Thursday 19 May Day one - Concurrent sessions 1.30-3.00 pm


Panel on the practical aspects of NDIS transition

This panel session will provide information on the transitions process to NDIS and perspectives on experiences from the trial sites. Audeince members will have the opportunity to ask questions and participate in this interactive session.


  • Arthur Rogers - Special Adviser NDIA reform, Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Simon Viereck - Chief Executive, Mental Health Community Coalition ACT
  • Janette Korolew - Peer Carer Consultant, MI Fellowship
  • James McLure - Peer Support Worker, Pathways
  • Branka Carter - Region Manager North Victoria, National Disability Insurance Agency
  • Deborah Roberts - Director Mental Healht, National Disability Insurance Agency






Presentation one

Reachout nextstep: co-designing an online help-seeking tool for young people.

While one in four young people in Australia experience mental health problems, only 35% seek professional help. Known barriers to help-seeking include lack of access to appropriate care, not recognising mental health issues, being unsure of where to get help and negative attitudes towards seeking help.


In response to this, ReachOut ‘NextStep’ is an online tool designed to facilitate help-seeking for mental health difficulties in young people aged 18-25. Co-designed in partnership with end-users, the tool helps users navigate the mental health system and empowers them to feel confident to seek help. The tool was designed using a mobile first approach, ensuring a positive user experience for a growing number of young people using smartphones as their primary device for accessing the internet (particularly outside major cities).


This presentation will use insights from a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) of an early release of the product, as well as analytics data from the live product in order to demonstrate:

  • The effectiveness of an online tool to facilitate help-seeking among young Australians
  • Benefits of co-designing with young people
  • Benefits of partnering with academics and service providers to ensure reliable, evidence based outcomes.

‘ReachOut NextStep’ showcases how technology can be used to reach vulnerable young people that have unmet support needs and are disengaged from the mental health system. Young people report the benefits of the tool as anonymity, validation, reassurance and providing them with a sense of autonomy and confidence.


Victoria Blake - Research Organiser, ReachOut Australia

Victoria Blake joined ReachOut’s Research and Policy team in 2012. She has fostered specialist skills in Participatory Design and User Experience research methodologies in the context of online program development and has considerable experience working with young people from diverse communities and life experiences across Australia.


- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3


Presentation two

Participation and engagement in youth mental health.

The involvement of young people in mental health services and organisations is essential to ensure the quality and relevance of the work undertaken.  At  Orygen, The  National  Centre  of  Excellence  in  Youth  Mental  Health  one of  our  key  strategic aims is to put young people and their families at the forefront of everything that we do. In line with this goal, a Youth Engagement and Participation strategy is  currently being  rolled  out  across  our  clinical,  research,  teaching  and  policy  divisions.  This multimedia  presentation  will  describe  a  number  of  initiatives  underway  that  focus on  the  involvement  of  young  people  throughout  Orygen,  using  interviews  with young people and other staff members to engage and inform the audience.


Youth Advisory Council (YAC; All Divisions)
The YAC drives youth partnerships across Orygen’s four divisions and contributes to the implementation of the Youth Engagement and Participation Strategy.


Youth Research Council (YRC; Research Division)
The YRC plays a more research specific role, and members are tasked with contributing to the undertakings of the Research Division. The YRC is a key partner in the Research Division and contributes to the overall direction of research at Orygen, including  what  we  research,  the  way  in  which  we  conduct  research  and  how  we disseminate these findings.


Youth Advisory Groups (YAGs; Clinical Division)
Run at each of the Orygen-led four headspace sites in north western Melbourne, the headspace YAGs provide anyone aged 16-25 with the opportunity to be heard and to take action to improve the health and well-being of young people. Activities include: creating, developing and leading local    projects;   website   and   social   media consultation and development; research and evaluation; resource development; peer support and mentoring; and speaking with the media.


Summer Intern Program (Across Divisions)
Orygen’s Summer Intern Program provides a four week placement (three days a week) providing access to research teams, key policy and advocacy staff, clinical specialists and workforce trainers that have extensive experience working in the field of youth mental health. The Program gives young people an opportunity to increase their knowledge and understanding of the youth mental health sector in Australia, with an emphasis on workforce development, research, policy and communications. Interns are supported to develop leadership skills in order to contribute to improving the mental health and wellbeing of young Australians.


Youth Engagement Training Initiative (YETI; Across Australia)
YETI  is  an  online  tool  designed  to  provide  a  social  and  learning  platform  for  young people  interested  in  having  a  voice  around  youth  mental  health. YETI  is  a  space  for young  people  from  all  over  Australia  to  communicate  and  share  information  and provides  an  opportunity  to  discuss  upcoming  projects,  events  and  receive  updates on how to get involved in activities and programs offered by Orygen. There are also a number of Pathways and Steps that young people can take to learn about a range of issues related to youth mental health.


Christine Abdelmalek - Research Fellow and Youth Partnerships in Research Coordinator, Orygen

Christine Abdelmalek is an inaugural member of the Youth Research Council at Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health. Based in Melbourne, Christine is passionate about youth involvement in mental health services and research and is currently studying a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences at Deakin University. She dreams of becoming a psychologist working in a multi-disciplinary team within a hospital, of teaching psychology and influencing change at a government level. Christine is also passionate about working with teenagers and young people to bring about a positive change to their mental health and wellbeing. She currently fulfils this passion by actively volunteering in the field. Other volunteer roles have included Youth Ambassador (ReachOut), Peer Mentor Leader (Deakin University) and volunteer (Alfred Hospital).


Magenta Simmons - Research Fellow - Orygen

Magenta Simmons is a Research Fellow in Evidence-Based Clinical Decision Making and the Youth Partnerships in Research Coordinator at Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health in Melbourne, Australia. As the Youth Partnerships in Research Coordinator, Magenta works with the Orygen Youth Research Council to promote youth participation across Orygen's Research Division; putting young people at the centre of what research we undertake, the way in which conduct this research and our strategies for dissemination and translation. Her work focuses on how young people can be meaningfully involved as collaborators in research projects, as consumers in clinical decision making about their own care, and as peer workers supporting other consumers. Magenta has developed a number of online tools to support young people to make decisions about treatment for mental ill health.


Jacqui Faliszewski
Joanna Farmer
Kerryn Pennell


- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Part 5
- Part 6
- Part 7
- Part 8




Presentation one

Mental illness and long term homelessness: bringing together clinical and community services.


The Mental health and Homelessness Program aims to break the cycle of long term homelessness for people experiencing severe and enduring mental illness, significant co-morbidities and high and complex support needs. The program supports up to 25 individuals aged sixteen years and older at any one time. It is a partnership between the lead agency Mentis Assist (community mental health), Peninsula Health (clinical mental health) and the Salvation Army (housing service). The Program is delivered by a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary team and is unique in its setting within a clinical mental health service.


The partnership model allows streamlined access to vital psychosocial, housing, health and psychiatric care which are often overlooked or inaccessible for this population. The program is based on the Assertive Community Treatment Model and works flexibly with participants for up to three years. Central to delivering this type of program is a team based approach, low caseloads and the flexibility to offer a stepped care approach, the ability to adapt the service delivery’s intensity, frequency and type of service over time as the participants’ needs change.


The partnership in service delivery and governance has core elements which allow the successful delivery of such a program. The key elements are the commitment of all partners in reaching and providing innovative responses to a group of participants who are traditionally hard to engage or maintain engagement in services. Trust and respect of the diverse experiences and expertise each agency and staff member bring to the program, along with transparency across all levels from direct service delivery to the support of higher management from all agencies and staff delivering the program, assist in developing a shared understanding across staff and agencies about participants’ needs, program objectives and service delivery.


Like the agencies, participants come from a range of backgrounds, cultures and all have a unique story, understanding and journey of recovery. Michael, a participant and Barb, a practitioner’s journey in recovery and supporting this process demonstrates the intricacies and parallels for staff and participants in navigating systems and inspiring hope, belief and the importance of meaningful connection and purpose in the recovery journey.


Michelle Francis - Program Manager Mental health and Homelessness Program , Mentis Assist
Julie Hartley - Senior Clinician
Barbara Wyatt -  Mental Health Practitioner


The staff in the program bring to it a range of experiences ranging from clinical and community mental health in Australia, the UK and New Zealand, in such settings as inpatient and community, and programs designed to support the needs of clients experiencing high and complex support needs and long term homelessness.




Presentation two

Developing an evidence base for public policy advocacy.

Governments are under increasing pressure to demonstrate the effectiveness of social service investments through rigorous and independent research. This presentation will outline one of Australia’s most robust research projects for an evidence base on how to end long-term homelessness: Sacred Heart Mission’s Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) project.


J2SI was originally conceptualised in 2006. The program was piloted from 2009-2011 and evaluated using a longitudinal Randomised Control Trial. For the pilot, a total of 80 clients were randomised assigned to one of two groups -- the intervention (group J) and control (group E forexisting services). The longitudinal study followed the participants for six years: a survey was conducted every six months during the three years of the service response, as well as at the fourth and sixth year marks.


The independent evaluation found that several outcomes measures improved among J2SI participants:

  • Health service use:
    • 80% decline in emergency hospital services use (compared to 21% increase in control group)
    • 80% decline in average number of days hospitalised (compared to 33% reduction in control group)
  • Psychiatric service use: over 66% decline in usage rates for both emergency presentations and admission to psychiatric units
  • Self-reported health: J2SI participants reporting no bodily pain increased from 27% to 45%
  • Mortality rates: J2SI participant rates were half (2) those of control group (4)


This presentation will speak to the benefits regarding the rigor of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of innovative practice as well as the way that the evidence is interpreted within government and used to influence public debate. This includes the use of a cost-benefit analysis showing that it is more cost effective to provide people with accommodation and support than to leave them to progress to prison, psych units or other emergency services.


It will also speak briefly to some practical aspects of the RCT and evaluation including the way in which hope and recovery is a key part of the service model and research.


Angela Merriam - Public Policy & Advocacy Advisor, Sacred Heart Mission

Angela Merriam holds a BS in Economics and MA in Public Policy, with professional experience ranging from government, academia and the non-profit sector. She is currently Public Policy & Advocacy Advisor at Sacred Heart Mission, a role which she has held for just over one year.




Presentation three

Way2home: a creative response to ending homelessness.

Managing an assertive outreach service that works with people sleeping rough in the city of Sydney demands a creative response.  The Neami Way2Home service has been working closely with government, non-government agencies, health services and community housing providers to meet the ever growing numbers of people sleeping rough in the city of Sydney.  Neami Way2Home is funded through the NSW Government - Family and Community Services and the City of Sydney Council.


To maximize our ability to respond appropriately to the complex needs of this vulnerable group we maintain very close partnerships with St Vincent’s Homeless Health outreach team along with mental health clinicians, drug and alcohol workers, and other allied health workers. In one area we noticed an increase in people sleeping rough, with 350 people cycling through the space since March 2015  and  January  2016. Through a collective impact response 64 people have successfully entered into a housing pathway. These outcomes would not have been possible without a coordinated response by the 19 organisations that committed to working together with the goal of improving outcomes for those experiencing homelessness.


We work within a trauma informed framework, foster strong partnerships between housing and support services, and provide non-duplication of services with other specialist homelessness services. One of the remarkable themes that is constantly realised is the resilience of those we work with and that each person holds a story with individual hopes and dreams for their future. To hear the positive difference support and a home has made to a person’s sense of worth is astounding, as we found when interviewing past and current consumers of our service.


In order to challenge past processes and attitudes in responding to primary homelessness our service has actively lead and participated in key initiatives. The only way to maintain our work toward innovative solutions and positivity is to strengthen service coordination, use methods of data collection that at the very least identify the range of needs and vulnerability in order to better advocate and inform funding bodies. Opportunities to think outside the box will continue to improve our responses to homelessness while providing key information to inform policy and system change to ultimately end Homelessness in Sydney.


