Weekly CEO Update: A focus on wellbeing for a better future for children's mental health

The role of a parent can be as rewarding as it is difficult. Challenging, all-encompassing at times, enriching, fun, funny, hard, lovely, stressful, guilt ridden, exhausting and much, much more… and yet strangely I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

As a mother of three children – now adults – and as a family therapist with more than 30 years’ experience, predominantly in children’s mental health, there is great excitement to see a national strategy for children’s mental health in development – especially with a recognition of the need for universal parenting support programs.

I am hopeful that this new strategy means the mental health needs of children and their families will be recognised and responded to earlier and more comprehensively through a whole-of-system response, in every community across Australia.

The ecosystem within which children and families grow should be properly understood to include a range of programs and portfolio areas, and that it is unique to their age and family life stage. These program areas include:

  • The health system via maternity care, maternal and child health and primary health care;
  • The child care and education system;
  • The disability support system via NDIA (if required);
  • Services Australia (for family and childcare support payments);
  • The family/social support system (where additional support has been sought, required or provided);
  • Sporting and other community-based, child-focussed organisations such as the ‘scouting’ movement.

In mental health and wellbeing terms, this organic network of universal services needs to provide the very best opportunity for building the capability within families, and across the service and education system, for real and integrated prevention, early identification, intervention, and streaming to more specialist services. And it is must be respected as a different ecosystem than the one we work with at adolescent, adult and elderly life stages. The developmental context is critically important.

At Mental Health Australia we support the intent of the draft National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy to “focus on child functioning rather than on diagnosis.”

The language used is significant because it can signal a line in the sand shift from a system focused on diagnosis (and therefore deficits) and primarily reliant on stretched clinical services to one focused on functioning and context and therefore building on strength and resilience. And relationships.

In our submission to the National Mental Health Commission for this strategy, informed and endorsed by members, we also highlight our concerns that as it stands, the draft strategy provides some assistance to families and children with severe mental illness through a proposed model of integrated care, and some assistance for early identification of mental ill health through measures targeted for families and education settings, but it perpetuates a service gap between these two system end-points.

This creates a missed opportunity to design a model of integrated child and family care that addresses this service gap, and it fails to address the entire continuum. We are on the right track but there is more work to do to get this model right. We also need to be careful not to miss other opportunities to include children such as the recent, and very welcome, announcement of the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing which focuses only on those aged 16 and over. True reform cannot be comprehensive until these opportunities focus on the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population, including infants and children.  

The Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health Final Report (PC Report) states “there is a clear case for investment in child mental health and wellbeing. Such investment would not only improve the wellbeing of children and their families, both immediately and in the future; it would also save significant future government expenditure by lowering the risk of children disengaging from their education and could reduce the need for more intensive medical care and other supports.” (p.195)

With this in mind, Mental Health Australia supports the Draft Strategy’s overall approach to child mental health across families and communities, mental health services, child care settings, education and data, research and evaluation.

It is now time for action starting with a final strategy, new investment commitments and a proper place for children’s mental health within the National Agreement now in negotiation across states, territories and the Commonwealth governments.

Have a good weekend.

Leanne Beagley

The interplay between mental health and housing pathways

We were delighted to partner with our friends at the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and Mind Australia to facilitate the launch of a report on housing and mental health this week, through an online video forum attended by over 60 partpciapants including a number of consumer and carers involved in the developing the report.

Trajectories: the interplay between mental health and housing pathways outlines priorities for policy reform to improve access to housing for people with lived experience of mental ill-health, and builds on previous research undertaken regarding the relationship between the housing and mental health pathways of people experiencing mental illness. Mental Health Australia looks forward to working with our members to continue advocating for the changes recommended by this work. 



On Tuesday we have a meeting to think more about stigma and how it impacts on people living with mental illness. 

On Wednesday Deputy CEO Melanie Cantwell and I will be meeting with the new Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman. Later that day I have a Mental Health Working Group meeting - this is a working group with the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority.

On Thursday we are meeting with Mark Pearce CEO of Volunteering Australia, and have a Board Finance and Risk Management Meeting. I am then looking forward to a webinar with the AICD on “Dealing with a Distributed Workforce” and later there is a meeting of the Mentally Health Workplace Alliance. 

On Friday we have a meeting with Orygen to discuss “A Welcome Home” following on from the Trajectories presentation with AHURI and MIND this week and continuing with our theme at Mental Health Australia building the policy agenda with members regarding the interface of homelessness and mental illness. Later in the day I am keen to have the opportunity to meet with the Board of TheMHS to talk about strategic issues - with the opportunity to congratulate them on a great conference this past week.


Member Benefits and Profiles

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Mental Health Australia members are invited to send us news, announcements, events or other notices for inclusion in the Weekly CEO Update newsletter. To do so, simply fill out this form by COB each Wednesday for your notice to appear in the newsletter the following Friday.


