CEO Weekly Update - 29 August
As I prepare this update today I am in Perth speaking about key factors in achieving mental health reform at TheMHS conference. TheMHS is always a great opportunity to see so many colleagues and friends from across the sector and to reflect on the key issues affecting us all.
Director of Communications, Chris Wagner also presented earlier today on the safe use of social media. Chris took participants through the elements of a safe social media policy, working to ensure mental health staff are using this modern communication tool with limited risk to consumers and themselves.
In addition, Chris undertook filming with consumers, asking them to share their experiences of using the mental health system. We hope to use this material to help inform policy makers on ways to reform the system with consumers top of mind.
Earlier this week I attended the launch of the SANE Forums at Parliament House. The forums are a national online community that provide a genuine peer-to-peer support service for carers and families as well as people with lived experience of mental illness. This is a groundbreaking approach, with Mental Health Australia member organisations MIND Australia, ARAFMI NSW, ARAFMI WA, MIFA NT, MIFNQ, Eating Disorders Victoria, Compassionate Friends Victoria and Tandem partnering in the service. Topics are varied and range from diagnoses and treatment through to advice on the impact of mental illness on children and posts asking contributors to suggest ‘what they are grateful for’. Congratulations to the team at SANE and the partner organisations for getting this important initiative off the ground.
AMA Parliamentary Dinner
In the heat of the Parliamentary debate and negotiation over the proposed GP co-payments I attended the AMA’s annual dinner with guest speakers Peter Dutton, Catherine King and Richard Di Natale. Members will have seen our media release suggesting that the AMA’s alternative proposal on co-payments represented a good start by excluding specific mental health items in the MBS, but did not go far enough to ensure that people experiencing early signs of mental illness are not discouraged from seeking assistance from their GP early. We have also written to key backbenchers to make our case and will continue to contribute to the discussion on these initiatives whenever we are able. This is a critical issue if we are going to re-orient towards prevention and early intervention.
Jobs Australia Conference
I also had the opportunity to speak at the Jobs Australia Conference in Melbourne this week. Some of you will have seen that I used the occasion to do some media to promote our response to the McClure Interim Report on welfare. In short, we suggested that our welfare and employment services systems should be much more focussed on people’s capacities, and how they can be enhanced, rather than asking people to prove over and over again that their disabilities remain a barrier to employment and social participation. We continue to point to the importance of the links between McClure’s review of welfare and the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Services and Programs. This also reflects our eagerness to achieve closer integration of services like employment and housing.
Housing, Disability and the NDIS Forum
This week Policy Officer Travis Gilbert attended a forum hosted by the NSW Federation of Housing Associations on the NDIS, housing and disability. While the NDIS will not be a housing provider and is not designed to replace the housing system, the NDIA hopes the scheme will act as a catalyst for transformational growth in the provision of housing and support for people with disabilities over the coming years. The NDIA hopes to use the $700 million per annum built into the scheme for ‘user costs of capital’ to partner with community housing providers, families and carers and investors to leverage the funding to drive growth in the construction and provision of accessible, liveable housing for people with disabilities. The NDIS will fund ‘reasonable and necessary’ supports to enable people to live independently. The NDIA estimates up to 127,000 participants will require independent housing when the scheme is fully operational. This includes more than 7,700 people currently living in ‘supervised psychiatric hostels’ and long-stay psychiatric hospital in-patients. The NDIA will release a discussion paper on housing and the NDIA in the near future.
Submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Extent of Income Inequality in Australia
Mental Health Australia has provided a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Extent of Income Inequality in Australia. In our submission we outline some of the impacts of income inequality in Australia on health, housing and employment outcomes. We propose some changes that would improve the adequacy of Centrelink payments to ensure people were better able to meet the costs of living including additional costs associated with mental illness and disabilities. We also provide some commentary on the likely impact of some of the measures announced in the May Federal Budget on income inequality in Australia going forward. Click below to read the full submission.