In December 2015 Registry Week was conducted using the Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritisation Decision Assistance Tool (VI SPADAT). It involved surveying 516 participants who were currently sleeping rough, residing in temporary accommodation or crisis accommodation. The data collected will be used to prioritise and triage an appropriate response for the people surveyed. The data released in the City of Sydney Registry Week 2015 Report showed 53% reporting a mental health issue, of those 64% reported have both a substance abuse and mental health issues. The information gained from this is also being used to inform both housing and support services relative to the needs of those experiencing homelessness and difficulties in accessing stable accommodation.


Tamara Sequeira - Way2Home Service Manager, Neami National

Tamara Sequeira is currently the Way2Home service manager for Neami National. Tamara has over 16 years’ experience in a range of welfare, health, training and management roles, in government and non-government agencies. Her academic qualifications are in Social Health, Health Science (Nursing) and Community Welfare. Tamara’s life work has been focused on working with our community’s most vulnerable and to seek to influence change in how the welfare and health sector respond to those needs that will see long-term effective solutions particularly to those who find themselves homeless.


- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4




Presentation one - symposium

Trauma informed care and practice - pathways to service improvement.


The majority of people accessing mental health services have experienced some form of trauma. The link between trauma as a contributing or causal factor in developing mental illness has been well established. Trauma Informed Care and Practice (TICP) aims to introduce care that minimises re-traumatisation, increases safety and communicates an understanding about the profound effects that trauma can have on a person.


In this symposium we will present current research findings that examine how mental health services respond to consumers who are survivors of trauma. In particular the focus will be on the findings of a PhD project that investigated how the Australian mental health and social service system responds to individuals who experience voice hearing and have past experiences of sexual assault or abuse. A picture of current mental heath and social service system responses will be outlined as well as the consumer identified impacts of these responses. Key themes emerging from interviews with consumers and practice wisdom from mental health professionals will be discussed leading to new ideas about TICP for voice hearers and other mental health consumers.


We will then discuss some of the complexities of implementing TICP. While TICP frameworks, toolkits and training packages provide excellent direction, ongoing implementation can be challenging. We will take a look at Australian and international documents and examples of implementation of TICP. We will then discuss how one Psychiatric Inpatient Unit (Northern Area Mental Health Service) tries to balance the challenges of acute psychiatric care with implementing TICP.


Now in its third year, the TIC Reflective Practice Group continues to be adapted to suit the needs of staff on rosters and an ever changing staff group. While the Reflective Practice Group is part of a broader focus on TICP, it is where ‘real-life’ conundrums and challenges are discussed. Emerging themes are worked with in order to continuously address staff development needs to support TICP implementation. An Action Research Framework provides opportunity for staff to contribute in review processes to contribute towards continuous review and feedback processes aimed at bringing theory and practice together.


Whilst inspiring work occurs across Community and Clinical Mental Health Services, the need for better trauma informed services in Victoria remains. TICP can be a connector between different types of mental health services, unifying systems that are often ‘siloed’ and work from different paradigms.


Formation of a Victorian Trauma Informed Care and Practice Network could join professionals, consumers, researchers and carers to work together to support the implementation of trauma informed practice throughout the state. This symposium will conclude with a discussion around the potential for forming such a network.


Kath Sellick - PhD candidate, University of Melbourne

Kath Sellick is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Social Work at the University of Melbourne. Her PhD project investigates how the Australian mental health system is responding to voice hearers who have experienced sexual abuse. This project has involved interviews with consumers about their experiences using services as well as an in depth survey of mental health professionals who work with voice hearers. Kath has spent seven years working in the community mental health sector as both a support worker and a team leader. She is passionate about mental health and social justice, and deeply committed to working towards a better mental health system that responds to trauma in a holistic, consumer informed way.


Dr Sabin Fernbacher - Northern Area Mental Health Service

Dr Sabin Fernbacher works at the Northern Area Mental Health Service in a service development role across Aboriginal and Women’s mental health and Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness. She is passionate about working collaboratively on systemic change to increase gender sensitivity and safety and cultural safety for Aboriginal people in mental health care. Her work has focused on trauma (family violence, sexual abuse) and mental illness for many years. She continues to work with community agencies, clinical mental health services, academia and state government on addressing trauma within and across different sectors and contexts.




Presentation two

Working with refugees: incorporating a relational approach to service delivery.


The Syrian refugee crisis has highlighted how the public and political responses to the plight of refugees are often polarised. The tragedy is that these responses reinforce the themes that already dominate the trauma narratives of refugees, that is, vulnerability, disconnection, discrimination, disempowerment and being devalued.  Concomitantly, health and welfare sectors in countries of re-settlement struggle to engage and meet the complex set of psychiatric and psychosocial needs that refugees present with. 

The contemporary and crucial question, therefore, given the current political and economic climate, is how do practitioners and services respond humanely and effectively to the needs of refugees, either directly or indirectly? The aim of this presentation is to explore how Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT, Ryle & Kerr, 2002) principles can inform a relational approach to working with refugees. This presentation takes a CAT relational lens and maps it onto an existing trauma framework (Silove, 1999; VFST, 1998).  In doing so it provides a relational ‘mirror’, which highlights the dominant relational patterns in the refugee experience. The narratives of survivors, practitioners and services are drawn upon to illustrate these relationship patterns. There is real potential for a relational approach to be of value in supporting existing frameworks and services in better understanding, assessing, engaging and supporting refugees in a manner that enhances engagement and the recovery process.  We also argue that a relational framework is valuable not only as a therapeutic framework  but also as a conceptual framework for indirect work with practitioners and services and has potential as a tool for advocacy.  



Jennifer O'Brien - Program Leader for Professional and Organizational Development, Foundation House

Jennifer O’Brien is the Program Leader for Professional and Organizational Development program at Foundation House which aims to support individuals and organisations to work more effectively with refugees and asylum seekers. She has over 14 years experience working within the health and community service sector specifically with youth, trauma and general mental health. She has an interest in utilising relational approaches to therapeutic work in order to support health, community professionals and organisations to reflect on and improve their therapeutic engagement. With experience in clinical mental health counseling, training and organizational development Jennifer is passionate about supporting the mental health sector to engage more effectively with refugees and asylum seekers.

 Fritha Melville - Clinical Psychologist, Orygen

Fritha Melville is a senior clinical psychologist with Orygen Youth Health, a public mental health service, which works with young people aged 15 to 24 years with a serious mental illness.   Fritha has over 15 years of experience working with young people in the health and community sectors, including homelessness, drug and alcohol and refugee specific services and also has training and service development experience   Fritha’s conceptual approach to mental health is based on a holistic framework, which advocates the integration of individual and community based interventions as well as community and service development and research.  Fritha has been involved in advocating for the needs of people from refugee background both through research and clinical work for over 15 years. 


- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4


Presentation three

Research project - questioning the service response to those with borderline personality disorder in the hume.

Participants  will  be  exposed  to  an  innovative  systems  change  project  including  research  and  key ideas of empowerment, hope and how we can transform systems working to achieve a better future for  people  withBorderline  Personality  Disorder  (BPD).   To  improve  system  response  and  effect systems change we needed to first scrutinise what we are currently doing. Our project objective is to provide a review into service access and response to people diagnosed with BPD within the HUME region.


Part  of  the  project  outcome is  to inform  and  engage  the  service  system,  carers  and consumers about the experience of consumers and provide an informed pathway  to work together to  achieve better service  responses  and  outcomes for  people  with  mental  illness.   Participants  will have the opportunity to explore how the research project has linked with other projects, St Luke’s Project  Mindful  and  MPHN  project  Family  Connections.


These  projects  share  a  steering  committee with   representation   from   key   stakeholders   including   clinical   services,   carers   and   consumers addressing key sector issues of service integration and coordination.  This project came about due to PIR  in  the  Hume  region experiencing a  high  number  of  participants  who  have  a  diagnosis  of BPD;anecdotal  evidence  suggests  that people are  not  receiving  adequate  care  from  services,  and  that service system responses are disjointed and inconsistent. 


This raised questions including; Why does their appear  to  be  no  consistency  in  responses  from services  in  dealing  with people with  BPD?   Do services  and  consumers think  there  is  a  system  issue?    Do  they  think  change  needs  to  happen and what  would  they  like  to  see?   We  aim  to  inspire  others  to  explore  service  responses,  we  want participants to consider consumers experiences in the mental health system and to hold hope in the development of our services, inspiring innovation for change and improving systems.


Maryanne Donnellan - Support Facilitator, Gateway Health and Hume PIR

Maryanne Donnellan has  worked  in  government  and  community  services  for  the  past  20 years,  starting  her career  in  child  protection  and  then  moving  to  working  in  programs  for  children  and families experiencing  separation.    Maryanne  has  worked  in  regional  and  remote  areas  including  Cobar, Bourke and Whyalla.  Maryanne currently works in Wodonga as a Support Facilitator in the Partners in  recovery  Program  at  Gateway  Health,  working  with  participants  that  have  severe  and  complex mental health issues.


Alana Pund

Alana Pund has worked in mental health for the past 12 years, starting in a youth residential rehabilitation service.    Alana  has  worked  with  young  parents  and  homelessness  through  to  people  with  a  severe and persistent mental illness in the Partners in Recovery program as a Support facilitator.   Alana is originally from the Local area and spent her 20’s in Melbourne.  Living in the regional town of Beechworth  meant  that  Alana  grew  up  around  May  Day  Hills  and  through  de-institutionalisation, always being aware of the stigmatisation of people with a mental illness.  Alana has had experience in presenting and project work and held roles in group facilitation, case management and currently is a team leader in community health centre.





Presentation one

Implications for family carers when people with psychosocial disability have individualised funding packages.

This literature review examined the impact of individualised funding on family carers of people with psychosocial disability. It was conducted in the context of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) being rolled out across Australia as individualised funding is becoming the dominant funding mechanism in disability and aged services. The presentation will provide an overview of the key themes and findings. It is vital for consumers and carers to have up to date information as we progress to an NDIS.


The overall findings from the literature were that individualised funding programs resulted in better outcomes compared to traditional block funded service provision for carers and participants and had no adverse effects when conditions were conducive. That is, there was adequate funding and assistance. However, they presented challenges to family carers when carers had to ͚fill in the gaps͛ and provide support when funding was inadequate or when they were expected to shoulder the burden of managing administrative responsibilities without adequate support.


Funding for family carers
Individualised funding programs typically assess a person’s needs and this assessment determines their allocated funding. It was found that assessments of carer need, in practice were rarely taken up. The reasons for this appear to be a combination of staff not being aware of carers͛ needs, family carers either refusing the offer or not asserting their rights and asking for an assessment, and carers not knowing this opportunity existed. Family carers need education about assessment processes and planning meetings so that they can use these processes effectively for the benefit of their family member and themselves.


Positive outcomes
A range of benefits was identified for family carers involved with individualised funding when outcomes were compared to traditional service provision: Carers benefitted when individualised funding provided more choice, control and flexibility with services and supports. Carers often benefited when their family member’s quality of life improved. For example, they gained respite when their family member had activities or a holiday, and when they shared the same residence and domestic assistance was provided. In addition, carers had ͚flow-on͛ benefits when their family member had improved outcomes such as spending less time as a psychiatric inpatient, having fewer criminal justice contacts, being less stressed, gaining confidence and getting a job.


Studies identified that many carers and participants found the administrative responsibilities onerous when they were required to recruit and direct support workers, manage taxation and insurance requirements, find services and activities and acquit financial accounts. This discouraged some carers from promoting self-managed programs or the use of individualised funding to their family when they were optional. Coupled with this concern was that of not having sufficient funds. This resulted in people being unable to purchase necessary supports and services or purchase administrative assistance when required. Austerity measures in some countries have cut people’s budgets and left them with insufficient funds to purchase necessary supports. These cuts are particularly concerning in individualised funding programs because there are no disability services with block funding available to support people in times of crisis.


