MHCA CEO's Weekly Update - 31 January

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This Week

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the first Update for 2014.  With so much activity already underway I am sure it is going to be a big year for mental health.

Happily I return to the New Year after a great break, and I hope many of you also had the opportunity for some rest and relaxation over the break.

As you will see below, time waits for no-one (not even Santa) and there is a lot that has happened, or is about to happen, in the mental health space.

National Mental Health Commission

As many of you will be aware, there have been some significant changes at the National Mental Health Commission over the Christmas period.  Mr David Butt has taken up the position of CEO of the Commission and Ms Georgie Harman has returned to her position as Deputy CEO after ushering in the Commission’s second report card.  I am sure I join many others in congratulating Georgie on her period of leadership at the Commission and in welcoming David to the role at such an important time.  I have already had the opportunity to meet with David and discuss the current mental health agenda and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Commission.

At the end of December a number of Commissioners terms expired, with processes for replacement and/or reappointment still underway.  Professor Allan Fels remains Chair of the Commission, and Rob Knowles, Pat Dudgeon and Jackie Crowe continue to serve as Commissioners.  I will note any further appointments in future updates.

The National Mental Health Commission is about to undertake its review of the mental health system, and we expect to see Terms of Reference for the review very soon. 
Between the National Mental Health Commission’s review, the Commonwealth Commission of Audit, and the 2014 Budget, it certainly shapes up as a very important six months for the mental health sector! 

We will be keen to engage with you on all of these fronts as the year unfolds.

We want to hear from you

The Federal Government has announced a review of the welfare system and we are very keen to ensure the views and experiences of people with a lived experience of mental health are considered. To do this, the MHCA is keen to hear from people who have a lived experience of mental illness, or their carers, on their personal experiences relating to government benefits. If you have received the Disability Support Pension or another type of employment benefit, we want to hear from you. Please consider sharing your experiences dealing with Centrelink and the benefits system in Australia. If you wish, all stories, names and experiences will remain anonymous. You can add your story at the MHCA website.
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Mental Health Consumer Peak Organisation Project Update

The consultation period for the Constitution of the new mental health consumer peak closed on 17 January and the response has been fantastic. The project team would like to extend a huge thank you to all who have taken the time to consider this important document and contribute their ideas to the process. For a full run down on where the project is currently up to and what’s in store for 2014, read the latest communique from CRG member Lorraine Powell.

Mental Health and insurance - submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry

The MHCA has also made a submission to Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into equal recognition of people with disability before the law. The submission describes how people with a lived experience of mental illness often do not have access to insurance on reasonable terms. The submission also calls for improvements to industry practice including insurance products, guidelines, forms and processes and staff training. The full submission is available on our website.

NDIS Hunter Community of Practice

Josh Fear and Liz Ruck presented at the Hunter NDIS and Mental Health Community of Practice Forum in Newcastle last Thursday. The event was very well attended  by consumers, service providers and mental health providers, including the Hunter Partners in Recovery, and the National Disability Insurance Agency with participants keen to discuss their experiences of the NDIS launch and share suggestions for ways forward.

New WA Mental Health Commissioner

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett announced this week that Tim Marney has been appointed at the State’s new Mental Health Comissioner. Mr Marney has held the position of Under Treasurer since 2005 and will take over from WA’s first Mental Health Commissioner, Eddie Bartnik. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Mr Bartnik for his outstanding contribution to the mental health sector, especially his advocacy on behalf of consumers and carers. We look forward to working with Mr Marney over the coming months.

Members only media summary

I am pleased to announce that we are restarting our weekly media summary service for members. The summary will include all mental health related stories that are making the news each week and will be sent out each Wednesday. This service is only available to our members, if your organisation is not currently a member of the MHCA you can find out how to join by visiting our website.
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NDIS Organisational Readiness in Tasmania

The MHCA will be jointly presenting an NDIS workshop for the mental health sector in Hobart next week in partnership with the Mental Health Council of Tasmania and National Disability Services.  While the focus of the workshop is organisational readiness, consumers, carers and other interested stakeholders are welcome to attend. The day will run from 9am-4.30pm and will include presentations on the experience from the Hunter launch site and an presentation on the National Disability Organisational Readiness Tool, followed by a Q&A session. If you wish to attend please contact Elida Meadows or Russell Stevens on 02 6224 9222 or

Mental health at the World Economic Forum in Davos

An interesting article was released this week from the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr Thomas Insel, who recently attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. Dr Insel writes that the surprising hot topic of this year’s WEF was mental health. Over 20 sessions at the forum were dedicated to health and included a focus on mental illness, dementia and mindfulness. For the full article please visit the NIMH website. More Info

The Mental Health Services Conference (TheMHS) 2014 program

The Mental Health Services Conference team is gearing up for 2014 with several events taking place over the coming months. The Open Dialogue workshop with Professor Jaakko Seikkula and the HWA Peer Workers Consultation Workshops will be held on Wednesday 19 February. This will be closely followed by the TheMHS Summer Forum 2014 on Trauma and the Mental Health Workforce that will be held on 20-21 February. Registrations and program details are available on their website. Read More

Tune in now - toolkit

A new toolkit has been developed to assist workers in homelessness services to increase their knowledge of the signs of anxiety and depression in order to ‘start the conversation’ with men experiencing homelessness who may also be anxious or depressed. The toolkit is part of a series of projects that beyondblue has been funded to undertake through the Taking Action to Tackle Suicide initiative and was developed in partnership with Homelessness Australia. Read more

Healthy Weight Week: 17 - 23 February

MHCA members, the Dietitians Association of Australia will be launching its annual campaign, Australia’s Health Weight Week from 17-23 February 2014. The week is an ideal time for all Australians to kick-start healthy eating habits. The campaign website has tips on how to eat better and live better along with details on events in your local area. Read more

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The January to June 2014 schedule of activity has been released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The schedule includes public and private hearing dates as well as roundtable discussions that will focus on key issues identified through the work of the Commission. Read more

Patient Opinion

Patient Opinion is an independent website where people can share their experiences of Australian health services, good or bad. Patient Opinion is about honest and meaningful conversations between patients and health services. The website allows people to submit their stories and the site will then pass stories to services in order to help make improvements. Services are able to respond to feedback provided. Read more

Glimpses - a compliation of real life experiences with mental illness

A compilation of uncensored personal experiences of people with mental illness is now available for download. Glimpses provides a rare and detailed insight into living with a mental illness and is aimed at increasing awareness, understanding and reducing stigma surrounding mental illness. Contributions from consumers and carers are invited. Download

Warm regards


Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

T: 02 6285 3100  |  M: 0409 655 460
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