CEO Update - Let's talk Leadership

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia


Speaking frankly...                                       

Let's talk leadership...

Last week I enjoyed being part of the National Mental Health Commission Australian Mental Health Leaders Fellowship program. A new initiative that follows the proud legacy of the Future Leaders Programme for consumers and carers established in 2014. Speaking to these young leaders I was able to share a wonderful approach to leadership I once heard from Alan Tongue – a former captain of the Canberra Raiders Rugby League team.

As a young player, Alan almost lost his place in the team when his coach told him he was too small, and too slow. Knowing he could not significantly change his size, or his speed, he headed down a different path. He assessed each of his team mates, and identified something he could do to help them improve their game. He then went to each of his team mates, and told them what he would be doing to optimise their strengths.

Rather than lose his place in the team, the strategy led to him being appointed captain. A leader… and not because he was the ‘the strongest or best player in the team’, but the player who made his team mates stronger.

Over the last week we have seen some of our key mental health organisations come together to make each other stronger - beyondblue, Black Dog Institute, Everymind, headspace, Lifeline, ReachOut, and R U OK? `

Setting aside the temptation to ‘capture markets’ or to compete with each other, these organisations are working together to amplify an important message #YouCanTalk. 

#YouCanTalk addresses the longstanding taboo that has prevented direct conversations about suicide. In their words:

The main message is you don’t need to be a clinician, a GP, or a nurse to check-in with someone you are worried about. Trust your instincts and access suicide prevention resources to assist you in having the discussion. This includes recognising the signs that someone is thinking of suicide, how to talk about it openly and honestly and what to do if someone says they are not coping and needs help.

#YouCanTalk is about giving people the confidence to have the conversation by connecting them to the tools that can support them.

In a sector that is often (and in my view unfairly) criticised for being fragmented, #YouCanTalk is yet another excellent model and example of leadership through collaboration and cooperation, in an environment that too often encourages competition.

So in the theme of leadership and collaboration, I’ve asked our own Emma Coughlan – Senior Policy and Projects Officer at Mental Health Australia - to add her voice to this week’s blog.

Emma is one of the participants in the Australian Mental Health Leaders Fellowship program, and like many of her peers, across a range of organisations, is working hard for our current mental health system and its future.

Warm regards.

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer

Systemic leadership and innovation key to achieving a common goal

Our Australian mental health sector faces significant challenges now and into the future. Challenges because the responsibility for mental health services is dispersed within, and between, levels of government and due to the ever increasing speed of national reforms, such as transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In addition, our community more broadly has made major strides in terms on the removal of stigma, but we all know there is a long way to go before mental health is treated with the same openness and compassion as other health conditions.

These challenges are not to be under-estimated. This is precisely why now, more than ever, leadership and innovation across sectors, which strive to improve the mental health of Australians, is so important.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a week with emerging leaders with a passion for enhancing mental health as a part of the Australian Mental Health Leaders Fellowship.

It is an understatement to say that time spent with this richly diverse, creative and driven cohort was deeply moving and energising for me personally. In fact, one of the core strengths of the Fellowship is the broad diversity of both the cohort selected to participate and the subject matter covered as a part of the residential learning component.

This approach reflects the reality that most impactful innovation occurs at the edge of at least two sectors. We also know that to successfully drive such innovation into reality requires strong leadership, not from just one person, but across a system, including from consumers and carers.

Although this type of systemic leadership is often explained in terms of ‘steering a big ship’, actually in practice we know it is the alignment of many people within and between sectors applying their specific expertise, passion and drive towards achieving a common goal.

Already the Fellowship has encouraged the establishment of strong working relationships between sectors. It boosted optimism to view the above-mentioned challenges not as threats but as surmountable changes. Changes which can be tackled with the integrated resilience, expertise and relationships we know already exist within and between so many of the hard working consumers, carers, service providers and policy officials across relevant sectors.

I’m sincerely grateful to the National Mental Health Commission and the University of Melbourne who had the vision to establish such a profoundly impactful leadership program and to my own organisation, Mental Health Australia, for the encouragement to apply.

If this first week is anything to judge by, the comprehensive program of residential learning, mentoring, group work and a work placement will significantly enhance the contribution of every program participant, and I look forward to working with these new colleagues to figure out how we can best work together to improve Australian mental health into the future.

Kind regards,

Emma Coughlan
Senior Policy and Project Officer


Farewell to Professor Lyn Littlefield as APS Executive Director

This week we received the news that Lyn Littlefield will retire as Executive Director of the Australian Psychological Society (APS). I am sure I speak on behalf of many in acknowledging Lyn’s exceptional contribution over almost 18 years, and in wishing her well for her retirement.

In addition to her service at APS, Lyn served for many years as an active member of the Mental Health Australia board. It is impossible to do justice to a contribution such as Lyn’s in the few short words available here. I am sure many public tributes will follow this announcement. 

Enjoy a well-earned break, Lyn. I hope you find plenty of time to celebrate the legacy that you have left to us all. We look forward to working with new APS CEO Frances Mirabelli to continue your work.