Dr Carmel Laragy - Research Fellow, The Centre for Mental Health, University of Melbourne

Dr Carmel Laragy is a Research Fellow for The Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne. Carmel for the past 15 years has studied the introduction of individualised funding programs in disability and aged care services. She has published internationally reports of her studies and observations of individualised funding programs – these include a focus on program design and supports offered, strategies staff and service users adopted to transition to this new service design, the outcomes achieved and the challenges faced. Carmel drew on her extensive background experience to research and write a literature review on the implications for family carers when people with psychosocial disability have individualised funding packages.


Frances Sanders - mind Australia
Dr Lisa Brophy - University of Melbourne




Presentation two

Living independently and being included in the community – the ndis and advocating for human rights.

Under section 15 of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986, one of the functions of the Public Advocate is to “promote, facilitate and encourage the provision, development and co-ordination of services and facilities provided by government, community and voluntary organisations for persons with a disability with a view to promoting the development of the ability and capacity of persons with a disability to act independently”.


The Public Advocate has a strong interest in the state of community mental health support services (CMHSS) and is gravely concerned about the future of these services as Victoria moves towards the full implementation of the NDIS. We have already seen the impact on CMHSS consumers in the trial site and the inaccessibility of the NDIS for many mental health consumers.


VICSERV and its partners have called for urgent action to continue to support people with a mental illness, saying that “without the articulation of a clear vision and commitment to implementing a policy framework and process for retaining the most comprehensive mental health system in Australia, Victorians living with a mental illness, their families and services, are facing a future of serious risk”.


The Public Advocate’s position is that the State Government must take on an integral role as systems manager for community mental health services, monitoring the impact of the transfer of responsibility for community mental health service provision to the NDIA. We have argued for no net loss of services for mental health consumers in the transition to the NDIS. Fundamental to this position is that, without access to rehabilitation services in the community, many people with serious mental illness will struggle to live independently and participate in the life of the community.


Many consumers, carers, agencies and services are undertaking advocacy on this issue. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a tool can help to support this systemic advocacy. Elsewhere in the disability landscape, Article 12 has had a significant impact on the supported decision-making movement.  Could advocates in the Community Mental Health arena utilise Article 19, “Living independently and being included in the community” to strengthen advocacy efforts around community mental health services?  In this paper, I will talk about the relevance of the rights articulated in Article 19, which include having a choice of where to live, access to personal care, residential and other community support services necessary to support living and inclusion in the community.


Liz Dearn - Coordinator Policy and Research Unit, Office of the Public Advocate

Liz Dearn started working life in residential rehabilitation services in the early days of deinstitutionalisation and has maintained a strong interested in mental health services throughout their working life. Since working at the Office of the Public Advocate, Liz has had portfolio responsibility in the mental health area. This has entailed systemic advocacy in all areas of mental health reform including legislative and policy reform in Victoria. Liz was instrumental in the ͚long stay patient project͛, a Community Visitors initiative, that raised the issue of consumers in mental health secure extended care units, who had spent up to twenty years of their lives in these facilities due to a lack of suitable accommodation and support being available in the community.  Liz is currently working on a position paper for the Public Advocate to inform OPA͛s position on mental illness, human rights and the NDIS.


- Part 1
- Part 2



Presentation three

Human support groups - lets embrace them!: re surrecting a fundamental necessity in the mental health system.

The mental health reform framework of 2013 to 2014 which saw Psychiatric Disability Rehabilitation & Support Services (PDRSS) become Mental Health Community Support Services (MHCSS) also saw the demise of many group activities that consumers participated in.


Time limited, closed groups have continued with a focus on psycho education, I do not wish to take away from these groups as they provide a needed and beneficial service. Yet the overwhelming response through surveys, forums and in speaking with individuals across all areas of the mental health system is the need to have open, ongoing groups with no fixed agenda.


Mentis Assist saw the value in groups and made a commitment to continue facilitating two groups, being the Peer Support Group and Hearing Voices Group. This was achieved by partnering with the local Community House which provided the space to run the groups at a very low cost. Mentis Assist Peer Services Coordinator facilitates the groups and the Community House takes responsibility for managing the groups.


The benefits to those who attend these groups is that the relationship between members is based on equality, reciprocity and mutuality. In Sheri Meade’s words:


“essentially the relationship is as equal as it can be and both parties learn from each other in a process of mutual learning and growth based on shared expertise and a departure from the re-enactment of past roles.”


This creates a space that is welcoming and accepting, it reduces isolation and is an environment in which a person can safely explore their experiences and explore new ways of being that may enhance their recovery.


Studies have shown that this type of social support:

  • Increases a sense of control and ability to bring about change in one’s life
  • Increases a sense of hope
  • Increases self-esteem and self-efficacy
  • Increases the ability to engage in treatment
  • Increases positive feelings towards oneself and one’s family/friends
  • Increases a sense of community and belonging
  • Decreases hospital admissions and use of emergency services
  • Decreases symptoms of mental illness including symptoms of psychosis.


When we look at not holding social support groups, we see a large population of those experiencing mental distress living with increased isolation and the opposite to the benefits as tabled above.


The group members of the Peer Support Group and the Hearing Voices Group assist each other in areas that previously a Mental Health Outreach Worker would fulfil, they provide a space for people to be heard, a space to learn, a space to laugh and a space to grow. It is a human space that allows the discovery of meaning in one’s life beyond the symptoms of mental distress.


The Peer Support Group is now in the process of forming a Music Group and an Art Group, both will encompass all the benefits of peer support with the added opportunity to utilise skills and impart knowledge in these areas to others.


Sherie Stiefler - Peer Services Co-ordinator, Mentis Assist

Sherie Stiefler is the Peer Services Coordinator for Mentis Assist, MHCSS. Sherie commenced with Mentis Assist (previously Peninsula Support Services) as a volunteer in 2011 supporting the outreach team. In 2012 Sherie moved to a paid position within the Rehabilitation Team and became Team Leader in 2014 until the recommissioning saw the closure of that program.


Sherie then moved to the outreach program as a Mental Health Practitioner before her current role of Peer Services Coordinator. Sherie has a lived experience of mental illness and service engagement and is currently involved in assisting to educate those entering the mental health field. She is one of 30 people Australia wide who qualified as a Champion of Mental Health Peer Work and is trained to deliver the Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Work.


Sherie is currently on the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) Committee of Management and a passionate advocate for social justice and human rights within the mental health system. Sherie is also a qualified Reiki Master and Level 2 Reconnective Therapist.





Presentation one

Recovery co-design and peer workforce development in clinical services.

Part 1 - My Recovery Story: A youth peer perspective on recovery from Schizophrenia

In this presentation a co-design and co-delivery approach will be shared both in the narrative shared and who tells the story – whose voice is given primacy. A young person of Vietnamese/Chinese heritage in active recovery from Schizophrenia would like to take this opportunity to, with a clinician chosen by the consumer to join her, discuss aspects of importance in recovery.


This consumer has elected to consider themes in the recovery journey so far: strengths to be drawn upon – both personal and in the environment – and challenges and barriers to be noted, considered, explored, and worked with. Issues of cultural sensitivity will be considered. Issues of developmental age and life stage, and competing needs to be emotionally held by family and yet also independent in choice and preference, will be considered. This is a reflection that includes physical health challenges, social anxiety challenges, and challenges in acquiring new skills around managing budgets, home duties and responsibilities. This is a reflection that includes a renewed appreciation of personal skills such as being friendly, good at mathematics, reliable and competitive. This is a reflection on what it means to a person, and what impact stays with a person, as the result of multiple inpatient admissions across 7 years, between the ages of 14 and 21.


Part 2 - Peer workforce development in the acute inpatient setting

The National Standards for Mental Health Services highlights that delivery of care should take an overall recovery-oriented approach and include the involvement of consumers in development, delivery and evaluation of services. Practices and principles for specialist mental health services have been further defined by the Department of Health in the Framework for recovery-oriented practice, identifying the importance of incorporating recovery values and a peer support workforce. St Vincent’s Hospital (Melbourne) is thus currently implementing recovery-oriented practice and development of a Peer Workforce. We would like to talk about how an initiative was established in the acute inpatient setting: Reducing Restrictive Interventions– using a Peer Worker role as central to the innovation.


Reducing Restrictive Interventions
In 2013 preparations were made at St Vincent’s Hospital (Melbourne) to reduce seclusion rates in the form of a pilot study looking at admission data and seclusion rates. It was found that half of people who were admitted via the emergency department (ED) were first time admissions and half of those people experienced seclusion. For many it was within the first four hours of admission. Stemming from this the Pre Admission Liaison (PAL) team, comprising of a peer worker and a mental health nurse, was developed whereby this team would visit people in the ED once they had been assessed. These visits aimed to explain the process of transferring to the Acute In-Patient Service (AIS), to introduce a peer worker and a nurse so they would have familiar faces, offer sensory modulation to make them more comfortable and more connected to reality, and to have a conversation to help the person feel safe and supported. It was suggested that by the time they did come to the ward they would be less agitated and hopefully would not require seclusion. Consumer feedback must be considered, and thus this study is based on surveys conducted by the peer worker and completed by those experiencing a transfer from the emergency department.


Dr Melissa Petrakis - Senior Research Fellow, Mental Health, St Vincent’s Hospital (Melbourne) and Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University


Copresenters part 1
Gloria Banh, consumer
Meagan McNamara, RPN Educator, Mental Health Acute Inpatient Service, St Vincent's Hospital (Melbourne)


Copresenters part 2
Liam Buckley, Peer Worker/Consumer Researcher, St Vincent's Hospital (Melbourne)


- Part 1
- Part 2


Presentation two

The mental health act peer support worker: exploring legislation through the lense of lived experience.

In October 2014, the Inner West Area Mental Health Service created a new and innovative role, "Mental Health Act Peer Support Worker", in response to the new legislation. It is a consumer peer support position that aims to inform and support both consumers and staff about the changes in the Act. The worker, Martin Janssen, uses his own lived experience to inform his practice. Martin hopes to present his role and the research gathered around it.


The MHA PSW has co-designed two groups for the John Cade Unit (psychiatric inpatient setting) with the local Mental Health Tribunal Co-ordinator, that continue to develop from participant's feedback. They are 'Knowing Your Rights' and 'Writing an Advance Statement and Choosing a Nominated Person'. The groups commenced December 2014 and run weekly with alternating topics. They will be the focus of this presentation - their purpose, structure and the feedback results (which have been overwhelmingly positive) will be covered.


The groups highlight to participants key rights they have that apply both to their current inpatient setting and post-discharge, and encourage self-empowerment to act upon them. The role resonates with Victoria's 10 year Mental Health Plan that has a 'a strong commitment to upholding the human rights and dignity of all people' (DoHS, 2015, pp 12), as well as the Roadmap for National Mental Health Reforms Priority 5: Improve access to high quality services and supports (CoAG, 2012, pp 26) by delivering information about Rights related services such as Victorian Legal Aid and the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner.


The inpatient groups are peer led by the MHA PSW, with the local occupational therapist providing additional assistance in recruitment, managing group dynamics and providing staff perspective. A key structural element throughout the groups is the MHA PSW providing contextual lived experience. This develops peer rapport and connection, first hand examples and hope. It opens up a (primarily) recovery focused peer space where people can reflect on their past, current situation and actions for the future.


The extension of the role will also be explained. The MHA PSW has also:

  • Presented the group content at the Norfolk Terrace Community Care Unit and the ARION PARC.
  • Provided individual support in the community, supporting consumers to complete Advance Statements.
  • Delivered training to staff, and co-developed local MHA related material. Through this the MHA PSW has contributed to ensuring the ethos of the Act and its specific functions are embodied by the organisation.
  • Liaised with external organisations such as Independence Mental Health Advocates, Department of Human Services and Co-Health.


It is IWAMHS' hope that other services consider implementing similar roles, such as facilitating their own Mental Health Act focused groups either in the inpatient or community, and incorporate Mental Health Act principles at all levels.


