Weekly CEO Update: Anzac Day can inspire the spirit in many with lived experience

Extreme close-up of shoulder of a khaki military uniform. There is a patch with the Australian flag with text "Australia".

Glenda Weston from Charters Towers in Queensland has bravely told her story many times over the last two years and has been a key voice in the campaign for a Royal Commission into Defence and Veterans Suicide after losing her son to suicide on Anzac Day in 2019. 

Army Private Bradley Carr was born on Remembrance Day 1985 and sadly passed away at just 34 years of age, after what his mother described as ‘seven years of hell’ after returning from tours of Afghanistan.  

His loss has become one of the many highlighted during this campaign, and ahead of Anzac Day this Sunday, is a timely reminder of why these days to stop and commemorate are important for our national psyche and spirit, not just to honour the past, but also those who are struggling in the present.

And as we prepare to honour and remember this Sunday, I can’t help but note the many parallels in acknowledging those who have served and continue to serve, alongside acknowledging those with lived experience at the heart of our mental health ecosystem, the consumers, carers and their families. 

And the link is even clearer when these two groups are intertwined, just like we’ve seen this week with the announcement of a Royal Commission into Defence and Veterans Suicide

Because there is no doubt that this Royal Commission is a testament to the power and voices of lived experience. 

The movement towards instating the Royal Commission has predominantly been driven by the voices of grieving parents, who have told their gut-wrenching stories to national newspapers, and television networks, demanding politicians of all persuasions to initiate an inquiry.

In October last year, we worked with Suicide Prevention Australia on a joint submission regarding the establishment of a National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention. 

In our submission, we strongly supported the objectives of the legislation and outlined a number of ways in which it could be strengthened in relation to: data collection, supporting a whole-of-life wellbeing approach, focusing on the transition from the defence force to civilian life as a particularly vulnerable time, connecting people who are bereaved with postvention support, and supporting a whole of government approach. Mental Health Australia had the opportunity to discuss the submission with the Senate Committee at the time, and recently I met with Minister Darren Chester about next steps. Further, I was pleased this week to be at a round table consultation with the Interim Commissioner for Defence and Veterans Suicide Prevention.

And as the calls for a Royal Commission grew louder, and the need for such action was continually highlighted and reinforced, it now appears that veterans and their families will have both a Commissioner and a Royal Commission, as well as the opportunity for input on the Terms of Reference.

A point made in the final words of the announcement this week, highlighting that the establishment of the National Commissioner for Defence and Veterans Suicide Prevention means there will be capacity to act on the Inquiry’s findings and recommendations. Mental Health Australia welcomes these announcements — they are a very good result indeed for those who have campaigned so hard to be heard, and for those who can no longer be heard.

And as an Air Force Squadron Leader recently reminded us all when commemorating their Centenary in Canberra:

“Every time we have a commemorative event, we make a small payment against a debt that we can never repay to those who gave their lives for us.”

Lest we forget.

Leanne Beagley

Vale Noel Muller

It is with sadness that we heard of the passing of Noel Muller this week, a long-time friend of Mental Health Australia and the sector more broadly. Noel was a passionate and strong advocate for mental health and had worked closely with a number of staff at Mental Health Australia for many years. He was a well-respected and extremely knowledgeable member of the National Register of Mental Health Consumer and Carer Representatives and the NMHCCF, including the NMHCCF Executive. He was dedicated to making a difference for those with lived experience and worked hard to ensure the respect and rights of people with disability on a local, national and international level was front and centre. A loving husband, father, grandad and mental health advocate, Noel will be missed by many and our thoughts are with his wife Kim, his family and friends.

Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide – Consultation on the Terms of Reference Open

Veterans and their families, ex-service organisations, states and territories, peak bodies, and other interested stakeholders are now being encouraged to provide input for the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

Mental Health Australia will be providing our own submission and are asking members and key stakeholders who would like to provide further information or detail to this piece of work, to do so by emailing Harry.Lovelock@mhaustralia.org

Draft National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030: Submission to Department of Health consultation

Mental Health Australia congratulated the Department of Health on the development of the Draft National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030, and particularly welcomed the inclusion of a new focus area on “protecting mental health”. In the current submission, Mental Health Australia suggested the Strategy be further strengthened through the inclusion of targets regarding the prevention of mental ill-health, in addition to the single target in the Draft Strategy regarding suicide prevention. 

National Suicide Prevention Adviser – Final Advice

Mental Health Australia welcomes the public release of the Final Advice of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser. The report offers targeted recommendations to work towards the Australian Government’s goal of zero suicide. It proposes new governance structures including the establishment of a National Suicide Prevention Office and development of a National Suicide Prevention Strategy and recommends the National Agreement on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention include strengthened and resourced regional arrangements for suicide prevention. It highlights the importance of including lived experience in leadership and governance structures and of co-design in research, services and programs. The report also offers recommendations to improve data and evidence to drive better outcomes, to strengthen the workforce, respond earlier to those in distress and ensure services are accessible and appropriately targeted.

This important report sits alongside the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health Final Report, and the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System to complete a comprehensive suite of detailed and well thought through advice about how to reform the mental health system. The Government now has all the information it needs to act on mental health reform. 

Select Committee – Interim Report

The House of Representatives Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention has released its interim report last week. This report summarises the committee’s hearings to date with government bodies, and provides an overview of main themes the Committee will explore further. The major themes identified by the Committee so far are workforce, coordination and funding of services, accessibility and affordability, early intervention and stigma.

The Committee will now undertake a series of broader public hearings, before providing its final report by 1 November 2021. Mental Health Australia has provided a submission to this Committee and looks forward to further engagement.


