CEO Update - Time to reimagine NDIS approach to psychosocial disability

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia


Speaking frankly...                                       

Time to reimagine NDIS approach to psychosocial disability

Today we are pleased to release a new report into the NDIS' approach to psychosocial disability. The report, delivered to the NDIA in May, details the outcomes of a series of consultation workshops conducted by Mental Health Australia to inform the design of a tailored NDIS pathway.

The consultation was designed to gather the views of NDIS participants and their families and carers about how to improve experiences for people with psychosocial disability accessing the NDIS. More than 170 mental health consumers, carers, service providers, health professionals and policy makers attended five workshops in Townsville, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.

From the very first workshop, NDIS participants identified many layers to their experiences with suggestions for improvement. The development of a specific strategy for psychosocial disability, a key recommendation of this report, was the natural conclusion with three discrete elements:

  1. Psychosocial pathway reform,
  2. A staff competency framework, and
  3. Reference package reform.

NDIS participants wanted the NDIA to know it’s not just a matter of ‘good customer service’. It’s about how the NDIS actually supports people to achieve economic participation and social inclusion. Participants want NDIA staff and its partners to have psychosocial-disability-specific skills, knowledge and experience. This is critical because participants’ experiences in the NDIS can directly affect their wellbeing and mental health status. This point is best summed up by one of participants at the Melbourne workshop who said:

“The small, positive experiences that contribute to a sense of self and agency are not incidental or minor. They are fundamental to being able to engage in the NDIS.”

Among the 29 recommendations in the final report is particular emphasis on the need to: 

  • Improve the planning process to make sure the right supports are discussed,
  • Build flexibility into plans to accommodate episodic needs; and
  • Enable warm handovers to support coordinators who can assist to implement plans.

Mental Health Australia would like to extend our sincere appreciation to the NDIS participants, carers, and family members who attended the workshops. You generously shared your expertise, insights and ideas on the design of the pathway, often with a large contingency of service providers and officials in the room. We know you came together at late notice and this makes your positive and thoughtful contributions even more impressive. Thank you.

The workshops demonstrated the value of the consumer and carer experience, and also the value of the health professional perspective to improve the interface between mainstream health and the NDIS.

The report highlights the need for the NDIA to establish permanent arrangements for on-going and active collaboration with consumers and carers on design and planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and actions. Similarly, health professionals and service providers should be involved to strengthen existing structures and to build new processes.

Genuine co-design results in greater consumer and carer empowerment and ownership of mental health programs, effective advocacy and, ultimately, better programs and services with a higher return on government investment.

I have been very encouraged that both the NDIA and the Minister for Social Services committed to working with Mental Health Australia, our members and stakeholders, to progress significant reforms in the way people living with psychosocial disability are engaged and supported.

We are looking forward to working further with the NDIA to implement the recommendations in the report.

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer

Health professionals, psychosocial disability and the NDIS

Mental Health Australia has just commenced an important project which will identify how health professionals can be supported to assist consumers with psychosocial disability to access the NDIS.  

Through consultation with our member health professional organisations, Mental Health Australia will:

  • Analyse the experiences of, and opportunities taken by, health professionals to support people to access the NDIS, 
  • Identify the barriers experienced by health professionals in assisting people with psychosocial disability to access the NDIS, and 
  • Develop recommendations about appropriate initiatives to improve pathways for people with psychosocial disability from health services to NDIS. 

Visit the project webpage for more information.

Next Week

On Monday, I will discuss the current mental health landscape with Professor Maree Teesson AC, Director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS).

On Tuesday, I will catch up with Kim Ryan, CEO of the College of Mental Health Nurses and Professor Luis Salvador-Carulla, Head of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University.

I will attend a Productivity Commission roundtable on Wednesday where discussion will focus on the purpose and scope of the National Disability Agreement (NDA). This is an opportunity for robust discussion around key issues raised in consultations and submissions to the Commission's review of the NDA.

Following this I will participate in a teleconference of the Mental Health Australia Finance Audit and Risk Management Committee.