Martin Janssen - Consumer Peer Support Worker, Melbourne Health and Neami National

Martin Janssen is a consumer peer support worker at Inner West Area Mental Health Service and Neami Abbotsford. Martin leads an innovative role at IWAMHS, the Mental Health Act Peer Support worker, and also co-facilitates PeerZone there. At Neami Martin co-facilitates Flourish, and is the site consumer participation portfolio holder. Martin has been involved in a peer support pilot project and a peer led music group at Northern Area Mental Health Service, as well as a range of consumer consultation work at North West Mental Health. Martin’s consumer work spans over five years in a variety of community and inpatient settings. Martin is passionate about supporting consumers on their recovery journey, and draws upon his own lived experience to do this.




- Part 1
- Part 2



Presentation three

Expanding the peer workforce. 

The  introduction  of  the  consumer  workforce  is  the  biggest  change  that  has  affected  the  mental health  sector  in  recent  years.    There  is  abundant  literature  on  the  value  of ͚lived  experience͛  when delivering   services  within  this   area.   There   are,  however,  only a handful   of  local  studies   on experiences of recruiting and sustaining a thriving peer workforce.


Mind Australia recently lead a project ͚Expanding the peer workforce͛ to explore how it can sustain a thriving peer workforce.  The project reviewed existing policies, procedures, and practices.  Various mechanisms were  used  to  evaluate  practices  such  as surveys,  organisation-wide workshops  as well as targeted interviews in collaboration with external consultants.


This presentation will discuss the processes and findings from this project and cover:

  • What are the key ingredients for attracting and retaining peer support workers?
  • Are peer practitioners clear on their roles and responsibilities?
  • What training do managers need in order to best support peer support workers?
  • What  have  we  already  done  and  what  do  we  need  to  do  regularly  to  keep  the peer workforce thriving?
  • What   does   the   organisation   need   to   do   to   ensure   sustainability  and   growth   of   key communication and initiatives across our peer workforces?


Erandathie Jayakody - Team Leader Consumer Engagement Unit, Mind Australia

Erandathie Jayakody is the Team Leader, Consumer Engagement Unit at Mind Australia.  She provides peer supervision, including peer reflective practice, to peer support workers at Mind.


- Part 1
- Part 2




Presentation one

We don’t talk about it.

The mental health service utilisation of Arabic-speaking communities in Australia is much lower than in their English-speaking counterparts despite evidence that levels of psychological distress are higher. Differences in cultural language, or explanatory models of mental illness, between Westernised health professions and their multi-cultural clients, has been shown to create a gap in understanding that contributes to service under-utilisation.


The current study employed a social constructionist framework to explore the particular cultural language of mental illness of Arabic-speaking Australians. Semi-structured interviews with ten second-generation Arabic-speaking Australians were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed for themes. The three themes demonstrated a powerful need to be perceived as normal, influenced by the experience of being a new migrant and the tenets of a collectivist culture.  Situational explanations of mental illness, somatisation of symptoms and the role of religion as an explanation of cause and cure were ways to normalise the perceived abnormal experience of mental illness.


The findings of the current study speak to the need for mental health professionals working with Arabic-speaking Australians to be aware of the nature of the stigma associated with mental illness among this cohort. Mental health education for religious and community leaders with an emphasis on normalising mental illness could also encourage and facilitate help-seeking behaviours among Arabic-speaking Australians.


This presentation outlines the findings of this study which speak to several of the VICSERV 2016 concepts, in particular, that of Empowerment/Rights. Mental health services in Australia operate under the National Framework for Recovery-Oriented Practice that promotes the right of individuals to represent themselves and their experiences through their own individual understanding.


The framework emphasises the critical importance of the use of words and language in talking about mental health in the shaping of how people see themselves, describe themselves and make sense of their experiences.  Without a willingness to bridge the cultural language gap between health practitioners and Arabic-speaking Australians it is difficult to achieve recovery-oriented practice.


The presentation of the findings of this study offer ways in which practitioners can better foster recovery-oriented practice with Arabic-speaking Australians.


Brooke Smith - Researcher, Charles Sturt University

Brooke Smith was the recipient of a Charles Sturt University Honours Scholarship and received first class Honours in psychology in 2015 for her research into how Arabic-speaking Australians perceive and understand mental illness. Brooke received her undergraduate degree (BPsych Sc) from the University of New England in 2013. For the past two years she has been a team leader with the Western Sydney Partners in Recovery Program, in a region with the highest CALD population in NSW, working with consumers with severe and persistent mental illness with complex needs. Previously Brooke worked as a regional coordinator for the Compeer Program, working to reduce social isolation for people with severe and persistent mental illness.




Presentation two

Engaging the chinese community to reduce stigma and support the recovery and empowerment of consumers and carers: processes and initial outcomes.

Stigma and misunderstanding of mental illness within the Chinese community is well documented and has been established in the culture over many hundreds of years. Entrenched attitudes can create significant barriers to those living with a mental illness with regard to seeking treatment. Such attitudes can discourage families from talking about illness, and families can be extremely reluctant to seek any form of mental health support for themselves or loved ones. K. F. Chung and M. C. Wong (2004), in Experience of stigma among Chinese mental health patients in Hong Kong concluded that:


“The most frequently reported coping method was maintaining secrecy about the illness”.


Working with the Chinese community, Mental Illness Fellowship has previously developed and delivered translated, culturally-specific versions of the award-winning peer-led WellWays Family Education programs for the Chinese community.


This presentation at VICSERV aims to share the establishment phase, processes and initial outcomes from an innovation project – with funded awarded through the Department of Health Partners in Recovery (PIR) initiative – to increase the social connectedness and engagement in community of Chinese consumers and carers, while reducing the stigma of mental illness within the Chinese community. The project is explicitly targeted toward people who are not engaged in the service system or their community. All activities engaged in are culturally relevant and have been determined through stakeholder input, are occurring in the community, and are being investigated pre and post with academic input to support a robust evaluation.


It is our pleasure to bring an instructive presentation on key challenges, how to overcome these, successes, initial outcomes and future plans at the mid-point of program delivery. We are especially excited – given the theme of this 30th anniversary conference – to bring a co-developed and co-delivered presentation with consumer, carer and Chinese community staff and participant input.  


Justin McKenzie - Regional Manager, Inner East, MI Fellowship


Cory Haugh - Partners in Recovery Manager, MI Fellowship
Dr Melissa Petrakis - Senior Research Fellow, Mental Health, St Vincent’s Hospital (Melbourne) and Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University


- Part 1
- Part 2



Presentation three

Strengthening the consumer voice: the loddon campaspe southern mallee consumer participation group (cpg).

The CPG is a group that comprises of mental health consumers, along with clinical and community services staff, that works to build better mental health services together.


The CPG conducted a review of its function that was focused on strengthening the consumer voice, both internally within the CPG and also through external consumer networks.


The recommendations from this review were implemented in 2015, and made a significant difference in ensuring that consumer voices are heard. The learnings from this project would be beneficial for any organisation looking to create or enhance their consumer participation, especially in areas such as the implementation of the NDIS and mental health reform.


This presentation will focus on the CPG and inform participants on:

  • An overview of the review of the CPG and the importance of focusing on strengthening the consumer voice.
  • The structure of the group; how the group ensures that the voice of the mental health consumers is heard and valued with the clinical and community mental health services,
  • The processes for co-design that the CPG has established for engagement with local clinical and community services, and how it has ensured that requests for consumer participation and consultation are meaningful and purposeful.


The model, developed by the CPG engages service providers to work alongside mental health consumers for the benefit of enhancing and improving their mental health service provision. 3 tiers of membership were implemented; full consumer members, associate consumer members and network members. The full members carry ultimate decision making authority, reflecting the importance of the consumer voice within the group.


A further innovative approach of the CPG is to include distinct consumer-only and also partnership time within the meeting structure to ensure that consumers are granted the opportunity to discuss matters amongst themselves and also to enable full discussion of relevant matters between service providers and consumers. The model has been recognized by Jackie Crowe, National Mental Health commissioner as "Innovative, collaborative, positive, respectful and fun ... a group that focuses on strengths and innovates to achieve outcomes".


Co-design & Peer Led
At the heart of the redesign of the CPG was the ambition to create a consultative group that was truly consumer led and driven, with the necessary partnerships to deliver change. The group aimed to support the development of best quality mental health service provision through partnerships and collaborations between consumers and service providers.


At all times the 'strengthening the consumer voice' project was consumer-led, from the formation of the concepts to the development and implementation of the model. Service provider partners were instrumental in supporting the consumer members to deliver the new CPG.


Participants from organisations that are looking to create, or enhance their consumer participation process, or consumer/carer groups wanting to strengthen their voice in their local area will gain valuable information about how to achieve this, along with the learnings that have come from this process.


Jodie Rasmussen - PIR Project Co-ordinator, Murray Primary Health Network


- Part 1
- Part 2



Thursday 19 May Day one - Concurrent sessions 3.25-4.25 pm


Presentation one

Aboriginal and mainstream services in partnership: culture, pathways and collaboration through a consumers narrative.  

Aboriginal Victorians experience higher rates of homelessness and mental illness than other Victorians. Historically, Aboriginal people have experienced significant difficulty in navigating the Australian health care system due to a number of barriers. Whilst mainstream mental health and homelessness organisations aspire to provide effective services to address these barriers, it is evident that there is a need for more effective collaboration.


The Wadamba Wilam program is an example of a collaborative approach that has been targeting homelessness and mental illness in a proactive and positive way. It has evolved as one part of an emerging dialogue between four organisations (Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Neami National, UnitingCare ReGen and the Northern Area Mental Health Service) in Melbourne’s north.


These services are working together to effect systemic change, innovative program design, and transformation on how we work together to influence and determine the direction of effective services for Aboriginal people. This in turn optimises thinking, practice, and service delivery within the region.


In this symposium we will share our partnership approach and the key learnings and outcomes from the collaboration thus far. We will also point to some of the major discrepancies in the mental health system and the challenges organisations face in the provision of services for Aboriginal people. A major point of discussion is the need for mainstream services to understand Aboriginal community’s perception of those programs and services.


The highlight of this presentation will be the sharing of a personal consumer narrative to demonstrate how important collaboration is across services to meet the needs of Aboriginal people.


Wendy Slinger – Neami National


Maurice Shipp

Maurice Shipp is a descendant of the Wiradjuri people of Western New South Wales. He has worked in the Aboriginal Health sector for over 20 years and is currently employed at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service as acting Manager Family Counselling Service. Maurice brings vast experience in program management, research and service delivery and is passionate about bringing organisations together to meet the health and wellbeing demand for Aboriginal people.


Sabin Fernbacher

Sabin Fernbacherworks at the Northern Area Mental Health Service in service development across Aboriginal and women’s mental health and Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness. She is passionate about working on systems and in collaboration to increase access and culturally safe support for Aboriginal people to mainstream mental health care.  She strives to do this in partnership with Aboriginal organizations and people.


Adam Burns

Adam Burns works for Northern Area Mental Health Service in the Wadamba Wilam program as a senior psychiatric nurse. He has worked for 7 years predominantly in an assertive outreach capacity and is passionate about improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal people. 






Presentation one

Towards recovery- a dual diagnosis approach to intake and assessment.

In late 2014 community managed mental health and alcohol and other drug treatment services underwent significant reform in Victoria. Within this current service model, clients with a co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder (dual diagnosis) are required to undergo intake assessments for each treatment type, completing two separate assessments; one for alcohol and other drug and one for mental health.


ACSO have been placed in a unique position to provide intake and assessment for both community mental health and state funded alcohol and other drug treatment services in regional Victoria, and we aim to facilitate timely assessments of support needs, and provide a “No Wrong Door” pathway to recovery oriented supports and treatment. The centralised intake service operates independently of treatment agencies, assisting clients to navigate the service system, facilitating access to optimal supports, and assisting carers, family members and significant others to access tailored support.


