CEO Update: We have 190 days to define a vision and plan for a cohesive national mental health system

We have 190 days to define a vision and plan for a cohesive national mental health system

The Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health will hand down its Final Report on 23 May 2020, and at this draft stage the message we are hearing from both the PC, and Government, is that we - the sector - can still help shape and influence the Final Report. And we must.

We have to if this report is to provide the systemic national reform and vision we so desperately need. The once in a generation opportunity we’ve all been talking about.

Yes, the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report provides a valuable, up to date statement on the significant economic costs of mental illness. It properly places the experience of mental illness in a broader social context and we commend the PC for reviewing impacts of social determinants of mental health including housing, justice, education and employment. We also commend them for grappling with details of governance and accountability.

Yes, they rightly acknowledge in the Draft Report the lack of a national vision for mental health and further acknowledge we do not have the governance structures necessary to support national collaboration in this area.

And yes as an experienced sector, with decades of evidence, we know the key to change is sustained and supported implementation. We understand how little benefit comes from just applying more band-aid solutions. We know we need a vision and plan for a better national mental health system and real reform.

The Productivity Commission has well understood the complex barriers to reform, but the narrative and recommendations as they currently stand do not offer enough to provide the breadth of change needed.

It is not enough to simply do what we are doing now, but better. We need systemic reform that articulates and implements a vision of a cohesive mental health system, driving towards recovery and participation.

In the lead up to developing Charter 2020, and the nine principles with which we started to dissect the Draft Report through our Preliminary Analysis, we often said that 90% of the sector would agree with around 90% of what was in the report. But let’s be honest, at this draft stage that number is much lower. This is less about what is in the report and more about what is out of it and we need to do better or we fail the generations to come.

At this stage of the process, exactly 190 days until the Final Report is presented to Government, the grand vision for systemic mental health reform we were all hoping for is not yet clear.

So what do we do next? Having spoken with Commissioner Stephen King and the Minister’s office this week about our concerns, we know the public hearings starting today in Canberra (and concluding in Launceston on 9 December) are vital to helping improve this report. Our team appeared at the Canberra hearing this morning and presented much of what I have said here.

As a sector, we need to shape and influence this report into something that more strongly hits the mark of reform, something that creates a vision we can all support, and something that Government can action. A report that provides the sector, and Government, with granular solutions and actions.

A report we can all look back on as a line in the sand for real change, and real reform.  

So in short, we encourage as many members and stakeholders as possible to use these public hearings to our advantage.

Voice your concerns for the areas that have been missed in the Draft Report. Voice your praise for the recommendations we can start on right away, and most importantly use your voice to help ensure we are left with a vision and plan for a cohesive national mental health system into the future.

Kind regards,

Melanie Cantwell
Acting CEO

Make a submission to the Productivity Commission now

The Productivity Commission invites interested people and organisations to make a written submission. If you have something brief to say - you may want to make a comment rather than producing a submission. Comments may be used by the Commission to inform its final report. An issues paper was produced to assist participants in preparing a submission to the public inquiry. It outlined a range of issues about which the Commission sought information. 

Opportunity for further comment is now sought on the Draft Report. Submissions are due by Thursday 23 January 2020.

Make a comment

Read the issues paper 

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Productivity Commission hearings

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

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

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The Notice of Annual General Meeting has already gone out to Voting Members. A general meeting of Mental Health Australia Ltd will be held at the National Press Club of Australia, National Circuit, Barton, ACT on Monday 25 November 2019 at 5.30pm. Members should arrive at 5:15pm for registration. 

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Join the team: Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health Australia

Mental Health Australia has begun recruiting for our new Chief Executive Officer. Reporting to the Board, the Chief Executive Officer provides strategic leadership to promote and meet Mental Health Australia’s aims and objectives and to represent the interests of our members. It is a highly influential role which works closely with stakeholders to advocate for and grow the long-term investment in mental health funding. Engaging with members, consumers and carers and other stakeholders, you will lead the work to advocate for a better mental health system, through improved systems design and interface.

Read the full position advertisement


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.

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

Time to help new Mums and Dads speak out about perinatal anxiety and depression

Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness (PANDA) Week (November 10 to 16) is an opportunity to speak up about and address this serious problem, according to Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health, Emma McBride MP. “There’s a lot of stigma around mental health, and expecting and new parents are no exception,” Ms McBride said. “Many people are still afraid to talk about perinatal anxiety and depression and misconceptions persist about these serious and common illnesses.”

Towards Zero forum - Suicide prevention

A landmark forum in Canberra this week has moved Australia a step closer to a coordinated, national approach to suicide prevention. The forum brought together people from diverse community organisations, the health and government sectors, and people with lived experience. Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, attended the forum, and said everyone provided valuable insights and ideas that will help the Government respond to the issue.

