CEO Update: Time to act on mental health reform

Update from the Chair

Ms Robyn Kruk AO is the Chair of Mental Health Australia and our guest blogger for this week.
Robyn’s experience incorporates positions as secretary/director-general of national and state agencies including the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet and New South Wales Health. She established and worked as the inaugural CEO of the National Mental Health Commission and supported person centred whole of government mental health reforms at the national and state level. In 2005, Robyn was appointed to the Order of Australia as a Member for service to public administration. In 2018, Robyn was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia for service to public administration, particularly through mental health reform, and other distinguished service.

Time to act on mental health reform

For the last twelve months we have acknowledged the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health as a once in a generation opportunity for true and lasting mental health reform. 

This Inquiry is a clear and concerted opportunity for us all, especially state and federal governments which have indicated their passion for mental health and suicide prevention. It is an opportunity to make incremental, lasting and systemic reform. And it is also an opportunity to both realise and articulate the social and economic benefits a well-functioning mental health system can enable.  

Ahead of the Draft Report being released on 31 October, Mental Health Australia has helped facilitate a collaborative of more than 100 organisations to sign Charter 2020: Time To Fix Mental Health in a bid to ensure this Inquiry is acted on and implemented, unlike so many before it. 
Too many reports and reviews have fallen on deaf ears and for some reason it has been too hard to fix, and even define the mental health system, or agree to the desired outcomes for people experiencing mental ill health or supporting those that do. This is despite the fact that so many people with lived experience and practitioners have agreed on so much for so long, a point which will be prominent in the Inquiry’s findings.

How can it be that with so much agreement and bipartisan support, so little has been done? That’s not to say there haven’t been improvements, but often they have come at a cost elsewhere in the system, layered upon one another in a way that makes navigating access to services all the more complicated and less effective in driving enduring system change.

It is a fact that mental health in Australia has been the subject of a multitude of reviews and reports over the last 20 years all resulting in remarkably similar recommendations, yet little action or structured support for implementation.

Since 1993, there have been 12 major reviews (see below) as well multiple evaluations of National Mental Health Plans, over 30 reports undertaken by statutory authorities and a range of specific commissioned reviews.

While national mental health policy in response to these reviews has been considered world leading, this has not translated into a world leading system of high quality and comprehensive implementation. 
As a consequence, there is now a mishmash of services and initiatives delivered by a highly variable workforce dependent on postcode, not need. 

The good news though, is that key Federal Government figures have already spoken in strong terms about their personal commitment to improve the nation’s mental health, and suicide rates in particular. This is why when the final report for the Productivity Commission’s current Inquiry into Mental Health is handed down, state and federal governments will have a genuine opportunity to work in partnership with people with lived experience, and the sector, to implement real and lasting mental health reform. Reform which can, and will, deliver tangible actions to bring about significant and ongoing improvement in the lives of people with mental health issues.

The multifaceted nature of mental illness and mental health also requires a whole-of-government approach - a National Mental Health Agreement - as this is not just a health issue. 

Multiple reviews have called for improved intergovernmental arrangements including whole-of-government collaboration addressing the root causes of mental illness across the social determinants of health including housing and employment, streamlined funding/payment models, improved Commonwealth/state collaboration and clarified roles and responsibilities between governments. The absence of a clear national agreement enables cost shifting and inaction with little accountability and a sub optimal use of scarce resources. 

But expectations and accountabilities are changing, which is why the timing is right for real and lasting mental health reform. 

The current zero suicide aspiration at a Federal Government level is a serious attempt to make a difference. It also needs the support of states and territories to be effective, as well as the united and collaborative support of the sector, just like the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health does.

Australia’s mental health requires urgent and enduring action and in Charter 2020: Time To Fix Mental Health, more than 100 organisations have agreed on nine themes for reform and the need to implement this Inquiry. An Inquiry which is a once in a generation opportunity to realise our nation’s mental wealth, and to finally fix our ailing mental health system. 

We know that investing in mental health provides substantial personal and economic benefits. We know what to do, and we know there is agreement on what needs to be done. 

This is our Charter 2020: Time To Fix Mental Health    

  • Strike a new National Agreement for Mental Health 
  • Build a mental health system that is truly person led 
  • Address the root causes of mental health issues
  • Invest in early intervention and prevention  
  • Fund Indigenous mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention according to need  
  • Provide integrated, comprehensive support services and programs 
  • Expand community based mental health care
  • Support workforce development  
  • Build an evidence based, accountable and responsive system  

Warm regards,

Robyn Kruk

Chair, Mental Health Australia

Mental Health Australia Ltd Board Nominations 2019

Voting Members of Mental Health Australia Ltd are invited to nominate for a Director’s position on the Board. All nominations and supporting material must be received by 5pm AEDST Wednesday 30 October 2019. Nominations submitted late or missing information will not be accepted.

