CEO Update: A win for good governance and common sense

A win for good governance and common sense

We seldom talk about our own achievements at Mental Health Australia but this month’s WIN! is worth a mention, and has set a precedent to ensure similar organisations based in Canberra, and potentially further afield, can fight the good fight, and not get caught up in costly regulatory rigmarole.

A few months ago we found ourselves in court, after two years of uncertainty and dispute with the ACT Long Service Leave Authority and the ACT Government, whether or not we were IN or OUT of the scheme. A determination that came with significant financial implications.   

Late last week the ACT Supreme Court released a decision finding for Mental Health Australia, and ordering the Authority to pay our costs. It was a BIG WIN for us, and for organisations like us looking for clarification about how best to support their staff and allocate financial resources towards their core business.

Canberra Times Article 22 July 2019 - ACT authority found to have denied procedural fairness to mental health advocacy service

Don’t get me wrong, we love the idea of portable long service leave for our staff, but we had received conflicting advice from the Regulator and were alarmed that some of the funds we contributed to the scheme were not being spent on the long service leave entitlements of Mental Health Australia staff, or former staff.

The Supreme Court found the ACT Long Service Leave Authority had denied Mental Health Australia due process (it used the word “injustice”), and declared that with correct interpretation of the law, Mental Health Australia (and organisations like us) are not subject to its powers. 

In short, we were successful on all the legal matters that we put to the Court, and the Judge indicated in her decision that there were other matters which, if put, would also support our case.

As I said, a BIG WIN and I think there at least a couple of lessons to learn for organisations like Mental Health Australia, whether in the mental health sector or in the broader non-government space.

Firstly, we were successful, at least in part, because our routine governance materials and practices were in very good shape; our Constitution accurately reflected our work, Position Descriptions were clear and up to date, Annual Performance Review process was current, our membership database was also accurate, and all were tendered in evidence to the Court.  

All of this is a demonstration that the work of our Deputy CEO Melanie Cantwell, and the work of the Corporate Services and Administration team is critical to the organisation’s resilience.  

For those of us working in human services it is all too easy to discount the importance of the administrative side of our work, and to let the discipline of compliance slip, and yet these functions are so critical to the sustainability of the work we do.

But a second, and perhaps more important lesson, is that NGOs can challenge regulators, especially if their own house is in order, and should do so where the practice of regulators is impeding rather than supporting our work.  

Of course we would much rather have negotiated a resolution to this issue, and we tried to do so over the entire course of the dispute, but none the less the organisation is both relieved and delighted that the ACT Supreme Court made its judgement in our favour!

The case now sets a precedent in the ACT, protecting organisations like Mental Health Australia from poor administration and it is also a reminder that regulators exist to support and enable the work of the NGOs and others, not vice versa.

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

Congratulations to Everymind Director, Jaelea Skehan

Congratulations to Jaelea Skehan, Director at Everymind, on her new national leadership role appointment in suicide prevention. We wish her all the best as she heads up the cross portfolio team and supports Christine Morgan in her role as adviser to the Prime Minister on suicide prevention.

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Mental Health News

Carers Australia calls on the Government to ‘Raise the Rate’

Carers Australia is joining the call for the Federal Government to ‘Raise the Rate’ of Newstart. ‘The notion that an unemployment payment well below the poverty line is adequate to meet the essentials of daily living is difficult to comprehend in the land of the ‘fair go”, said Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia.

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Open Arms retains mental health accreditation

Veteran-specific lifeline Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling has successfully retained its Mental Health Accreditation under the National Standards for Mental Health Services (NSMHS). Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, Darren Chester, has welcomed the decision, made this week, saying the service provides an invaluable counselling support service to veterans and their families.

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People living with dementia & carers present Federal Government with solution to quality dementia care

Dementia Australia this week delivered a Communique, Our Solution: Quality care for people living with dementia, to the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, outlining what quality aged care means to people living with dementia, their families and carers. 

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Australian Parliament urged to retain vital Medical Panel

The President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), Associate Professor John Allan, has urged the Australian Parliament to continue the Independent Health Advice Panel (IHAP) established earlier this year under the Medevac legislation. The IHAP enables independent medical experts to advise on health care for seriously ill asylum seekers and refugees, including those with severe mental illness and at high risk of suicide, who are held in regional processing countries such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea. 