Wagga Wagga to attempt world record this World Mental Health Day, Oct 10

Mental illness often goes unseen and unspoken about - especially in our rural towns and communities. That's why this World Mental Health Day we're calling on the community of Wagga Wagga to come together to give visibility to an issue that affects almost half of all Australians at some point in life.

What's the record? Most people wearing high-vis vests at a single venue
Current record: 2,136 people

Up to 12,000 people will be affected by mental health issues in Wagga this year alone. This world record attempt is a fun way to bring the community together to shed a positive light on an important issue, to start a conversation, and to show support for all those who might be reluctant to ask for help.

The record attempt will take place at Bunnings Warehouse in Wagga Wagga on the morning of Wednesday 10 October. You can register to take part at

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The General Practice: Health of the Nation report draws on specifically commissioned research involving more than 1300 RACGP Fellows from all parts of Australia. It found that GPs are treating mental health issues more than any other condition, and many are struggling to keep up - forced to cram often complex cases into six-minute consultations, charge patients for more time, or wear the out-of-pocket costs.

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Accessible mental health support for veterans

The recent release of two reports acknowledged by Government today highlight the need for better mental health support for Australian veterans, particularly those under 30. Findings from Causes of death among serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel, and the National suicide monitoring of serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that Government needs to put the mental health of veterans and thier families first.

“We are committed to supporting the physical and mental health of veterans and these reports provide a valuable contribution to our understanding of veterans’ health" said Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester.

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Member Profiles

The National Rural Health Alliance is comprised of 34 national organisations committed to improving the health and wellbeing of people in rural and remote Australia. Their members include consumer groups, organisations from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, health professional organisations and service providers. Their large and diverse membership gives the NRHA a broad and authentic view of the interests of the people of rural and remote Australia.

Website is external)


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. 

Website is external)


Trauma Informed Care Symposium

The Australian Association of Social Worker’s (AASW) WA Branch is hosting a Trauma Informed Care Symposium with the theme: Structuring recovery, creating healing spaces on the 9 November 2018 in Perth.
This will be one of the leading trauma-informed care events for Western Australia in 2018, with three respected thought leaders in their field speaking on the day.

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New CEO to lead OzHelp expansion

OzHelp has announced the appointment of Darren Black as new National CEO. The announcement comes as OzHelp heads into a period of growth to meet the increasing need for its workplace wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention services. Darren is a former Army Officer and UN Peacekeeper who, since leaving the Military, has committed himself to For Purpose organisations. As former CEO of YMCA ACT, Outward Bound Australia and the NSW PCYC, he brings great leadership skills and valuable management experience to his new role with OzHelp.

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Mapping a new path: the health justice landscape in Australia

Collaborations between health and legal services, known as health justice partnerships, are part of a growing movement seeing health and legal services working collaboratively to reorient services around the needs of these people. Yet, until now, there has been no reliable data about the number, nature and scope of these partnerships. Health Justice Australia have just released a report setting out a foundational profile of the health justice landscape and the activity underway to embed legal help in health settings across Australia.

Seven of the 48 services mapped in the report titled Mapping a new path: the health justice landscape in Australia are in the mental health and/or AOD sectors.

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Enabling supported decision-making practice

The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) in Victoria has recently developed a position paper to promote supported decision-making in mental health care. Supported decision-making is a key tenet of Victoria’s Mental Health Act (2014) and enables consumers to understand choices in relation to their treatment and to receive support in making decisions about their care. The paper outlines how consumers can be supported to make informed decisions about their treatment and what principles are essential for good practice and implementation.

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2nd Annual NDIS & Mental Health Conference 2018 - Early bird rates extended

The 2nd Annual NDIS and Mental Health Conference is hosted by Mental Health Victoria and Community Mental Health Australia from 31 October to 1 November 2018, at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. Early bird rates have been extended until 21 September! Visit the website to register or for more details.

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NDIS, consumers and carers, Co-design, consultation, world mental health day

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