ACSO recognises that a majority of clients accessing mental health supports will have a dual diagnosis. The service has acknowledged the challenges for clients requiring a dual diagnosis approach in Victoria; these clients have had to interface with a fragmented system that still operates as a dichotomy rather than one that recognises the relationship between mental health and substance use. In order to address this, ACSO have developed a dual diagnosis assessment tool, in collaboration with NEXUS Dual Diagnosis service, to provide an integrated approach to assessment of dual diagnosis clients, ultimately giving them more choice and control. This assessment will be delivered by skilled Dual Diagnosis Clinicians.


This presentation will explore ACSO’s unique model of dual diagnosis intake and assessment and ways in which this innovative and integrated approach is aligned with Victoria’s 10 Year Mental Health Strategy to respond to need with effective, coordinated treatment and support, while also providing a solution to a key recommendation of the Review of Mental Health Community Support Services and Drug Treatment Services report. Utilising an integrated and adaptive dual diagnosis approach, ACSO will work with clients to develop treatment plans that reflect their presenting dual diagnosis concerns and seek to facilitate optimal pathways to ensure quality recovery oriented support and treatment that is designed and individualised for their needs.


Through evaluation of this Dual Diagnosis assessment tool, ACSO will build evidence and knowledge of the best way to respond to dual diagnosis clients in a streamlined and client focused way. The Dual Diagnosis assessment tool is aligned with evidence based best practice in promoting integrated service responses for dual diagnosis clients.ACSO are excited to be showcasing this innovative, integrated intake and assessment approach, and look forward to transforming the lives of people who experience a dual diagnosis.


Karina Czaplinski - Mental Health Intake and Assessment Clinician, Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO)

After completing her Bachelor of Criminology and Justice, Karina commenced working with incarcerated individuals at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and the Metropolitan Remand Centre. She came to ACSO in 2013 and worked across various roles including Complex Care support worker, Dual Disability Case Coordinator, and Intake and Assessment clinician for Mental Health Community Support Services (MHCSS). Her passion for working with people with mental illness, substance use disorders and those with forensic histories compelled her to commence a Master in Forensic Mental Health. Karina has an interest in mental illness, dual diagnosis, psychology, and neuroscience. She hopes to pursue a Graduate Diploma in Psychology later this year.


Mark donchi - Australian Community Support Organisation



Presentation two

The PUMP group: an innovative, co-designed and peer-led dual diagnosis waiting list group.

Eighty-five percent of individuals experiencing a mental illness will also engage in problematic alcohol and other drug use, with 75% of those with a substance use disorder also experiencing at least one mental illness/disorder.  Research consistently identifies the benefits of early intervention for consumers yet there continues to be a gap in service provision in Victoria for people experiencing a dual diagnosis along with lengthy delays for those attempting to access treatment.  


For three years the  Australian Community Support Organisation has delivered DUETS (Developing Understanding, Expertise, Treatment and Systems in Dual Diagnosis), a Department of Health funded project building the dual diagnosis (DD) capability of service providers across Victoria. DUETS collaborates with ACSO’s Mental Health Community Support Services (MHCSS) and Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Intake Assessment Services (IAS) across Victoria to ensure dual diagnosis informed service provision across the MHCSS and AOD sectors.  ACSO will present our innovative response to addressing the needs of consumers accessing MHCSS IAS in regional Victoria who present with a DD and are awaiting MHCSS treatment, or are considered ineligible for MHCSS support. 


DUETS collaborated with NEXUS in Melbourne to co-design PUMP (Participate Understand Motivate Persevere) an innovative, evidence based psycho-educational bridging service for those with a dual diagnosis who are currently unsupported. Recognising that consumers’ readiness for change can diminish in the waiting period between intake and access, PUMP implemented a range of strategies to maintain participant engagement and motivation.


The PUMP group program consists of four sessions where consumers learn skills and tools from the Optimal Health framework, and utilises motivational interviewing techniques. Each 90 minute session is standalone, enabling consumers to engage according to need. With innovative use of available technologies, resources including fact sheets, videos, web-links are provided to consumers between sessions via SMS prompts and telephone.


The program fills an existing gap in services for those with a dual diagnosis and sits across all three tiers of NDIS in that PUMP provides a direct service, disseminates information and facilitates referral, and has been instrumental in building the capacity of the MCHSS and AOD sector around dual diagnosis informed service delivery through facilitator training, which includes training of external MHCSS service providers, and group facilitation. 


Pump continues to be delivered in Victoria and to be informed and refined by evaluation and participant feedback, with participant input and evaluation outcomes key features of this presentation. Pump is currently under revision to ensure culturally appropriate materials for participants who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.


Janette Berry - Dual Diagnosis Consultant, ACSO

With a background in psychology, Janette has worked in alcohol and other drugs since the late 1990s, including six years in court drug diversion at the Magistrates’ Court Victoria and another six as a member of the original team that set up and established Victoria’s first Neighbourhood Justice Centre, located in Collingwood.  Currently Janette is employed by the Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO), where she initially managed the team of forensic AOD assessors before accepting a new role managing the Mental Health Community Support Services and AOD intake and assessment team at Richmond, while also holding the position of Dual Diagnosis Consultant.  Late last year Janette commenced full-time in the Dual Diagnosis Consultant role and is currently working on a number of innovative responses to dual diagnosis.

The highlights of Janette’ professional career have been her involvement in setting up the Street Sex Workers’ Court, establishing Aboriginal Hearing Day at the NJC and recently assisting in the development of a forensic module with a focus on dual diagnosis.






Presentation one

Through the Looking glass.

Like Alice service providers and consumers of Mental Health services are about to travel into a new world, the NDIS, and it is a world we do not fully understand yet. NDIS will challenge our perceptions of place and purpose and adventures will abound…. Well at least that is how it may feel.


The imminent arrival of NDIS is creating opportunities to dramatically change the way service providers do business. It is also providing consumers with more control and flexibility in the way they receive services. With this in mind cohealth has spent the last year testing new approaches both to the design of our activities and the method of delivery. There are many issues regarding Mental Health and NDIS that are yet to be ironed out, this presentation will not address the potential gaps or any hidden pitfalls in the new service paradigm. This presentation aims to describe what we do and share insights gained, along with some of our most interesting results. We will share consumer stories and staff experiences.


Consumers work alongside their coach to plan for a life that is positive and possible. Through this process opportunities in the mainstream are actively pursued in order to achieve a broader more sustainable experience of their vision. Sometimes big issues require small yet targeted expert interventions, having the flexibility to access all service types in a timely way allows for a more flexible and individualised approach. This approach also assists consumers to experience greater connection with the world around them without the stigma of a “Mental Health service” being accessed yet still having the comfort of this interaction being negotiated with someone who understands.


Services within the community sector can be hard to access for people who are unwell and/or need flexibility both in access and time. Mainstream services can be more flexible for instance, working outside of the normal 9 to 5  or being mobile thereby meeting the consumer in the community or home. Partnering in this way allows our coaches to focus on the tasks they specialise in such as coaching and support without merging into roles that can be sourced elsewhere.


cohealth partners with numerous mainstream service providers both formally and informally to deliver creative  individualised responses to consumers goals. Rather than keeping service delivery in house we use resources in the mainstream world to skip queues, assist with hoarding, integrate services, educate, link into mainstream recreational activities, support tax returns, dog training and so much more. Understanding that providers may have little experience assisting people with Mental Health challenges cohealth supports providers in the mainstream world to become more accessible to consumers.


This presentation is a sharing of lessons learned in our quest to adjust to the new world, test some of the assumptions made by NDIA and inform the development of NDIS where possible.


Rachael Scott – Manager Community Managed Mental Health Services, cohealth




Presentation two

Plumbing and poetry – maintaining mission in an NDIS environement.

NDIS promises a more equitable distribution of supports and funding to people living with a disability by placing the power of “choice and control” into the hands of the participants of the scheme. This celebrated and overdue change to the sector has the potential to dovetail elegantly with the sector’s already established principle of self-directed care and recovery oriented, strengths based practice.


Often understated, but equally important, is long term scheme viability. This necessity is mitigated by the NDIA’s assessment of “reasonable and necessary’ supports.


In many practical ways service providers, either by design or default, will find themselves sandwiched between these two requirements; advocating for the best possible outcomes for the people they support while in some cases needing to be the “reasonable and necessary” support that may be adequate without being exceptional. Both NDIS and the sector want this scheme to be successful for the participants it is designed to support and as such both have a role in ensuring this outcome.


The challenges of maintaining high quality support services in a changed funding environment will be experienced in differing ways by all established agencies as NDIS rolls out across Victoria. Agencies will need to find increased efficiencies in ancillary supports associated with direct support provision to align with a reduced unit cost. Agencies will also need to ensure that these efficiencies do not compromise the quality of the direct support provision being provided to participants of the scheme.


The development of sophisticated “back of house” systems to assist and scaffold the ‘core business’ or ‘mission’ work of the NFP sector will be an expectation in this new environment. This is the “Plumbing” and will ideally achieve the goal of scheme viability.


The ongoing ‘mission’ of already established agencies in the sector along with the maintenance, development and continued innovation in the sector; this is the “Poetry” and aligns with the scheme goal of participant outcomes.


The presentation will focus on Ermha's experience in the Barwon NDIS launch site. Participants will gain an understanding of the challenges faced by an organisation in the new funding environment. Increased accountability and information management in a restricted funding environment presents unique challenges to the NFP sector. Individualised funding, dealing with unit costing, workforce management and maintaining staff morale and culture in a rapidly changing sector will be discussed during the presentation.


Developing the required 'back of house' efficiencies' while maintaining an organisations values and mission remains the ongoing challenge of the NDIS rollout.. “Plumbing and Poetry”.


Alyse Boase - Director of Operations, Ermha Ltd


Giuseppe Prestia - Service Manager (Barwon) Ermha Ltd

Giuseppe began his employment with Ermha in 2006 in the Support and Choice Program working intensely with complex and very challenging clients developing his skills for client advocacy, therapeutic approaches, conflict resolution, mediation and the varieties of community based responses and supports available to clients.

After this period and towards the end of 2009 Giuseppe spent 6 months working in the Intensive Support Services Program which expanded his skills by working with a variety of clients with differing psychiatric disabilities.

At the beginning of 2010 Giuseppe was given the role of Manager at the new Ermha office to be established in Geelong. Given his experience in working with complex and challenging clients often with a Dual Disability or Dual Diagnosis, DHS Disability Services requested that he provide secondary consultation to other agencies. During this time, Giuseppe and other members of ermha management developed a unique service model and associated training package. This model has been presented at various conferences and the training package has been delivered to both ermha staff and external agencies.

In 2013 Giuseppe took a lead role in negotiating the changes required by Ermha Barwon during the NDIS rollout in Geelong. Over the following two years Giuseppe guided and supported the workforce, practice, financial and process implications of the changing sector environment. With the assistance of a small, highly skilled team he has successfully implemented multiple systems to manage the highly individualised nature of both support provision and individualised funding. Package design, monitoring outcomes, practice and ongoing financial viability have been the key areas of development and growth. Giuseppe has presented at both NDS conferences and workshops in the past. His presentations have focused on the importance of unit costs and pricing and are delivered from the perspective of an ‘on the ground’ lay person’s experience. With a 100% growth in support provision being provided by ermha Barwon over the past 2 years innovation, development and improvement remain ongoing.

Qualifications: Bachelor of Humanities (Honours) LaTrobe University






Presentation one

Mental health at work – experiencing co-design – the result.

This session will share the story of the Consumer and Carer Co-Design Initiative from the perspectives of different participant experience. Presented as a learning case study, the session will explore lessons learned in co-design and suggest key practices to support authentic co-design. The session will focus on outcomes and experiences from the first co-design forums held in Melbourne and Sydney in 2016.


The Co-Design Initiative was developed in response to the recommendations of the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and the implementation of Primary Health Networks. An opportunity was identified for consumers and carers to be the initiators of the process rather than waiting for governments, service providers and practitioners to lead the way.


