MHCA CEO's Weekly Update - 2 May

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National Commission of Audit

This Week

Ni Hoa!

I am back from a great break in China over Easter - I hope you got a chance for a break too. Tall red-headed men get an interesting reception in parts of China (as did my blonde niece and nephew) - I posed for a lot of photos with people from the regions!  If you can put up with the smog - which is thick and everywhere - I would recommend a visit if you can. It is clearly a country changing rapidy.

National Commission of Audit

This week the Commission of Audit took centre stage.

I was delighted that the Commission of Audit accepted our recommendation that the major reform task be left to the National Mental Health Commission’s review.

Our Policy Team has been working through the reports released yesterday and have identified the following areas of particular interest for the mental health sector. The entire report can be downloaded from the Commission of Audit website by clicking on the banner above. Where possible I have provided links to the relevant sections and pages below.

We will provide more analysis once we have had the chance to digest the report a little more.

The Commission of Audit identifies mental health as an area of overlap with state responsibilities, and recommends this be a focus of the National Mental Health Commission’s review (Rec 40, Section 8.6).

The National Mental Health Commission itself, however, is proposed to be rolled into a new Health Productivity and Performance Commission.  This body would focus on data, monitoring and public reporting. Other bodies proposed to be consolidated include the AIHW, the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.  (Rec 53; under ‘Large Mergers’ on p210; or half-way down Section 9.1). 

The Commission of Audit report supports the NDIS, but with a slower roll-out to better manage financial risks and allow lessons learned from the early results to be incorporated into the scheme’s design (which the MHCA has previously suggested could be beneficial). The report acknowledges that an extended phasing-in of the scheme would need to be re-negotiated with the States and Territories (which we had also anticipated).  Finally, it recommends that the NDIA examine the risks and benefits of outsourcing the assessment role. (see Rec 16,in  Section 7.2).

On the DSP, the Commission of Audit recommends retrospectively applying the impairment tables introduced in January 2012 to previously grandfathered recipients, including people under the age of 35 and those with some work capacity. It also recommends the government consider changes to DSP indexation, income and assets tests, and income withdrawal (taper) rates.  (see Rec 29, Section 7.12).

Other areas of potential interest include:

  • Health - including Medicare, private health insurance and  hospitals,  (Recs 17 and 18, Section 7.3)
  • PBS – including pharmacy sector (Rec 19, Section 7.4)
  • Carers (Rec 26, Section 7.10)
  • Housing and homelessness – described as state responsibilities, with only limited role for Commonwealth through provision of rent assistance (Rec 38, Section 8.6)
  • Grant programs (Phase 1: Rec 49, Section 8.8  and Phase 2: Rec 16, Section 4.2)

On a more philospophical note, some might be interested in the Commission’s principles for good government (Section 1.5) and views on the role for governments in the provision of public services (Section 2).  Reforming the Commonwealth-State/Territory relations (Section 6) is also given careful consideration, with further work likely to take place in the context of the Governments Federation White Paper. The Phase 2 Report (at Section 3.4) also flags the need for a better interface between policy and service delivery, including learning from the ‘lived experience’ of front line workers and information on user experiences.

It is important to remember that all of this is only a set of recommendations to government at this stage - we wil start to see more about which parts the government wishes to pursue in the forthcoming budget and beyond.

NMHC Review Update

The Call for Submissions to support the Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services has now closed, however, the National Mental Health Commission would appreciate ongoing contributions from the non-government sector. At this stage the Commission is interested in receiving your input on two things. Firstly, your organisation’s ‘Top 5’ issues in relation to the terms of reference for the Review, e.g. duplication, red tape, rural and remote issues, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concerns, workforce, evidence and research If you missed out on making a submission, this would be a good opportunity (find the Terms of Reference here).

Secondly the Commission would also like to hear about any mental health programme or service evaluation or review your organisation may have undertaken or participated in. The Commission is interested to see the range of evidence that may be available locally, but doesn’t get seen more broadly by the system. All contributions can be sent to

Integrating social media into a national campaign

Communications Director Chris Wagner presented to the 5th Annual National Public Sector Communications Officer’s Conference this week on integrating social media into a national campaign. Using the World Mental Health Day campaign as the case study, Chris provided a comprehensive outline of how the MHCA is using social media to help break down stigma as a barrier to help seeking and community understanding on mental health. The campaign enters its second year in 2014, and we look forward to more promises from our members and friends.

Consumer Reference Group monthly update

The latest update from the National Mental Health Consumer Organisation Project is now available on the project website. Consumer Reference Group member Lei Ning discusses the challenge of safeguarding consumer leadership for the new organisation and how this has informed the process for establishing the inaugural Board. 
Read more



Indigenous Health Day

Yesterday was the Indigenous Health Day of Action and Listening in Australia. As part of the day a report discussing an unprecedented increase in Indigenous self-harm and suicide over the past 20 years was released. The Elders’ Report into Preventing Indigenous Self-harm and Youth Suicide is an important document that calls on all of us to address this urgent issue. To download the report or to support the campaign for youth suicide prevention programs led by Indigenous communities and Aboriginal Elders, please visit the website. Read More

National Suicide Prevention Conference

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming National Suicide Prevention Conference, being held in Perth from 23-26 July. The Program Committee has announced several pre-conference workshops that are open to both delegates and non-delegates as well as a special session ‘Harnessing the voice of lived experience’ that will take place on day four of the Conference. Full details including registration information is available on the website. Download

Seclusion and Restraint Project Survey - call for participants

The National Mental Health Commission is calling for participants to take part in their Seclusion and Restraint Project survey. The project is looking at best practice in reducing and eliminating the use of seclusion and restraint in relation to mental health issues and identifying good practice treatment approaches. Mental health consumers, their families, friends and supporters as well as practitioners and other service providers are invited to participate in the survey. More Info

The SANE Guide for Families

Everyone in a family can be affected when someone has a mental illness. This guide explains the importance of dealing with your own reactions to mental illness, will help you find support, explains the skills which will help you to help the person improve their level of recovery, and looks at what needs to be done to plan ahead. The guide is available from the SANE Australia online bookshop. Read more

Royal Commission launches public awareness campaign

People around the country will start seeing and hearing more about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse over the coming months following the launch of a public awareness campaign. The campaign is in response to the findings of a survey demonstrating that while there is widespread awareness of the Royal Commission, many people are still unsure about its role and work. You will also hear more from the MHCA in the coming weeks with the release of a fact sheet that we have been developing in collaboration with the Royal Commission focusing on the impacts on the mental health sector. More details can be found at the website. Read more

e-Mental Health Training

Our friends at have released a new, CPD endorsed, online training resource that provides practical tools for understanding the role of e-mental health services and using them to help in the treatment of young people. A free webinar is being held on Monday 19 May at 11am AEST to discuss the benefits and challenges of using e-mental health services and every Thursday the team at will be sharing tips and insights via Twitter using the hashtag #EMHtips. More details can be found at the website. Read more

The Butterfly Foundation body image workshops

The Butterfly Foundation is running a series of workshops designed for teachers, youth workers and community professionals in the use of self-esteem, body image and media literacy program ‘Dove BodyThink’. Full details of the workshops including dates and venues are available on the website. Read more

Working with adult survivors of complex trauma

Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) will be holding a full day workshop in Bunbury WA on Friday 30 May for health personnel who work with adult survivors of complex trauma. The workshop addresses the nature and impacts of unresolved childhood trauma and draws on current research in the neurobiology of attachment. If you are interested in attending please visit the website for full details. Read more

Warm regards


Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

T: 02 6285 3100  |  M: 0409 655 460
E:  |  W:

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