Warm regards,
Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

Applications open for consumers, carers from CALD backgrounds to join the new national multicultural mental health project

Mental Health Australia and project partners are calling on consumers and carers from multicultural communities to join an advisory group that will be a key source of advice to the national multicultural mental health project. The project represents a national focus on mental health for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and aims to aims to support service providers to improve cultural responsiveness and accessibility.

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Mental Health Australia is recruiting a new Administration and Project Officer 

Mental Health Australia has an opportunity for a passionate Administration and Project Officer who will be responsible for providing administration and project support to consumers and carers engaged in Mental Health Australia or our auspiced activities, particularly the National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum (NMHCCF) and National Register.

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Next Week 

On Monday, I will participate in a phone interview with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care to discuss the Certification Framework for Digital Mental Health Services project.

On Tuesday, Belinda Highmore will attend the last meeting of the Project Expert Group for the Optimising Support for Psychosocial Disability project in Melbourne.

On Wednesday, Belinda will present Mental Health Australia's final report from the NDIS Psychosocial Pathway project to the NDIA National Mental Health Sector Reference Group meeting in Melbourne.

I will attend the next meeting of the National Disability Insurance Agency CEO Forum on Friday.


Mental Health Australia Member Profiles

The Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC) is the peak body for community mental health organisations in New South Wales. MHCC has been supporting community based organisations to deliver services to people with mental health issues, their families and carers since 1983. They strive to raise the profile of mental health through their projects, submissions and by promoting partnership development.

Website is external)

Connections is a not-for-profit community service organisation that provides individual support, training, programs and advocacy in the support of mental health and wellbeing. Connections' vision is to improve mental health in the community by providing relevant evidence-based learning and life skill development programs that assist in the facilitation of recovery. Connections is committed to supporting people to be well resourced and make choices regarding all aspects of their individual support. 




Train your mind: headspace message to young men

Minds need training too. That’s the message being issued by headspace today as we launch headcoach - our new national campaign for young men. One in seven young men aged 16 - 24 experience depression or anxiety each year, yet a meagre 13% seek help. Furthermore, suicide is the leading cause of death for young men in Australia. By bringing together some of the country’s most elite athletes to share tips and advice from their own experience, headcoach highlights the importance to young men of training their bodies and their minds.

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Western Australians invited to inform new workforce strategy

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Unlocking 'non-memories' a key to better PTSD treatment 

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Victoria putting farmers' health on the agenda

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Social media myths debunked

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2018 Australian Mental Health Prize

Australian mental health organisations and individuals are encouraged to submit nominations for the 2018 Australian Mental Health Prize. The Prize is awarded annually to an Australian who has made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention/treatment of mental illness – in areas such as advocacy, research or service provision - that are of national significance.

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Nominations open for the 2019 Australian of the Year Awards

The Australian of the Year Awards recognise individuals who have made significant contributions to Australian society and inspired those around them. Mental health organisations are encouraged to help ensure our nation's best continue to receive the recognition they deserve, by identifying and nominating individuals who are doing outstanding things in service of their communities and society at large.

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Donate strength, donate love, DonateLife

Sunday 29 July through to Sunday 5 August is DonateLife Week. This event highlights the benefits that organ and tissue donation has for transplant recipients and their families. This DonateLife Week, Australians are urged to talk to their families about views and willingness to be a donor. To find out more information about how to get involved or register a workplace event visit

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Funding grants for women's leadership development: health sector

Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) has launched a national initiative to support the development of female leaders across the health care sector. The initiative is providing women working in the sector with grants to enable participation in a range of leadership programs. The leadership development programs are delivered nationally via WLA’s blended learning model. Scholarship funding is strictly limited and is awarded based on a set of selection criteria.

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Classification and mapping of healthcare ecosystems

The Centre for Mental Health Research (CMHR) and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is delivering a one day course titled Classification and Mapping of Healthcare Ecosystems: Use for Mental Health Service Research and Planning. Participants will learn how to use the Description, Evaluation and Classification of Services for Long Term Care (DESDE-LTC) instrument in the assessment of mental health services. The course will be held at the Australian National University on Thursday 16 August.

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National Disability Agreement Review issues paper

To assist the preparation of submissions for the Productivity Commission's review of the National Disability Agreement, the Commission has prepared an issues paper which identifies a range of issues for which information and comment are sought. Submissions on the issues paper are due by 24 August 2018.

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Living Loving Diversity: 2018 AGMC National Conference

The Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGMC) invites you to attend the 2018 National Conference held at St Kilda Town Hall in Melbourne on September 21-23. This is the only conference of its kind to discuss, share and explore diversity and intersectionality at its fullest. A conference for multicultural/multi-faith and LGBTIQA+, there is a special focus on youth, disability, and what is happening for our international brothers and sisters.

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In a Good Place grants program

In a Good Place is a national grants program that provides support for community-driven initiatives that reduce social isolation, increase social participation and connectedness, and encourage people in rural, regional and remote communities who are at risk of - or are experiencing - mental health issues to seek help. The program is comprised of two open-call grant rounds per annum, offering grants of up to $20,000 from an annual funding pool of $200,000.

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