This is a national project to enable large numbers of consumers and carers to co-design and co-produce community based mental health services in partnership with Primary Health Networks, service providers and practitioners.


The Initiative’s primary objective is to use co-design methods to: “co-create a blueprint for co-design in PHN regions – a model for consumer and carer leadership in co-design that demonstrates the value of placing co-design at the centre of health system reform”


During the session, presenters will reflect on their own and other’s personal experience in the project and the factors that make co-design effective and authentic. The draft outcomes of the Co-design Initiative will be presented outlining a model for consumer and carer engagement hubs as vital components of mental health system reform in PHN regions.


A brief interactive co-design discussion will provide participants with an opportunity to engage with the draft recommendations from the Co-design Initiative and add their voice to the ongoing process of co-designing a blueprint for consumer, carer and professional collaboration in the future.


Douglas Holmes


- Part 1
- Part 2


Presentation two

Hope, recovery and the lived Experience – A journey through Project Hope.

Project Hope (Hearing Other People’s Experiences) is committed to providing the opportunity for people attending our service to have meaningful involvement in service development, planning and opportunities for their voice to be heard in a variety of ways.


We have learnt that by creating welcoming, hopeful and empathic services we reduce stigma and support transformed self-perception of those who engage with us. Through awareness of language and creating avenues for people to share their story, we increase compassionate awareness and reduce judgement and misunderstanding. The voice of the lived experience is heard through Celebrating Recovery events, peer support groups, community forums, conference presentations, a Hope Orientation Bus tour of Alcohol and Other Drug and Mental Health Services and a ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ newsletter.


More recently our clients and carers have worked with us to release a documentary film “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” and a supporting book of the same name full of poetry, writing and artwork about their recovery journeys.


This session, co-designed and facilitated by our clients and carers, will present the ways in which they have been engaged with Project Hope and what this has meant for their personal recovery journey.


Simone Roberts – Project Officer – EACH

Simone Roberts is the Project Officer for Project Hope at EACH Social and Community Health. She has worked in the community health sector for 10 years as an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Health Promotion Officer and Project Officer.  She has enjoyed the diversity of working with individual clients as a Dietitian as well as with community groups, schools and organisations through health promotion and project officer roles.

In her current Project Hope role with the Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug team she is passionate about listening to the voice of the people attending the service, helping them to share their recovery stories and creating welcoming and hopeful systems to reduce stigma and help people to thrive.


Steve Adams – Peer Support Worker, Knox Community Health Service

I first applied the studied theories and my own recovery practices at The Salvation Army Bridge Withdrawal Unit as a support worker and caseworker. As Peer Support Worker at Knox Community Health Service since 2012, I have rallied for the hearing of the lived experience. I hope to reduce stigma by raising community awareness around AOD and mental health, to promote non-labelling language, and to foster social connection of those feeling isolated by their condition.


- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Part 5
- Part 6
- Part 7
- Part 8
- Part 9




Presentation one

Leading through disruptive change - hypothetical.

The mental health sector is undergoing seismic change, not least with the ‘disruption’ of the NDIS. What is the leadership needed in the face of disruption and uncertainty, and how can you create opportunity through change?


Learn by doing in this interactive and engaging ‘hypothetical’ using the Harvard Case Method to explore a real life scenario where adaptive leader in a community service sector face a similar complex challenge and seek to drive and manage change for improved outcomes – with a surprise twist!


Richard Dent OAM – CEO, Leadership Victoria

Leadership Victoria, which delivers the Community Managed Mental Health Leadership and Management Program, explores the difference between technical and adaptive leadership with improved outcomes for our staff, teams, organisations and clients while tackling a complex and disruptive change.


John Katsourakis – Manager Education and Training, VICSERV

John has specific expertise in managing, designing and delivering professional development for managers and staff. John has completed a BSc, Grad Dip in PE and Recreation for the Disables, Dip Business (Frontline Management) and a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.


There was no formal powerpoint as part of this presentation. 



Presentation one

The emergence of local peer hubs across Victoria - outcomes and future directions.

As the peer workforce continues to grow across Victoria, a number of peer hubs/networks have formed. The establishment of these hubs has largely been driven by lived experience workers, looking to connect to other peers in their local area. Many of these lived experience workers are located in regional areas of Victoria who face challenges attending peer networking and professional development opportunities offered in Melbourne by peak organisations.


National and international evidence supports the establishment of peer hubs/networks to enable lived experience workers to come together and receive mutual support, role specific training and supervision. The Mental Health Consumer Workforce Review (2010) identified that “consumer workers have reported experiencing a feeling of isolation in their role, either by working as a sole consumer worker within a mental health service or working in a rural/remote setting”. To address this, the review recommended that support structures be established, to “ensure consumer workers have contact and networking opportunities with each other.”


According to the Health Workforce Australia Mental Health Peer Workforce Study (2014) a number of respondents reported challenges in working in rural and remote locations, including isolation and a lack of networking opportunities with other peer workers for support.” Internationally, the Scottish Recovery Network (SRN) identified that peer hubs/networks play an integral role in supporting peer workers to remain true to the principles of lived experience work and challenge the co-option of peer roles into mainstream roles. The Mental Health Commission of Canada recommended that organisations with peer support programs should facilitate and encourage their peer support workers to maintain a connection with a peer support community of practice. In this context, a community of practice involves a group of peer support workers meeting on a regular basis to support each other, share knowledge and experiential learning, and keep each other committed to, and consistent with, the values and principles of the practice of mental health peer support.


The majority of recently established peer hubs/networks in Victoria are cross-organisational, bringing together consumer and carer peer workers from community and clinical mental health services. The scope, aims and functioning of each hub is unique, often formed by the group itself following agreement on an appropriate framework and local needs.


This symposium/presentation will involve presentations from members of four distinct peer hubs across Victoria, the Great South Coast Peer Hub, Eastern Peer Support Network, Grampians Mental Health Peer Workers Network and the Peninsula peer hub. Each peer hub will share with the audience their experience of establishing and participating in a peer hub. This will include an overview of each hub’s scope, purpose, challenges and outcomes. Presentations will cover a number of topics including working collaboratively cross-organisationally, connecting clinical and community lived experience workers, involving consumer and carer peer workers, balancing professional development opportunities with reflective practice, advocacy, ethics, accessibility and sustainability. The audience will be invited to discuss the future of peer hubs across Victoria and the role they play in supporting peer workforce development.


Lead presenter

Cassy Nunan - Consultant Consumer Advocacy and Leadership, MI Felllowship

Cassy Nunan (BA Hons, Grad Dip Couns’) is MI Fellowship’s Consultant Consumer Advocacy and Leadership. Cassy is a trained counsellor who has 12 years experience working in community mental health.  She has performed multiple roles at MI Fellowship, and her contribution includes:  Research and development of the peer facilitated MI Recovery Program, facilitation of MI Recovery groups, development of peer workforce framework and peer specialist training, delivery of peer specialist trainings and peer hub establishment workshops, delivery of peer supervisor training. Cassy has presented on peer workforce development and peer education at multiple conferences and forums in Australia and internationally.  Lived experience informs and motivates Cassy’s work values. She is passionate about justice and inclusion for people experience mental health challenges, and their families. Cassy is currently finishing a cross-disciplinary PhD in English and Social Work.



Representatives from each of the following hubs/networks:

  • Great South Coast Peer Hub
  • Eastern Peer Support Network
  • Grampians Mental Health Peer Workers Network
  • Peninsula peer hub





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- Part 2 



Presentation one

Leading our own transformation.

Platform Trust is a New Zealand collaboration of community organisations that are providing services to individuals, families and communities where mental health and addictions are an issue.


After many years of describing the issues that get in the way of the ability of the community sector to deliver stellar services we have changed our strategy. Whilst we were effective in describing the problems such as funding inequities, poor contracting practices, the burden of compliance and lack of investment in the community workforce, the problems remained. We decided to change course, lead from the front, find some partners and together transform the way the mental health and addiction system is working.


Mental ill-health and addictions have huge personal, social and economic costs. These issues affect individuals, families, communities, schools, prisons and workplaces as well as being a leading health issue. The mental health and addiction system is under pressure to change, the linear clinically lead system may have served us well in the past but it is broken and there is no one agency that can solve these complex social issues. These issues are too important to leave to Government alone to tackle. This presentation aligns with many of the themes of the conference as we all look to new ways to provide creative responses and adapt to a changing social and fiscal environment.


Over the past two years Platform and Te Pou have called upon international evidence, emergent social practice, disruptive technology, co-production and advice from people who use services and huge amounts of good will.  We are exploring the edges of the growing evidence from social network theory, collective impact and complex adaptive systems theory. This is work in progress and we are learning as we go.


We will draw on our experiences in collective action around multiple activities we have called Equally Well. This is about the whole of the health system taking action to improve the physical health of people who live with mental illness and addictions. We share our experiences of developing ‘’On Track Knowing where we are going- Co Creating a mental health and addiction system New Zealanders want and need’. On Track is about a continuous stream of small transformative actions undertaken by different people in different places all working in a consistent direction to address the wide range of challenges that face the mental health and addictions system.


Whilst there are differences in New Zealand and Australia’s mental health and addiction systems much of what we are doing is about universal engagement that’s why we are keen to share what we are doing, what we are learning and connect with others at the Vicserv Conference.


Marion Blake – CEO, Platform Trust


- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Part 5



Presentation one

Innovation in consumer participation through co-production.

Human Rights Conventions and Australian Policy clearly articulate the right for consumers to be actively involved in the planning evaluating and delivery of services as well as full inclusion into society. To move beyond tokenistic and adhoc processes Neami National has commenced a whole organisation change management process that has been co designed by consumers from the beginning. The development of a consumer participation framework articulates a strategy that builds capacity for consumer learning and leadership to challenge attitudes and increase worker’s understanding of how participation can move beyond the “us and them” space.


The implementation of the consumer participation framework uses principles of co- production to bring together workers and consumers in designing participation at every service site, the community in which people live as well as all organisational functions. The co-production process recognises the skills and talents that consumers can bring to the table rather than being differentiated by consumer status only. It ensures that the same information is shared with everybody involved. Through specific examples this presentation aims to demonstrate how Neami asked and listened to consumers about their participation that lead to a co designed change management process which will create a transformative process for pathways for a new leadership to emerge.



  1.  Gordon S. (2005). “The role of the consumer in the leadership and management of mental health services”, Australasian Psychiatry, 13(4): 362-5
  2. New Economics Foundation (nef) (2013). “Co-production in mental health A Literature review. Accessed from:


Julie Anderson -  Manager Consumer Participation Strategy, Neami National.

Julie's role is to support the organisation to implement co-production as a process to strengthen consumer participation across the organisation. In 2015 Julie completed the National Mental Health Commissions Future Leaders in Mental Health program and is a member of MHA National Register of consumer advocates. Julie has provided advice to Federal and State governments from a lived experience perspective. Julie has completed the Australian Company Directors course and currently sits on the Board of directors for Forensicare in Victoria.


Kathy McCormick - Peer Support Worker and Peer Health Coach

Kathy worked as a peer support worker and peer health coach before moving to her current position of Consumer Participation Officer for Neami Victoria. Kathy has a degree in Community Cultural Development and takes a strong interest in the creative development of recovery concepts and language from lived experience perspectives.




Presentation two

Road to recovery – enablers and barriers to Tackling Tobacco.

Given ongoing mental health reforms and the Victorian Government’s recent commitment’s to tackle the ‘physical health problems that disproportionately affect people with mental illness’ , it is an opportune time to address the negative outcomes caused by tobacco use among people with a mental illness.


Although significant progress has been made in reducing general smoking rates, smoking among people with a mental illness remain persistently high.  Emerging evidence shows that smoking also increases the risk of symptoms of depression and the incidence of mood and anxiety disorders. Despite this, many people experiencing mental health issues are not accessing evidence-based or consistent smoking cessation supports. Taking a targeted approach to reducing smoking in people with mental illness is therefore a priority for Quit Victoria.