I am looking forward to spending the week in Perth and interspersing local face-to-face meetings, while also attending some regular national commitments from there.

On Tuesday I have our regular meeting with Christine Morgan at the National Mental Health Commission and with Learne Durrington, CEO of the WA Primary Health Network. In the afternoon I will catch up with Hayley Solich, Co-Chair of the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum and then meet with Jennifer McGrath, West Australian Mental Health Commissioner.

On Wednesday I am looking forward to presenting and the ensuing discussions on mental health reform at the MIFA Conference, followed by a visit to Youth Focus and a meeting with their CEO Arthur Papakotsias.

On Thursday I am meeting with Shauna Gaebler at CoMHWA and then with Debbie Childs at HelpingMinds. There is an event that evening, the WA Health Consumer Awards to which I am delighted to have scored a ticket!  

On Friday I will spend all morning at WA Association for Mental Health meeting with the team.


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Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia Workshops
We are pleased to announce that we are holding 3 new workshops on the Framework in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. These free and newly expanded workshops will offer participants an opportunity to learn more about the Framework and hear how services have applied the Framework to their workplace. 
Registrations can be made using the following links:

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Mental Health News

Establishment of a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran suicide

The death of any Australian Defence Force member or veteran is one death too many and a tragedy that is deeply felt by all Australians. Tragically, and heartbreakingly, this includes death by suicide. Recognising this, the Government will take the step of recommending to the Governor General the establishment of a Royal Commission into Defence and Veterans Suicide, following a period of consultation on draft Terms of Reference, with the relevant community and state and territory governments.

Read more

Royal commission gives veterans a chance at peace

Senator Jacqui Lambie says veterans across the country can breathe a sigh of relief. We can finally let go of the weight we’ve been carrying on our shoulders, at least a little bit. This royal commission is so desperately needed, but it can’t undo the damage that’s been done. It can’t bring back the people we’ve lost. It can’t mend the families who have been broken. But it will give us a chance to heal.

Read more

Lifeline Australia welcomes inquiry into Veteran Suicide

Lifeline Australia welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of a Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide as a significant step forward to achieving an Australia free of suicide. John Brogden, Chairman, Lifeline Australia said: “As Australia’s largest suicide prevention service provider, we welcome and stand ready to support the Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide. This Royal Commission must deliver solutions to the unacceptably high level of veteran suicides and government must respond urgently to the recommendations.

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National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s final advice

The Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman, has today released the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s final advice. The final advice was released during a speech at the Suicide Prevention Australia symposium. 

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Funding helps grassroots work on mental health

Community groups and key peak bodies will be able to keep the conversation going about Victoria’s mental health reform at a local level, thanks to a $750,000 investment. Sixteen community groups and peak bodies will share in the funding to support targeted engagement with their members and communities. The organisations will use the grants to host forums and events, communicate with their members and the wider community on the key reforms and next steps to deliver all 65 recommendations of the landmark royal commission.

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Economic Disadvantage: Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2020 Sub-Report

Mission Australia has released the Economic Disadvantage: Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2020 Sub-Report. This report details findings from Mission Australia’s 19th annual Youth Survey of young people aged 15 to 19 years to provide unique insights into the experiences of economically disadvantaged young people across Australia. 

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Access to counselling still strong post-covid

The majority (63%) of counsellors and psychotherapists reported they could see a new client within 7 days whilst twenty-three per cent (23%) could accommodate an urgent request within 48 hours according to a recent survey conducted by the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA). At a time of peak demand for mental health support, counsellors and psychotherapists are offering flexible, accessible and affordable services for people seeking support with stress, relationships, domestic violence, parenting, grief and loss, abuse or job loss.

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Best path paths identified to school wellbeing and academic outcomes

A review of different wellbeing approaches over the past decade has identified the most effective ways to support student wellbeing in schools. The Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AISNSW), as the representative body for almost 500 non-government schools, recently commissioned the Telethon Kids Institute in WA to review a decade’s worth of wellbeing literature - the first review of its kind - to identify the evidence-based approaches that best supported whole-school wellbeing. 

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Demand for Kids Helpline rises during COVID-19 pandemic

The demand for Kids Helpline saw a significant increase in the volume of children and young people seeking help in 2020 vs 2019, with mental health or emotional wellbeing the most common issue for children and young people according to a new study from the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP). 

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Business Wellbeing Training

Everymind has launched a free Business Wellbeing training for small business owners. The program aims to build the skills of small business owners to promote positive mental health and wellbeing within their workplace. The online training will be open from 1 April 2021 - 30 May 2021. Find out more information on the training and to check your eligibility here.

Make Healing Happen: It’s Time to Act

On 2 June, at the National Press Club of Australia, the Healing Foundation will release its “Make Healing Happen: It’s time to act” report. The report sets out a plan with recommendations to achieve real and lasting healing for Stolen Generations survivors and to deliver and promote intergenerational healing. Buy your ticket here.

Community managed organisations Mental Health Workforce Survey on again in 2021

Data is fundamental to our understanding of the mental health workforce, but information on the workforce employed by community-managed organisations is relatively limited. To address the gap, the Mental Health Coordinating Council is conducting its second biennial CMO Mental Health Workforce Survey. Organisations sent the 2021 Workforce Survey are encouraged to take part in the project and help build on information that will guide appropriate strategies and intervention for the CMO workforce capacity into the future. To find out more contact MHCC.

Invitation to the National Suicide Prevention Adviser Final Advice Report Webinar

On 27 April from 11am-12.30pm, join members of the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce on Zoom as they discuss the eight recommendations in the Final Advice. The briefing will unpack the Advice and how it aims to reduce suicide and provide support, particularly to at-risk communities. Register for the webinar here.

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