CEO Update: Trauma, community-led recovery and hope

Trauma, community-led recovery and hope

Earlier this week at our Mini Members Policy Forum we had the chance to hear from Dr Rob Gordon, a previous colleague and clinical psychologist who consults on emergency recovery for the Red Cross and Victorian Department of Health. You can view Rob’s presentation here.

Rob has spent more than 35 years working with people affected by disasters and dealing with trauma, and in recent months has been a crucial part of the recovery planning and delivery following our disastrous Black Summer and then the impacts of it colliding with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on research, clinical experience and the narrative of those living through trauma, Rob’s compassionate and wise analysis of what lies ahead for those with ‘bushfire brain’ reminded us all that the road ahead will be long and slow, and that there’s no fast way to recover and move forward from trauma and loss.

So less than six months out from the next fire season, and knowing what we know from experts like Rob and previous disasters, what will change? What have we learned that can benefit our communities? And what does the road ahead look like for those who are still facing the challenges of recovery?

At this week’s Senate Inquiry into lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019-2020 I had the opportunity to give evidence on how mental health and wellbeing is intrinsically related to physical wellbeing and safety. That during the recent bushfire season, thousands of Australians struggled to meet their basic needs, due to restricted access to shelter, food, drinkable water and breathable air.

For many, this was also compounded by experiences of loss. A very real risk of loss of life, loss of security, employment, property, and access to social support. But ultimately a loss and traumatic change to future plans, hopes and dreams.

Pleasingly the impacts on mental health and wellbeing were rightly acknowledged both by governments and the media and this acknowledgement represents a significant shift towards reduced stigma and increasing understanding of mental health. It also goes a long way to promote help seeking.

In our Submission to Senate Inquiry we also acknowledged and celebrate the strength of local communities. Through local community and government crisis responses, many fire-affected communities throughout Australia are now in the process of having their physiological needs met. As these immediate post-disaster needs are met, we must proactively support the mental health and wellbeing recovery of communities as they recover from the last bushfire season, struggle with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, and prepare for the next bushfire season.

At Mental Health Australia we are also particularly concerned for the vulnerable populations who continue to bear the brunt of these impacts as Australia continues to feel the effects of climate change. Regional, rural and remote communities are disproportionately affected by bushfires and people living in these communities with severe and enduring mental illness are a particularly vulnerable group in this sense.

Sadly, much like the fires, the ramifications of COVID-19 will continue to be felt in the years to come, and it is a long road ahead with many twists and turns. To navigate it the best we can, it is critical that all policy responses are cognisant of the compounding traumatic experiences these communities have experienced. Dr Rob Gordon reminded us to focus on building communities that create belonging, strengthen social connections with individuals, and provide a context for sharing the recovery experience through narrative.

At the Senate Inquiry we discussed the need to build real and lasting communities, whether it is localised by geography, or as young people do it - through online virtual communities.

These community connections will provide balance and build hope, in a future that otherwise risks being overwhelmed by uncertainty and anxiety.    

Have a good weekend.

Leanne Beagley

Mental Health Australia welcomes National Agreement on Closing the Gap

Mental Health Australia has this week welcomed the Government’s announcement and release of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Mental Health Australia CEO Dr Leanne Beagley says the new target areas will go a long way to increasing the focus on some of the social determinants that support the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Read our full release

Congratulations to Dr Cathy Kezelman and Dr Pam Stavropoulos from Blue Knot Foundation

Congratulations to Dr Cathy Kezelman and Dr Pam Stavropoulos from the Blue Knot Foundation on your well-deserved award from the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. Dr Kezelman and Dr Stavropoulos won the 2020 Pierre Janet Writing Award for the Blue Knot ‘Practice Guidelines for Clinical Treatment and Complex Trauma.’

You can read the guidelines here



On Monday and right through the week I’ve again scheduled a number of calls with leaders in our Member organisations one-on-one which has been an invaluable process and something I hope to repeat every 6 months.

On Tuesday the Mental Health Australia Board will meet and we’re looking to discussing our future strategic planning and direction for the organisation, while on Wednesday I’ll be taking part in a Governance and Commissioning Roundtable meeting as part of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

Also on Wednesday I’ll be meeting with some leading providers in aged persons’ mental health and later with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

While on Friday I’m looking forward to meeting with Martin Hoffman, CEO at the NDIA to discuss shared efforts in psychosocial service delivery.


Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

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. 

We are pleased to invite you to the third of a four-part webinar series in August 2020. The webinar will provide an in-depth look into Service Module 3 of the Framework: Working Together to Promote Mental Health in Multicultural Communities. This module explores effective engagement with multicultural communities and stakeholders, in addition to mental health promotion and suicide prevention in a multicultural context.


  • When: Wednesday 5 August 2020
  • VIC, NSW, ACT, TAS & QLD2:00 pm
  • SA & NT1:30 pm
  • WA: 12:00 pm

Register here


Mental Health News

It’s time to close the mental health gap

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has applauded this week’s announcement on the Close the Gap agreement and its historic commitment to reducing the incarceration, domestic violence and suicide rates in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Read more

One month and counting for mental health report release

Shadow Minister for Health, Chris Bowen, says Thursday 30 July marked one month since the Morrison Government received the final Productivity Commission report on mental health. The report was handed to the Government on 30 June, and gives Australia a chance to reform policy across education, housing, the workplace and the justice and health systems to address better mental health for Australians.

Read more

Mission Australia’s Staying home: A Youth Survey report on young people’s experience of homelessness 

This week Mission Australia released their report Staying home: A Youth Survey report on young people’s experience of homelessness. About 25,000 young people aged between 15 and 19 participated in Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2019. 

Read more

Sharing your story with the Disability Royal Commission

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has thanked the many Australians who have already shared their stories and experiences. As at 30 June, the Royal Commission has received 1141 submissions: 47 per cent have been from people with disability, 41 per cent have been from family members, and 16 per cent have been from advocates or paid support workers. 

Read more

New mental health support service for people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in WA

The Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Psychological Service, expected to launch in September, will support those who find it difficult to use mainstream mental health services because of language and cultural barriers. 

Read more

AIS and Black Dog partner to improve mental fitness in young Australians

Australian Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games athletes are joining the fight to help reduce rates of mental health issues in young Australians as part of a new community partnership between the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Black Dog Institute. 

Read more

Delivering the NDIS during COVID-19: Vic, NSW participants able to claim for PPE

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme(NDIS), Stuart Robert, has announced temporary changes to funding arrangements to allow NDIS participants in Victoria and New South Wales to claim the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks. 

Read more

$500,000 investment in Men’s Sheds across Australia

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, says 121 Men’s Sheds across Australia will share in $500,000 in the latest funding round of the National Shed Development Programme.

Read more


Member Profiles

Mental Health Australia warmly welcomes our newest Voting Members:

The Australian BPD Foundation vision is to encourage a positive culture around Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and the ready availability and accessibility of appropriate services for people with BPD and those that care for them. The mission of the foundation is to promote a positive culture to support the recovery journey of people with BPD and their families/carers. The Foundation also supports clinicians, health care personnel and researchers working in this field and acknowledges everyone who works towards a better recognition of BPD.

Bipolar Australia is a national not-for-profit organisation representing everyone affected by bipolar disorder, including people with the condition, carers, friends and professionals who help them all.
Mission: Recovery is possible for every Australian affected by bipolar disorder, when they are empowered to help themselves and others through person-to-person centred communication. Vision: To be a national peak organisation with the capacity to set the agenda regarding the treatment and management of bipolar disorder across Australia, and to foster recovery for every Australian affected by the condition, regardless of their cultural heritage, educational attainment or socio-economic status. Values: Respect; Empowerment; Recognition of lived experience; Encouragement self responsibility; Enablement of choices; Bipolar is recognisable, treatable and manageable; recovery is possible.

SuperFriend advocates for, equips and empowers profit-to-member superannuation funds and insurers to achieve mentally healthy workplaces for their staff and members. Can you imagine an Australia where all workplaces are mentally healthy? That’s SuperFriend’s vision. Pure and simple. They are the only mental health organisation partnering with profit-to-member super funds and group life insurers to provide tailored solutions for this sector, its employers and members. They also work directly with Australian businesses of all shapes and sizes. With their in-depth knowledge and unique focus, these strong partnerships give SuperFriend the potential to embed mental health and wellbeing best practices into 750,000 workplaces and impact more than half of Australia’s workforce through our solutions.