Quit Victoria will showcase how we partner with the sector to pilot an organisational change model to embed smoking cessation in Victoria’s mental health services. This model is designed to support organisations across the spectrum of capacity and readiness for change in addressing smoking – from contemplating, preparing, improving to continuing to provide smoking care.  The Tackling Tobacco Mental Health Project aims to trial and develop this model for the Victorian context, leveraging on the framework, tools and resources developed in the established NSW Tackling Tobacco program.


A key focus of this presentation will be to highlight the enablers, barriers and requirements for successfully embedding smoking cessation in Victorian mental health services. These are based on in-depth consultations with service providers, as part of completing phase one of the project. This project phase will provide Quit Victoria and participating agencies a project plan for testing the model in each organisation and a strategy for future partnerships with other interested project partners.


The Tackling Tobacco Mental Health Project aims to develop a transformative approach to achieve better outcomes for consumers, carers, staff and organisations. By trialling and adapting the change model in partnership with the Victorian mental health sector, the project provides a strong example of the conference key concepts of co-design and effective consultation, innovative policy and service development, and peer-led transformation. Quit looks forward to the opportunity to contribute to the sector’s recovery agenda, through providing a road to a hopeful future for staff and consumers to be tobacco-free and improve their physical and mental health.


Luke Atkin and Sian Lloyd - Cessation, Partnerships & Priority Settings Quit Victoria





Friday 20 May Day two - Concurrent sessions 11.35 am-1.00 pm


Primary health symposium

A discussion on the role of the Primary Health Networks within the context on national mental health reform.


  • Chris carter - CEO, North Western Melbourne PHN
  • Lyn Morgain - CEO, cohealth
  • Jason Trethowan - CEO, Western Victoria PHN






Presentation one

Mansfield Mater – utilising rural community resources to benefit the social connections of those living with mental illness.

Mansfield Mates is an innovative project aimed at utilising community volunteers in assisting those experiencing mental health difficulties in the Mansfield region. The project aims to reconnect participants with their community in the areas of social inclusion and day time activity. The project was developed as a way of directly responding to the voices of consumers and carers who were concerned by the limited resources within the current mental health sector for rural communities. The  Mansfield Mates project is community looking after community and signifying the positive impact of social connections for people with mental illness. The project provides a better opportunity for community members to gain knowledge and understanding of mental health difficulties and therefore reducing stigma.


In reviewing support services/systems in the Mansfield region, evidence identified that people with a mental illness had unmet needs in the areas of social connectedness, companionship and day time activities. This evidence in indicative of many rural and remote communities and is not restricted to the service options of mental health supports specifically. The service system has little to no capacity to offer supports that are flexible and not restricted to 9-5 Monday to Friday. This led to the development of a steering committee to co-design the pilot project with the goal to overcome the restrictive support capacity within the region’s resources.


Robert McDonald – Support Facilitator, Hume Partners in Recovery (MI Fellowship)

Renee Leary – Project Officer, Mansfield Mates




Presentation two

Delivering carer support through an integrated local community strategy.

The Macedon Ranges has an unique geographic and demographic profile. Less than one hour from both Melbourne and Bendigo, it is a semi-rural area with about 40,000 inhabitants. It sits neither inside the greater Melbourne catchment nor that of greater Bendigo. It is tantalisingly close to being included in key mental health service areas, but die to its position is excluded from many direct resources and outreach services other Victorians take for granted.


This level of uncertainty re access to services is a major stressor to local carers. At the same time as caring for a family member with mental illness, carers are navigating through the complexities of the mental health system, unsure of what is available to them. There are a number of agencies who do cover the Ranges region, however the lack of a coordinated approach from those service providers also means that carers who look for support are unaware of who is the appropriate agency for their specific situation.


Ps My Family Matters (PSMFM) was formed in response to these issues. The lived experience of two local mothers identified the need to offer carers assistance in navigating the system within the framework of a peer support program.


This presentation will outline how PSMFM established a 3 pillar strategy, focused on peer support, assistance in accessing services/benefits and community home support. This strategy was developed to be both sustainable over time and replicable in other communities who share similar challenges to those experienced in the Ranges.


Since its inception in mid-2014, PSMFM has impacted on over 150 families in the Ranges region. Recent funding support from Bendigo Health and Macedon Ranges Health has enabled PSMFM to appoint a services coordinator. A volunteer training program has been established and PSMFM now offers a team of peer support volunteers, all with lived experience of caring for someone with mental health issues.


Michael Hamer – Vice President, PS My Family Matters.

PS My Family Matters is a Macedon Ranges based charity offering support to those caring for family members and loved ones with a mental illness.

Michael has extensive non-profit experience having served on the boards of the Alzheimer’s Association, lifeworks and the Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria.

In his professional life Michael works as an independent leadership coach and facilitator. His experience also includes 20 years working for an international advertising agency.

He is currently undertaking a Master’s program in Psychotherapy and Councelling with the Australian College of Applied Psychology. Michael lives in the Macedon Ranges and is married with two children.




Presentation three

Creation of co-located ‘Partners in Recovery’ Support Facilitator role with Mind Australia and Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative (BDAC).

Mind Australia, Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative (BDAC) and the Murray Primary Health Network's Partners in Recovery (PIR) program have developed an innovative partnership to provide specialised support services to Aboriginal clients with severe and persistent mental ill-health in the Greater Bendigo and Dja Dja Wurrung region. Aboriginal engagement has always been a goal of the Murray Primary Health Network, which has a specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement portfolio.  This program addresses some of the unmet need around severe and persistent mental ill-health that exists within our local Aboriginal communities.


In response to community consultation and an identified gap in local services for Aboriginal people with severe mental ill-health, the three service providers successfully collaborated to design an integrated model to engage a PIR Support Facilitator to be co-located between Mind Australia and BDAC. 


This innovative program has allowed the three partners to strengthen their own service provisions while meeting the local Aboriginal people where they are and supporting the creation of strong linkages between Aboriginal people and mental health support services.  PIR offers an ideal bridge for people connecting with mental health services, by getting multiple sectors, services and supports they may come into contact with (and could benefit from) to work in a more collaborative, coordinated and integrated way.


The focus of the Support Facilitator's role is to provide services to clients, families and carers and teams in line with Mind Australia’s Model of Recovery Orientated Practice and according to the values of Mind Australia.

By providing a service that their existing mental health support services were unable to meet, this role also enhances BDAC’s vision of striving to achieve better health outcomes through a holistic approach for Aboriginal people of the Dja Dja Wurrung area.


After 14 months of negotiation and consultation the Support Facilitator commenced work in November 2015 and is co-located in Mind Australia's Bendigo office and BDAC, providing specialist services to Aboriginal people and their families who may have experienced barriers to accessing mainstream mental health services. It also provides a secondary consult and support role to the various teams at BDAC, and supports the development of culturally sensitive practices in Mind Australia's services across the catchment.


Already we are seeing an increase in the number of enquiries and referrals of Aboriginal people and their families to PIR.  The Support Facilitator is also working closely with staff from both agencies to increase their collective knowledge and wisdom by sharing ideas and assisting with continued connection between the two agencies (and by extension the community).


This successful collaboration is an example of best practice of service providers working together to meet the needs of their community.  The development of an MOU has not only formalised this process, but allowed for the continued encouragement of collaboration between the three agencies.  This partnership also provides a framework that can be replicated in other communities to establish and build integrated services within their own regions.


Nicola Cairns - Partners in Recovery Support Facilitator, Mind Australia

Nicola joined Mind Australia's Partners in Recovery team in november 2015. a qualified social worker, trainer and passionate advocate for regional Australia, Nicola has extensive experience working across Indigenous communities in South West Queensland.

Bill Dower - Quality and Infrastructure Manager, Bendigo and District Aboriginal Coooperative

Bill is a qualified social worker with 30 years experience working across a range of sectors. This includes extensive work in dsability and not for porift mental health services. Over the past seven years much of this work has been with and for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisatioins fostering partnerships. 


- Part 1
- Part 2




Presentation one

From participant to peer worker.

The efficacy of peer work in improving recovery outcomes has been established, the term peer work covers a wide range of meanings and roles, yet the employment of peer workers may raise challenges (Carter T and Repper J 2011, A Review of the Literature on Peer Support in Mental Health Services, Journal of Mental Health).  Specific training courses for peer workers are a recent development and effective resources to support peer workers can be absent in regional Australia (Health Workforce Australia 2014, Mental Health Peer Workforce Study).  Peer worker roles can be ambiguous in scope and definition and peer workers, without previous experience of human service work, may struggle to make the transition from participant to employee.


This co-presentation by a peer worker and their supervisor considers the employment of a peer worker in northern Tasmania.  It reflects on the transition of a person from being a participant in a rehabilitation and recovery service to becoming an employed peer worker.  It offers insights from a peer and supervisor perspective of how best to support and develop peer workers.  It will be suggested that a bi-directional relational process, characterised by willingness in both sides to learn and develop, provides a means to assist the transition from participant to peer worker.


Harvey Baker-Dowdell - Peer Worker, MI Fellowship

Harvey Baker-Dowdell is an International Peer Worker, with lived experience of mental illness for much of his life.  Harvey has transitioned from receiving support in his recovery at the service, into paid employment where he shares his experiences and insights about his recovery into mental illness.


David Wilkes - Senior Program Worker, MI Fellowship

David Wilkes is a social worker, from a family with intergenerational mental illness, employed as a Senior Program Worker, with responsibility for mentoring and training staff.  He is passionate about helping people with mental illness fulfil their potential.




Presentation two

Providing a peer support network for AOD and mental health peer workers and advisors in the eastern metropolitan region.

The Eastern Peer Support Network (EPSN) is a project designed to bring together peer advisors, workers and people with lived experience of mental health and/or AoD issues to meet on a monthly basis.


The EPSN is peer led and has approximately 40 participants at monthly meetings which are hosted by Eastern Melbourne Region service providers.


The EPSN’s aim is to identify, pilot and evaluate an appropriate peer support network model and regional approach to peer networking, workforce development and training.


Information gathered throughout the project will contribute to the development of effective methods of peer engagement in the workforce which in turn will assist organisatins with the planning and provision of services. The primary focus of the recommendations will be how organisations can grow and better support the peer worksforce in the EMR. Recommendations will be provided to participating organisations at the conclusion of the project in June 2016.


Joel Robbins – Partners in Recovery Manager, Eastern Melbourne PHN


Paula Kelly – Project Worker, Peer Worker, Eastern Health


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- Part 2


Presentation three

Engaging the multicultural mental health community through using applied creative art, promoting mental health and reducing stigma simultaneously via the 4c art project implemented by the victorian cald consumer / carer advisory group.

This presentation will highlight work undertaken by the Victorian Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Consumer / Carer Advisory Group called the ‘4C Art Project’.  The Project aims to reduce stigma, promote vital dialogue alleviating isolation, encourage social networks to develop and positive attitudes / behaviours / mindsets around mental illnesses, with intent to focus primarily on wellbeing of the participants.


The Project is named ‘4C Art Project’ symbolising the four pillars that the project aimed to achieve, namely: Collaboration, Culture, Collectiveness and Connections.  These four pillars were not only the Project’s aims, but also initiated a starting point for the project to develop.  It gave a sense of purpose / interest from the migrant communities to participate. 


Needless to say, Culturally Responsive Practices / Cultural Safety were also driving concepts that were part of the project.  Having people from different cultural backgrounds meant that the project required a culturally relevant and safe way of engagement.  This in itself not only removed fear / shame to participate, but allowed people to accept each other.  In fact, it provided an opportunity for people to engage together as a micro community which otherwise would not have been possible to achieve. 


The 4C Art Project is used to illustrate the use of Art as a health promotion tool with communities with emphasis on the migrant communities who lack many of these initiatives, or are struggling to engage due to their level of English/MH proficiency.  The role of the community engagement within mental health services will also be explained.


