the need for further development of more specialized elements of contemporary peer work practice. 

Readers will develop a new understanding of the powerful and deeply meaningful work that peer workers undertake, including being a vital component of a multifaceted team and being agents of culture change. They will see the empathic way in which peer workers walk alongside people who have experienced similar distress and support them without trying to ‘fix’ their situation; rather they support the person to believe in themselves, so that they discover their own solutions, self-agency, self-advocacy, strengths, capabilities and possibilities. Peers achieve this by using their personal lived experience purposefully and their professional experience in ways that no other profession can replicate. Peer work bridges the gap between people accessing services and people who treat, support and care about them.  

The book helps explain why Australia has seen phenomenal growth in the peer workforce over the past five years. However, peer work is still a comparatively under-utilised approach to service delivery, and formal peer supervision, career development opportunities and evaluation has lagged behind implementation of peer workforce roles.

“Peer work in Australia” is a valuable resource for decision makers, service providers, policy writers, funders, people accessing mental health services, carers and family members, peer workers, managers, researchers and academics, clinicians, students and lecturers in human services and related areas.

Details of how to buy your copy will be available here in the Mental Health Australia CEO weekly update in September. Many thanks to Mental Health Australia, the Board and Mr Frank Quinlan (CEO) for enabling us to inform our mental health communities of this important upcoming book. 

“Peer work in Australia” will have a national launch at parliament house in Canberra on 12th September with Minister for Health The Hon. Greg Hunt MP honouring the peer workforce by agreeing to launch the book. 

Janet Meagher AM 
on behalf of the Peer work in Australia Editorial Group: 
Anthony Stratford, Fay Jackson, Tim Fong and Erandathie Jayakody.

Next Week

With an early start to the week, I will be participating in an ACT Not-for-Profit CEO’s Breakfast Forum facilitated by Westwood Spice on Monday morning. 

On Tuesday, Kylie Wake, Director of Consumer and Carer Programs will be attending the breakfast launch of Caring Fairly. Caring Fairly is a new national campaign led by unpaid carers and organisations that support them and advocate for their rights. Caring Fairly is coordinated by Mind Australia and supported by a coalition of partners including NGOs, peak bodies, and carers.

Following the launch, Emma Coughlan, Senior Policy and Project Officer will be attending the Caring Fairly follow up session discussing new research and policies aimed at addressing barriers to workforce participation by unpaid carers across Australia.

Also on Tuesday, Belinda Highmore Acting Director of Policy and Projects is attending the Private Health Insurance Working group on improved models of care.

On Wednesday I have morning meetings at Parliament House, followed by a Mental Health Australia Finance Audit & Risk Management Committee teleconference.


NDIS now supporting close to 200,000 Australians with almost 1 in 3 accessing supports for the first time

Earlier this week, the NDIA released the latest NDIS Quarterly Report for the period 1 April 2017 - 30 June 2018. Highlights from the report include:

  • As at 30 June 2018, there were 183,965 Australians being supported by the NDIS, representing a 13 per cent growth on previous quarter,
  • 54,802 people had received support for the first time under the NDIS,
  • 88 per cent of participants surveyed this quarter have reported a satisfaction rating of ‘good’ or ‘very good’ – which reflects positive progress under pathway reform,
  • 16,755 service providers are now approved to deliver disability supports, an increase of 17 per cent on the previous quarter. 

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$200 million for medical research to overcome health challenges

Minister for Health, The Hon Greg Hunt MP, says the Government will invest $200 million in new medical research projects to improve the health of Australian through new treatments and support, tackling areas of obesity, mental health and cardiovascular disease. A total of 320 projects will receive funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) following a competitive process. The NHMRC projects total almost $192 million and will aim to find solutions mental health among a wide range of health challenges. 

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New landmark report on the Stolen Generations

This week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Healing Foundation released Australia's first demographic study of the Stolen Generations and their descendants. The report found that, even compared to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contemporaries, the estimated 17,000 members of the Stolen Generations alive in 2018 continue to experience significantly higher levels of social and economic disadvantage, and higher rates of chronic health conditions and disability. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion said this report was a critical analysis needed to enable governments to better meet the contemporary needs of members of the Stolen Generations. 

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Member Profiles

The Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) is a unique initiative targeted at improving interdisciplinary mental health practice and collaborative care within Australia. MHPN support primary mental health practitioners through local networks and their online professional development webinar program. Website


Founded in 1991 Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), formerly known as the Australian Association for Exercise and Sports Science (AAESS), is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners. Website is external)


Webinars on the Optimising Psychosocial Support Project now available

Mental Health Australia recently concluded a project which aimed to develop alternative ways to support people with mental health issues and psychosocial disability in the NDIS. As part of this project, Mental Health Australia held two webinars for the mental health community to learn more about the project: its scope; methodology; possible outcomes; and how the results might be used to inform the NDIS' approach to supporting participants with psychosocial disability. Both of these webinars are now available in full on the project webpage.

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New multicultural anxiety support group

The Anxiety Recovery Centre Victoria (ARCVic) is launching a new multicultural anxiety support group designed to help migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and members of other multicultural communities adapt to life in Australia. The support group will meet on the 1st Monday of each month from 7:30pm – 9:00pm. Attendance is free.

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Free information forum: NDIS and mental health

On Tuesday 28 August, Ermha’s Mental Health Peer Support Group will present this forum for community members in Berwick with mental health issues, carers and service providers. The forum will provide the opportunity to: 

  • Understand how the NDIS works,
  • Learn more about preparation and planning for transition to the NDIS,
  • Understand NDIS and Mental Health,
  • Ask questions about how the NDIS will impact you and your family.

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2nd Annual NDIS and Mental Health Conference

Mental Health Victoria and Community Mental Health Australia are delighted to host the 2nd Annual NDIS & Mental Health Conference from 31 October to 01 November 2018, at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. Find out more at the link below.

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Self-care for mental health professionals

Register now for an interdisciplinary Q&A about self-care and its importance to all mental health professionals. Presented by the Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN), this live event will include a Q&A discussion with Ann Evans (psychologist), Associate Professor Louise Nash (psychiatrist), Dr Simon Willcock (GP) and Katherine Fairest (mental health nurse), facilitated by Dr Catherine Boland (psychologist).

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8th Annual Borderline Personality Disorder Conference 2018

The Australian BPD Foundation invites you to the 8th Annual National Borderline Personality Disorder Conference to be held in September at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane Qld. The National Borderline Personality Disorder Conference draws on a strong history of successful national events around Australia and 2018 marks the inaugural Queensland event.

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'Reach out before you freak out' video series

ReachOut have been working with young people to develop a new series of short films that show students how reaching out for support can change their experience of everyday issues. These are a set of free online videos and digital tools to encourage the development of positive mental health and wellbeing across schools and to extend the impact of existing programs. The video series is based on young people's real stories...

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peer work, carers, lived experience

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