Some members will recall that I sit on the Prime Minister’s Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) and this week we released a discussion paper on the medicinal use of cannabis. There has been a great deal of discussion about the links between cannabis use and mental illness, and I think the ANCD paper goes some way toward informing debate on an issue that is often emotionally and ideologically charged. If you have any interest in these issues then I commend the paper to you.
Membership renewals, call for board nominations and AGM
A reminder for all Mental Health Australia members that membership renewals are now due. Full members will have received a call for Board nominations this week, please note that in order to nominate and/or vote for Board members, your organisation must be a financial member. If you are not sure if you have renewed yet please contact email@example.com. Our AGM will be held in Canberra on 9 October and will be followed by the Grace Groom Memorial Oration at the National Press Club. Tickets for the Grace Groom will be on sale from next week.
Welcome to new members - Aftercare
We are welcoming a new member organisation this week - Aftercare. Aftercare is the longest serving non-government organisation in Australia offering support and accommodation for people with mental illness. They support thousands of people across the country with a range of services and we look forward to working with the entire Aftercare team in the future.
Conference Funding Program - applications open
A reminder that applications are now open for our Conference Funding Program. Thanks to the Department of Health, we are able to provide grants of up to $20,000 for mental health or suicide prevention themed events. The next funding round closes on 12 September so visit our website for the application details.
World Suicide Prevention Day
This year’s World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is rapidly approaching. Held on 10 September, this year’s event will be focussed on the theme ‘Suicide Prevention: One World Connected’. The theme reflects the fact that connections are important at several levels if we are to reduce suicides – at an individual level, cross support services, and cross country/countries. Find out more from the website.
Lifting the lid on mental health 2014
Our friends at VICSERV are holding a Victorian pre-election event on 10 September with consumers, carers and key stakeholders presenting on the top issues of concern from across Victoria’s mental health sector. Liberal, ALP and Greens MPs will also be there to present their election platforms on mental health and to take questions from attendees. If you are interested in attending please visit the website.
Health Issues - call for papers
Health Issues Centre is currently calling for papers for the next issue of their Journal which will be focussed on ’Health consumers and carers as educators’. The deadline for submission is Monday 22 September. Consumers and carers are invited to write articles on how they have made a contribution to the education of health professionals and undergraduate or postgraduate students, incorporated their personal story into this education, been involved in developing and/or delivering education programs or materials or made a contribution to the education of other consumers and carers. Editorial and writing support is available on request. For full details please visit the website.
Australian Healthcare Summit
I will be presenting at this year’s Australian Healthcare Summit, to be held at the Grace Hotel in Sydney on 15-16 October. With the theme of sustainable collaborative healthcare, this is Australia’s annual event for the healthcare industry. It brings together all sectors of healthcare and will have a significant focus on major health priorities and prevention versus cure strategies. If you are interested in attending please visit the website for registration details.
Blue Knot Day - 27 October
On Blue Knot Day, 27 October, our friends at Adults Surviving Child Abuse are asking all Australians to unite in support of the 5 million adults who have experienced childhood trauma and abuse. Blue Knot Day will be supported by a week-long series of activities and events held between 27 October and 2 November and there are many ways in which you can play a part. For more details about this important day and how you can get involved please visit the website.
Autism Australia - national survey of parents and carers
Autism Australia has launched their first national survey of parents and carers of children and young adults on the autism spectrum. The survey aims to get a clearer picture of what autism support services look like in Australia and identify the gaps that currently exist in helping families provide better care, education and support for their loved ones with autism. The survey will be open until Friday 12 September.
Public Health Association 43rd Annual Conference
The Public Health Association of Australia will be holding their 43rd Annual Conference from 15-17 September at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Perth. The conference offers an exciting keynote program that includes international, national and local experts sharing their big challenges and opportunities. Full details including the program and registration information are available from the website.
Chief Executive Officer