As per Clauses 6.18 and 8.10(e) of the Mental Health Australia Ltd Constitution this election will take place by electronic means.

The following positions are open for election in 2019:

  • Three (3) Elected Directors for two year terms (to the 2021 AGM)
  • One (1) Elected Director nominated by a Consumer Voting Member organisation.

Read more about the call for nominations

Board Director Position Description

Board Director Nomination Form

Charter 2020 on mental health launch

Yesterday 28 representatives from across the mental health and suicide prevention sectors gathered in Parliament House to launch Charter 2020. This gathering was the culmination of a campaign supporting mental health reform, leading up to the release of the draft report of the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Health on 31 October 2019.

With 108 signatories across the mental health and suicide prevention sectors, Charter 2020 is a clear display of consensus across these sectors for priority areas for mental health reform. The Charter outlines nine principles which provide a lens through which to view the recommendations of the Productivity Commission Inquiry’s draft report. 

During the launch, attendees discussed and agreed to key messages across each of the nine Charter principles. The launch of Charter 2020 was a momentous display of unity, passion and commitment to mental health reform. We look forward to continuing to work together with mental health consumers and carers, service providers, governments and the Productivity Commission to seize this opportunity to improve Australia’s mental health. 

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Productivity Commission update

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

  • 15 November - Canberra
  • 18-19 November - Melbourne
  • 20 November - Perth
  • 21 November - Geraldton
  • 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. 

Read more


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.

Sydney, NSW: 6 November 2019
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

Living Library video series launched 

The Living Library video series was launched recently for Mental Health Month to celebrate the theme Share the Journey.  The films aim to help others understand the lived experience of mental illness, they tackle stigma and normalise help seeking. Each video is a community member of South Western Sydney.

These videos are available to be viewed, shared and be used for any mental health and wellbeing programs you may run with community members. A list of all platforms where videos can be found and shared can be found here

Watch here

NDIA Board announces new CEO

Following a comprehensive search, the Board of the National Disability Insurance Agency announced today that Mr Martin Hoffman has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the NDIA. Mr Hoffman will take up his three year appointment on 4 November, 2019.

The impact of psychosocial factors on mental health

The Financial Services Council (FSC) has launched a research paper which provides the life insurance industry with evidence on some prognostic and protective factors associated with mental ill-health. The report is released in mental health awareness month (October).

Celebrating social workers on International Allied Health Professionals Day

Monday was International Allied Health Professionals Day and on this day, the AASW renewed its call for mandatory registration of social workers. International Allied Health Professionals Day is a day to celebrate the contribution of allied health professionals in the community. For the AASW, it is an opportunity to pay tribute to the tireless commitment of qualified social workers in their often challenging and complex work. 

Report reveals the changing nature of work impacting the mental health of young people

On the eve of Year 12 exams, ReachOut and EY released a report which for the first time has found that the changing nature of work is impacting the mental health and wellbeing of young people, and is also resulting in high levels of exam stress.

National Carers Week

National Carers Week 2019 takes place from 13 - 19 October and is a time for the recognition and celebration of the 2.7 million Australians who provide unpaid carers to a family member or friend. Carers Australia CEO, Ara Cresswell, said, ‘Each and every week Australia’s unpaid carers provide complex, ongoing care to family members or friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness or who are frail aged.’

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Tackling poverty key to healthy rural communities

The National Rural Health Alliance, the peak body for rural and remote health in Australia, welcomed the beginning of Anti-Poverty Week, which highlights the need to reduce poverty to improve health and wellbeing in rural Australia. “The Alliance’s vision is for healthy and sustainable rural, regional and remote communities and we believe that tackling poverty is a vital part of this,” said National Rural Health Alliance CEO Gabrielle O’Kane.

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Applications open for share in $8.8 million NDIS transition assistance funding 

The Morrison Government is helping businesses get National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)-ready with $8.8 million available through the second round of NDIS Transition Assistance Funding. There are 440 grants, worth up to $20,000 each, available in this latest round.