Member Profiles

Beyond Blue
Beyond Blue is a national, independent and bipartisan not-for-profit organisation. Our vision is for all people in Australia to achieve their best possible mental health. We work to create change to protect everyone’s mental health and improve the lives of individuals, families and communities affected by depression, anxiety and suicide.

Micah Projects
Micah Projects is a not-for-profit organisation committed to providing services and opportunities in the community to create justice and respond to injustice. We engage with people experiencing adversity due to poverty, homelessness, mental illness, domestic violence, disability and all forms of discrimination. Micah Projects works to break down barriers that exclude people from housing, healthcare, employment, meaningful connections, and to give people a voice. We assist and support each individual or family including children, to resolve crisis, break social isolation, have a home, access health and community services, and build community. Micah Projects provides a range of support and advocacy services to individuals and families according to their needs and capacity. We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia (First Peoples) as the traditional owners of this land and support the right of Indigenous people to self-determination and cultural expression. The Queensland Government supports Micah Projects in our mission to build community and break social isolation through funding agreements for the provision of services in the community.  


Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

The Department of Health has developed and translated communication resources for multicultural communities with in-language communication resources and key messages to inform and educate everyone in Australia about COVID-19 vaccines. Click on the links in the stakeholder pack (opens to pdf) to access translated COVID-19 vaccines information in your community’s language. Resources include audio files, videos, social media content, posters and factsheets. We encourage you to disseminate these in-language resources and key messages through your own networks. The pack has also been sent to over 3000 multicultural stakeholders and community leaders.


Mental Health News

New report shows progress made on homelessness in response to COVID-19 slipping away

A new report shows the gains made on reducing homelessness during the pandemic last
year are slipping away. It shows less than a third of those assisted with temporary hotel
accommodation during the crisis were later transitioned into longer-term affordable housing,
mainly due to a shortage of social housing available. At the same time, tens of thousands of
people renting across the country now owe mounting rental debts, after having their
payments deferred (but not reduced) while eviction moratoriums were in place.

Read more

National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing gets underway

The Government has launched the first phase of Australia’s $89.5 million Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study - the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing. This comprehensive survey aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the mental health challenges that Australians are facing.

Read more

Pandemic, bushfire, drought cluster prompts call for National Rural Health Strategy

The National Rural Health Alliance is calling for the development of a new National Rural Health Strategy and Implementation Plan to respond to increasingly intense extreme weather events and the global pandemic.

Read more

ACT government response to inquiry into youth mental health

Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson yesterday tabled the ACT Government’s Response to the Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Youth Affairs Inquiry into Youth Mental Health in the ACT. “The mental health and wellbeing of children and young people is an important priority area for the ACT Government. Early intervention and prevention are key to promoting positive mental wellbeing and addressing the many complex issues that impact the mental health of our young people,” Minister Davidson said.

Read more

Smiling minds boost to support rural and regional schools 

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said school children across six hundred of Australia’s rural and regional primary schools will have access to expanded mental health supports through the Morrison Government’s $2.5 million funding for the Smiling Mind evidence-based mindfulness social and emotional learning program.

Read more

New book: Advancing Suicide Research

The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) is very pleased to announce the publication of ‘Advancing Suicide Research’; the most comprehensive text regarding suicide research compiled by the world’s leading experts.

Read more

Small business and mental health

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources research report, Small Business and Mental Health: Supporting Small Business when they are Facing Challenges research report is now available online.

Read more

Inclusive mental health care and support: ACON launches new LGBTQ counselling service

A new counselling service spearheaded by ACON, Australia’s largest sexuality and gender diverse health organisation, will give LGBTQ community members more options in accessing inclusive and culturally appropriate mental health care and support. Pride Counselling provides counselling support to LGBTQ community members seeking an affordable service.

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Additional support for the mental health and wellbeing of police officers

The Tasmanian government knows police officers and other emergency services workers are susceptible to post traumatic stress disorders and other mental health illnesses and have announced an additional $1.5 million in funding per year to support the health and wellbeing of police officers.

Read more



Registration open: 31st World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention

Griffith University’s Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) is delighted to be partnering in the @IASPinfo 31st World Congress, to be held on the Gold Coast from 21-24 September 2021. Registrations are now open.

Survive and Thrive: PANDA’S podcast for expecting and new parents

Take a look at this great podcast where PANDA Helpline Counsellor Helen guides you through surfing the emotional wave after feeling strong emotions, and grounding yourself in the present moment. Visit panda.org.au for more support. Podcast available here.

Share views on your experiences using the Carer Gateway service

Have your say - Urbis has been engaged by the Department of Social Services to conduct a research study about how well the Carer Gateway service has been delivered to service users like yourself. You are invited to participate in this research to help us learn about your experiences and perspectives as a service user of the Carer Gateway. The research will be in a form of an online or telephone interview or focus group (your preference), with multiple dates and times available between 15 – 26 February 2021. Find out more here (opens to pdf).



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