New Online Wellbeing Hub for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

WellMob brings together online resources made by and for First Peoples. It includes websites, apps, podcasts, videos, helplines, social media and online programs focusing on social and emotional wellbeing. WellMob is for all frontline health and wellbeing workers, including: community health and wellbeing workers, mental health workers, family support and education and youth services.

Read more

OT Mental Health Forum - Registration now open

Occupational Therapy Australia are pleased to announce that registration is now open for the OT Mental Health Forum. To find out more about face to face and online registration inclusions and pricing visit the website here. Register before Wednesday 9 September to receive the discounted early bird rates.

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Free webinar - NDIS Quality & Safeguards: Behaviour Support under the NDIS

Please join on 27 August 2020 at 11:00 AM AEST for a one-hour live webinar. The sixth Embracing Change webinar focuses on behaviour support under the NDIS. This webinar will be guided by the requirements of the Specialist Behaviour Support Module and the Implementing Behaviour Support Plans Module of the NDIS Practice Standards together with The Positive Behaviour Support Capability Framework.

Read more

Young Carer Bursary Program 2021 - Apply Now

Do you or someone you know provide unpaid care and support to a family member or a friend? There are over 235,500 unpaid young carers aged 25 years and under in Australia, so there’s a good chance that we all know a young carer. Young Carer Bursaries support young carers to return to, or continue with, their education. There are 1,000 bursaries to the value of $3,000 available each year. Young carers across Australia can apply from 28th July until 8th September.

Read more

FearLess Webinar: Animal-Assisted Services – an effective pathway for treating PTSD

FearLess are pleased to be joined by Wendy Coombe Founder, Animal Therapies Ltd and a fantastic panel of industry practitioners who will discuss:

  • How equine-assisted therapy can help those with PTSD

  • Understanding Animal-Assisted Play Therapy for children with PTSD

  • How assistance animals can help those suffering PTSD better access public life

  • How to incorporate animals into a trauma recovery plan panel discussion.

Details: Wednesday 12 August 2020, 5pm - 6pm.

Read more

WLA Connect

Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) has launched a brand new networking and learning hub called WLA Connect. The platform is designed for women to gather, network, share and learn about being a female leader in today’s working environment. Members are able to access events, learning materials and forums where they can collaborate with women from the health care sector and beyond. This is an important developmental initiative for women across the country.

Features of WLA Connect include:

  • A curated learning laboratory filled with leadership development content

  • Expert masterclasses on leadership theory and practice

  • Face-to-face and online networking events

  • Member led contributions and recommendations

  • Peer coaching, executive coaching and mentoring opportunities. 

Read more

Working Collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People: A Guide to Culturally Safe Practice

The Mental Health Coordinating Council is pleased to release its Guide to Culturally Safe Practice when working with Australia’s First Nations People. It is a valuable addition to resources at a time when First Nations people in Australia are highlighting the need to take action to end discrimination and improve access to services.

The Guide is a useful tool for promoting equitable and effective community support, and helps organisations embed a practice approach that is culturally appropriate and assist workers to engage respectfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Guide has been developed to assist organisations supporting Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people foster respectful, collaborative meaningful relationships. The handy two-page guide highlights the importance of acknowledging history, listening and communicating thoughtfully, to create welcoming environments and help breakdown barriers to service engagement.

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Words Matter: Getting the Language of Child Mental Health Right


  • Child Family Community Australia (CFCA), Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS)

  • Words Matter: Getting the Language of Child Mental Health Right

  • 12 August 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm

  • Online

  • Cost: Free

This webinar is the first of a two-part series exploring the importance of language in advancing child mental health. Building on a past CFCA webinar that focused on diagnosis in child mental health, this webinar will:

  • explore how parents’ mental health literacy affects how they access support for their children

  • consider the risks and benefits of applying diagnostic labels to children

  • propose a way forward for talking about child mental health.

Read more

Heads Up With Adam Hills and author Kathy Lette for Look after your mental health, Australia

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