Remembrance Day: Homelessness report shows catastrophic failure to care for Australian veterans

Research showing the rate of homelessness among veterans is more than two and half times the general population highlights a chronic failure by decades of Australian governments to co-ordinate specialist supports and housing for returning service personnel, national housing campaign Everybody’s Home said this week. The AHURI research found that 5.3% of veterans have experienced homelessness within the past 12 months, compared to 1.9% of the general population.

Read more 

$500,000 for Men’s Sheds across Australia

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, says the Morrison Government is continuing to support the Men’s Shed movement with this week’s announcement of successful grant recipients under the National Shed Development Programme. In the latest round, 135 Men’s Sheds across Australia will share in $500,000 in grants that will help buy tools and equipment, maintain infrastructure, coordinate training and host community activities about men’s health issues. 

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On Tuesday, Harry Lovelock, Director Policy and Projects will be at the first Psychosocial Support Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting hosted by the Department of Health in Canberra. The purpose of the Advisory Group is to advise on sustainable future options (short, medium and longer term) for the delivery of Commonwealth psychosocial support services for people with severe mental illness and contribute to the co-design of the forthcoming Evaluation of the National Psychosocial Support Measure and Continuity of Support program.


Also on Tuesday, Kylie Wake, Acting Deputy CEO and the Embrace Team will be in Adelaide for a workshop to support implementation of the Framework by mental health services, Primary Health Networks, individual practitioners and others. The workshops 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. Kylie and the team will overnight in Adelaide and also participate in the next Embrace Project Alliance meeting on the Wednesday.


On Thursday, Ingrid Hatfield, Acting Senior Policy and Project Officer will be attending the next National Mental Health Sector Reference Group meeting in Melbourne. Also on Thursday, Mental Health Australia staff will be participating in a Women’s Business Speaking Workshop at our office in Canberra.


On Thursday and Friday, Harry Lovelock will be in Sydney attending the next Safety and Quality Partnerships Standing Committee (SQSPC) meeting in Sydney.


Outside of these meetings it will be business as usual next week as we finalise preparations for our face-to-face Board meeting, Annual General Meeting, and Grace Groom Memorial Oration on Monday 25 November, and then Members Policy Forum at Parliament House on Tuesday 26 November. We’re all very much looking forward to seeing you in Canberra.


Member Profiles

Grow is a community-based organisation that has helped tens of thousands of Australians recover from mental illness through a unique program of mutual support and personal development.  Grow was established in Sydney in 1957. The founders were drawn together by their first-hand experience of mental illness. The wisdom they gained in helping each other to overcome life’s challenges and recover from mental illness was carefully recorded and forms the basis of the unique Grow Program. Grow Groups meet weekly and vary in size from three to ten members, and are run by seasoned ‘Growers’ who have taken a voluntary leadership role within the Group. Website - Facebook Twitter

Marathon Health is a not-for-profit primary health care organisation that delivers health services and programs to regional and remote communities. They are committed to working together to achieve optimal health outcomes for all. Marathon Health has strong networks in the health sector, innovative community partnerships, and a commitment to delivering sustainable health outcomes.
Vision - Equality in health and wellbeing for our rural, regional and remote communities.
Mission - To develop and deliver accessible quality health and wellbeing services through our experience in, and collaboration with rural, regional and remote communities.
Website - Facebook - Twitter -



Merinda Epstein’s retirement oration & celebration

With an impressive career spanning 29 years, Merinda Epstein has been at the forefront of mental health consumer advocacy, research and through-leadership in Australia. This even is a celebration of Merinda’s work and an opportunity to hear the culmination of her reflections, experience and thinking. To find out more see the flyer at the bottom of this update.

Tender call for new headspace centre

The Brisbane North PHN invites prospective Lead Agencies to tender for the establishment and operation of a new headspace centre in Strathpine. headspace centres provide integrated healthcare to young people (12-25 years) with mental health and wellbeing concerns. The headspace centre will open by September 2020. It will be the fifth headspace centre within the Brisbane North region and will join a national network of 110 centres across Australia.  

Tender applications close 20 December 2019.

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Have your say: groundbreaking new survey now launched!

Supported by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Our Turn to Speak is a groundbreaking national survey that seeks to understand the life experiences – both positive and negative – of people living with severe and complex mental health issues in Australia. The ADRC has worked in partnership with the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences (MSPS) at the University of Melbourne, and is seeking 7,000 survey participants aged 18 and over, who have experienced complex mental health issues in the last 12 months.

More than 690,000 Australians aged 18 and over live with complex mental health issues. The findings of Our Turn to Speak will be used to inform SANE’s future advocacy efforts, as we work to make a real difference to all Australian affected by these issues.

From today, you can now also complete the survey via phone interview.

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The Mental Health Service Awards 2020

The Mental Health Service Awards of Australia and New Zealand are accepting submissions for the Service and Program categories! If you know someone whose work in the mental health sector is outstanding, ahead of the curve, or truly inspirational, be sure to nominate them for an Exceptional Contribution TheMHS Award. Awards will be presented at the 2020 TheMHS Conference in Perth, Western Australia on Wednesday August 26, 2020.

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