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On Wednesday, Director of External Relations Lachlan Searle will join up with the R U OK? Trust the Signs Tour in Darwin to help with the driving leg to Perth. 

I’ll be attending a Digital Mental Health Advisory Group teleconference on Thursday, while new Board Director Carmel Tebbutt will be in the office for an induction.

On Friday we will be holding a Mental Health Australia Board meeting in Canberra.



Member Profiles

The Australian Counselling Association (ACA) is Australia’s largest single registration body for Counsellors and Psychotherapists with over 5,000 members. ACA serves a crucial role in advocating and advancing the profession of counselling and psychotherapy. ACA’s objectives include:
• Promote and advocate for the counselling profession.
• Represent its members to government and industry.
• Establish appropriate training standards for the profession.
• Accredit education courses for Counsellors.
Website -

Centacare Catholic Diocese of Ballarat deliver an extensive range of social welfare and outreach services across the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat and the Western District of Victoria. They provide services that support individuals, families and communities empowering people to bring about positive change while building community capacity.
Vision - Life giving communities in a Just Society.
Mission - To provide services which empower people to live with choice and opportunity.



Practical Guide for Working with Carers of People with a Mental Illness - Implementation Project

The Private Mental Health Consumer Carer Network (Australia) is pleased to announce that they have been funded by Mind Australia and Helping Minds WA to undertake a short term project until October 2019 to influence sector wide implementation of the Carer Guide which can be downloaded here.

Have you started implementing the Carer Guide or are you considering implementation? The Private Mental Health Consumer Carer Network would love to hear from you to help them collect stories of practice. Contact via the Senior Project Officer Ms Julien McDonald,

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WFMH - September 1 declared ‘World Emotional Trauma Awareness Day’

The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) would like to announce that during the 1st International Trauma Summit, which was held in Houston, Texas from November 28 to November 30 2018, the first of September of every year was declared “World Emotional Trauma Awareness Day”.

That day was chosen because September 1, 1939 was the day that the Second World War, considered the worst man-made catastrophe in human history, officially began. More than sixty million died, most of them civilians, and many of them children.

The World Federation for Mental health (WFMH) invites all individual members and member associations, as well as society in general, to participate in “World Emotional Trauma Awareness Day” this September 1st in order to call on all of the world’s governments to eliminate all forms of violence and to create social, psychological and health services services dedicated to this issue in all of the world’s countries.

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Blue Knot Foundation: Domestic and Family Violence Services Training - Wollongong

This one-day interactive professional development training provides the trauma-informed information and skills needed by personnel working with people and families with experiences of domestic and family violence, past and current.

All staff and practitioners working with victims of DFV in any capacity, either in specialist DFV services or within generalist services to which people with experiences of interpersonal violence present for support.

When: 2 August 2019

Where: Adina Apartment Hotel, 19 Market Street, Wollongong, NSW 2500

Book here

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FearLess National Conference 

With upwards of a million people in Australia suffering it, and upwards of 3 million people living with people experiencing PTSD on a daily basis, PTSD is a national problem which requires a national response. 

The National Conversation on PTSD will be held across three days from Wednesday 21st - Friday 23rd August 2019 at The Events Centre, Caloundra on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The outcome-driven event seeks to initiate a national conversation on PTSD, exploring with participants how we can develop a community-owned and community-operated PTSD management protocol and what should be contained within it. The program contains three main themes: the lived experience, the impact on families and an overview of current research and programs. 

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The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Adelaide Community Forum

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety invites members of the public to attend a community forum in Adelaide, South Australia. Commissioner The Hon. Richard Tracey AM RFD QC will attend.

There will be a chance to give written feedback to the Commission and to talk to Commission staff. A limited number of people will be able to give a brief statement. If you would like to do so please let them know when you register. Guidelines will be provided to all confirmed speakers.

Location: Adelaide Town Hall, 128 King William St Adelaide
Date: Monday, 12 August 2019
Time: 1:30pm to 4:00pm

To guarantee a seat, please book your place no later than Friday 9 August by phoning 1800 960 711 (between 8.00am-6.30pm ACST Monday-Friday except public holidays) or registering online. Interpreter and Auslan services will be available. Everyone is welcome to attend. 

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