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Member Profiles

Dementia Australia, formerly Alzheimer’s Australia, represents the 413,106 Australians living with dementia and the estimated 291,163 Australians involved in their care. They advocate for the needs of people living with all types of dementia, and for their families and carers, and provide support services, education and information. Dementia Australia is a member of Alzheimer’s Disease International, the umbrella organisation of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Associations around the world. They advocate on the basis of evidence-based policy, promote awareness of dementia, administer national contracts with the Commonwealth Government and provide research grants to emerging researchers through the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.
Website - Facebook - Twitter - @DementiaAus Instagram -

JobCo. Employment Services Inc. is a community based not-for-profit employment service provider which has been delivering a comprehensive range of employment solutions to employers and jobseekers in the Melbourne and metropolitan region since 1994. JobCo’s mission is to ensure that any person seeking employment services, training, counselling or support is assisted. For all clients they will provide a unique and individual experience of service where people feel listened to and supported in overcoming barriers, achieving equality and meaningful inclusion into their local community. Their values are reflected both in the services they provide and in the investment of staff from a broad range of disciplines and cultural backgrounds.
Website - Facebook - 




Australia’s Biggest Bushdance hosted by batyr and NSW Positive Rugby Foundation 

The NSW Positive Rugby Foundation and youth mental health organisation batyr have joined together to support the drought affected communities of regional NSW. On Tuesday 22 October, 7:30am, at Martin Place, they’re hosting Australia’s biggest bush dance in support of drought affected communities.

Dance for the Drought is calling on Sydney CBD workers to throw on a flanno, a cowboy hat and dancing shoes and join Australia’s biggest bush dance at Martin Place Amphitheatre. Make a tax-deductible donation of $30 or more and you will receive a complimentary cowboy hat to wear at the event!  All funds will go towards the ‘Get Talkin’ Tour’ campaign taking mental health education on the road. 

Read more and register

National Disability OUTLOOK 2019 publication

Following on from the release of the special commemorative publication, Equal Access, Equal Opportunity: 25th Anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, produced in October of 2017, its publisher, Faircount Media Group, launched a new flagship publication in their stable of OUTLOOK titles, National Disability OUTLOOK. Faircount has created the definitive annual publication discussing what’s relevant and important in the Australian disability sector. It provides analysis, case studies, insight and special reports from a large number of invited columnists.

The publication includes interviews from government ministers and senior executives, and will cover all aspects of the NDIA, NDIS and the Australian disability sector each year, including the successes and challenges, and the issues, as well as the people defining its future.

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AASW Conference 2019 - Celebrating Indigenous Language and Culture

In this International Year of Indigenous Languages, AASW is very pleased to announce a strong Indigenous focus in the AASW Conference 2019 – Challenging Inequality – Working together for a just society, and that throughout the conference we will be featuring the Indigenous language and culture of the Kaurna people.

With Prof. Tom Calma AO, setting the scene on Indigenous issues as keynote speaker, the conference promises to offer an exciting program that highlights the issues for Indigenous peoples across Australia, as well as the social work practice and the profession’s role in working with indigenous people to challenge inequality.

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Screening Tool for Assessing Risk of Suicide

The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) at Griffith University is hosting another 2-day Screening Tool for Assessing Risk of Suicide (STARS) training for those working with suicidal persons. The cost of this two day workshop is $700 per person, plus GST. Includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, Workbook and Handouts, Certificate of Completion; 12 month License to utilise and reproduce STARS; electronic PDF version of the protocol for reproduction!

Training dates: Thursday 24th and Friday 25th October, 2019

Time: Day 1: Arrival 8.15am for 8:30am start - 5pm Finish; Day 2: 8:45am - 4.30pm

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MHCCACT: Understanding and Responding to Trauma

Understand the current thinking about trauma informed care and how to apply this in the workplace: a two-day course, 4 & 5 November 2019 (‘Early Bird’ pricing ends 21 October 2019). This two-day course provides an in-depth look at trauma, trauma informed care and trauma informed workplaces.

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Office for Ageing Well Community Grants now open

The Office for Ageing Well Community Grants 2019-20 are now open. A range of Ageing Well Community Grants is available to fund initiatives reflecting the South Australian Government’s commitment to supporting activities and contributions of the state’s older residents to enable them to live fulfilling and meaningful lives, and to age well within their communities.

Non-government, non-profit incorporated organisations can apply for Grants for Seniors and Positive Ageing Fellowship Grants. Local governments can apply for Age Friendly SA Grants.

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Expression of interest - Community Advisory Council

The NSW Mental Health Commission is seeking applicants for the Community Advisory Council. 
Expressions of Interest are now open for the first round of applicants to the Community Advisory Council. 

The Commission seeks applicants, from across NSW who reflect the geographic, social and cultural diversity of the community, to ensure the Council represents a range of community perspectives and expertise to advise the Commission in its work to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the people of NSW

Potential candidates for Council membership should be representatives with an interest in building community resilience and wellbeing, in strengthening the experience of people and their supporters in seeking and using mental health supports and services, service leaders and advocates from across government, the community sector (including mental health and social supports) and academia.

Read more





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