Building capacity for people and services both formally and informally in the migrant communities of today has also allowed recovery and wellness to easily be established, as well as encouraged these communities to empower themselves and explore other options beyond the 4C Art Project.


Evan Bichara - CALD Mental Health Consumer Advocate, Victorian Transcultural Mental Health

Evan Bichara arrived in Australia with his family of Greek-Egyptian background at the age of six. His promising academic career received a setback when he developed a mental illness in the first year of science at the University of Melbourne.

He maintained, however, a profound determination to heal himself and contribute to others. Unusually, Evan found a means of achieving this through sport. His love for soccer and young people led him to coaching junior teams up to state championship level, eventually becoming a referee for Soccer Australia.  Assisting his local Greek Orthodox Church also helped him on his long journey to heal his mind, body & soul.

Evan is now a tireless consumer advocate for those who have his condition – supporting individuals in crisis, building awareness in ethnic communities and advising government. His disability has become the means for expressing his passion to make a difference to the lives of other Australians.







Presentation one

Independent Mental Health Advocacy: using advocacy to increase consumer choice and control in the public mental health system.

The Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) (The Act) contains a set of reforms to the mental health system that represent a shift towards a more consumer focused, recovery orientated model of care. One of the key concepts underpinning The Act is the idea that consumers have a right to exercise choice and control over their mental health treatment and recovery.


To ensure consumers are provided with assistance to exercise this right, the Act contains a number of supported decision making mechanisms. In addition to the provisions set out in the Act, the government committed to funding a new independent mental health advocacy service for Victoria to support consumers who are subject to compulsory treatment. Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) began delivering services on the 31 August 2015 to people subject to compulsory treatment in Victoria.


The service is based on the recognition that compulsory treatment under the Act is an inherently disempowering process that places restrictions on people’s human rights. The provision of advocacy to consumers subject to compulsory treatment to support them to make or participate in decisions about their mental health treatment is one way of trying to ensure that this group of consumers retain a degree of choice and control over their care.


It is a model that works. In 2007 the UK introduced an Independent Mental Health Advocacy service for people subject to compulsory treatment (also known as IMHA) which has been comprehensively evaluated. The evaluation found that the provision of IMHA advocacy was key for ensuring that consumers subject to a treatment order ‘had a voice’ .


Liz Carr, Senior Advocate, IMHA

Liz Carr was previously the Acting CEO of VMIAC. She has over 15 years' experience as a mental health consumer advocate across both metropolitan and regional/rural Victoria. Previous roles include community development, administrative and editing work across a range of industries.


Wanda Bennetts, Senior Consumer Consultant, IMHA

Wanda Bennetts has worked in a variety of consumer perspective roles since January 2001 including consumer consultant, consumer educator and consumer researcher. Wanda’s paper “Real Lives, Real Jobs’ is about her passion for progressing consumer workforce issues. Wanda works as the senior consumer consultant for IMHA and also does freelance work.




Presentation two

Positive change in reducing seclusion and restraint in New Zealand.

Te Pou O te Whakaaro Nui has been working with a number of District Health Boards over the past eight years to reduce the incidence of seclusion and restraint in acute adult mental health inpatient units. This work has also been supported by the Ministry of Health.


Reducing and working to eliminate seclusion and restraint is highlighted as a priority action in Rising to the Challenge: Mental Health and Addiction Service Development Plan 2012-2017. This plan is the key national policy document for mental health and addiction services in New Zealand. Seclusion data is reported annually in the Director of Mental Health’s Annual Report. The policy context will be discussed in the presentation.


The New Zealand Six Core Strategies© checklist is a proven way for mental health and addiction services to reduce seclusion and restraint events. These strategies are:

  • Leadership towards organisational change
  • Using data to inform practice
  •  Workforce Development
  • Use of seclusion and restraint reduction tools
  • Service user/consumer roles in inpatient units
  • Debriefing techniques


The original Six Core Strategies© were developed in the USA by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Medical Directors Council (NASMHPD), and are evidence based approaches effective in reducing seclusion and restraint.


The New Zealand Six Core Strategies© checklist was developed by Te Pou to help services in New Zealand implement the original strategies. The checklist is tailored for the New Zealand environment. 


One of the key success factors has been the co-leadership of this work with a project lead and a service user lead. The service user voice is strong in this work, and was a critical voice when adapting the Six Core Strategies© for the New Zealand context. This continues to be the case.


This work also contributes to the theme of the Towards Recovery Conference relating to human rights. Seclusion is a human rights issue, and the approach Te Pou has taken in implementing Six Core Strategies© has shown a reduction in seclusion and restraint which in of itself is a positive outcome. The nature of the six strategies also requires change at an individual, system and organisational level. It also bodes well to the concept of transformation given the trauma associated with seclusion events, and with the decreased use of seclusion and restraint will reduce trauma experienced in units.


Angela Gruar – Manager  Practice and Leadership, Te Pou O te Whakaaro Nui

Angela Gruar is Manager, Practice and Leadership at Te Pou O te Whakaaro Nui, which is the national mental health evidence based workforce development centre in New Zealand. Angela leads a team who are focused on working with services in respect to particular practice issues in both district health boards and non government organisations, This includes reducing seclusion and restraint in acute adult mental health inpatient units.

Angela has a Master of Arts (Hons) in Education, and has worked in the public sector prior to joining Te Pou in 2015.




Presentation three

Exploring the potential for alternatives to seclusion in Acute In-patient Services.

Restrictive interventions, such as seclusion, are experienced by people experiencing an acute mental health crisis as traumatic, and counter to recovery.


Objectives - To audit seclusion rates in one service in Melbourne, Australia, to investigate the use of seclusion, patient demographics, and opportunities to reduce seclusion use.


Methods - A cohort of admissions were examined across a 12 month period in January – December in 2013. Electronic and paper records were accessed and audited for 655 admissions.


Results - There were 198 seclusion events and 90 discreet patients who experienced seclusion. For those experiencing seclusion: two thirds were male; half were either homeless or had no fixed abode; 32% were case managed; and over 50% were unemployed or not in the workforce. The average time people experienced seclusion for was 12 hours, and the median and mode times were 4 hours.


Conclusion - By understanding seclusion interventions better, changes can be made to enhance practice. This exploratory research into seclusion has clarified who is most likely to experience seclusion, why, for how long, and suggests ways social workers can be catalysts in important reforms to protect and enhance the rights and wellbeing of marginalised members of our communities at their most vulnerable.


Background -: This data was collected while author was on final Social Work placement at an in-patient mental health service in late 2015. This data was gathered in order to provide a comparison point for future research to see if interventions, such as a pilot program utilising peer workers and reforms brought about from the new Mental Health Act (2014), had had any significant impact on seclusion rates. It was also hoped that by learning more about who gets secluded that this research could be used to advocate for such consumers who are over represented in the secluded population. This research was originally submitted as an honours thesis titled “Preserving Human Rights During an Acute Episode: Uncovering issues of masculinity, homelessness, social isolation and poverty through a quantitative analysis of mental health service seclusion events”, which, as the title suggests, had a strong leaning toward promoting recovery principles and comparing current practice with prevalent human rights law.


Jacinta Chavulak - Mental Health Support Worker, Uniting Care Prahran Mission

Jacinta Chavulak is currently working as a Mental Health Support Worker with Uniting Care Prahran Mission after completing a double degree of Arts (majoring in behavioural studies) and Social Work (with Honours). Jacinta has previously worked as a community support worker at St Mary’s House of Welcome after completing her first social work placement for this organisation. Jacinta is in the process of writing articles from this research for international mental health-focused journals and will be presenting her results at the International Social Work Conference on Health and Mental Health in Singapore later on in the year. Jacinta completed this research whilst on placement where she concurrently supported work completed for a pilot program utilising peer workers and assisted in collecting and reporting on consumer feedback for this program. Jacinta is a passionate advocate of recovery orientated practice within her current work and writing.  






Presentation one

Transformative communities - The Mind Recovery College approach provides consumer choice and control through co-production and co-delivery.

The Mind Recovery College provides a range of educational courses for people with lived experience, friends, family carers, practitioners and the broader community. Co-production is central to the Recovery College, meaning all courses are co-developed and co-delivered in partnership with the aforementioned stakeholders, ensuring each course provides an opportunity to inform, challenge, and impart knowledge, wisdom, and personal experiences to support recovery. 


This interactive session will demonstrate the merits of stakeholder collaboration through the activity of co-production. 


A key component of the Mind Recovery College approach is to transform mental health services through organisational change. Recovery colleges value the expertise of lived experience and carers as much as the expertise of practitioners. The benefits of the model in supporting recovery have been widely documented in the UK and emerging research suggests that co-production can positively impact not only consumers, but organisations more broadly, in reinvigorating and rebuilding the way we do business.  The Mind Recovery College won a National Disability Award in 2015 for Excellence in Choice and Control in Service Delivery. 


The potential for the Recovery College approach to expedite lasting and sustainable recovery for long-term ‘clients’ of mental health services is exciting and profound.  This speaks to the recognition that participation of people with lived experience in the process of knowledge formation - from production, delivery and evaluation of courses - provides a rich and meaningful plethora of understanding, enabling assumptions and bias to be challenged in the context of a learning environment. 


Co-production is the mechanism that provides a more inclusive and transformational recovery platform.   This shifting of consciousness is possible within the context of the college due to 5 key factors within the approach:


Facilitator - At least one facilitator has lived experience, is not an authority figure or expert, and is equipped to facilitate meaningful activities and conversations that are not confined by clinical language and expectation.


Content - The content for workshops is co-produced. Many people are part of the process in establishing themes, ideas, experiences that inform our courses in a more meaningful way. The way we communicate elicits more emotional and kinaesthetic components.


Students – Our participating students share vast lived experiences, are self-motivated (they choose to be here, feel safe and are able to have conversations and reflect and learn from each other). The Recovery College approach allows consumers, carers and practitioners to learn together without hierarchy or ‘experts’.


Environment – The Mind Recovery College is open, warm and welcoming. The campuses also provide access to resources and facilitators.


Activities - Many methods of facilitation are incorporated into the teaching; the sessions are not didactic, are more grounded in group-work, reflection, and incorporate activities that reinforce and challenge the learner. 


This presentation provides a summary of how co-production contributes to choice and control and service transformation. The workshop will also include a demonstration of the co-production process that will give participants a firsthand experience of co-production at work.


Emma Higgins - Mind Recovery College

Emma Higgins- Has worked in the Mental Health Sector and Education for last 10 years. Emma has a diploma in Mental Health Sciences, Masters in Sociology and recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Family Therapy.  Emma is passionate about recovery and her work is informed by her own personal experiences and a strong conviction that anything is possible if you hold hope, have support and hold dreams and goals to inspire you.


Courtney O’Connell - Mind Recovery College

Courtney O’Connell has experience of working in mental health services as an Occupational Therapist for the past 7 years. During this time Courtney has worked at a Recovery College in the UK which has helped develop her passion for Recovery Colleges and the exciting opportunity they offer to people. Courtney now works at the Mind Recovery College.  


- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4


Presentation two

Learnings from a process evaluation of the Mind Recovery College.

The Mind Australia Recovery College (MRC) is an innovative service delivery model that uses a co-production and education-based approach to mental health service delivery. Based on the Recovery College model from the United Kingdom, the MRC gives people with lived experience of mental ill-health, their families and friends a space to both learn and teach skills to support recovery. The MRC has been in operation since 2014 and is currently in partnership with the Centre for Mental Health at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health in conducting ongoing evaluation activities.


Aims; This presentation will present preliminary findings from an evaluation focused on the implementation of the MRC as well as early indications about a range of potential outcomes. This stage of the evaluation aimed to examine: (A) how Mind has adapted the Recovery College model; (B) the fidelity of the implementation of the MRC to Mind’s initial plan; (C) indicators about the effectiveness and impact of the MRC; and (D) the ‘active ingredients’ of the MRC Model in the short term.


Methods: These questions were addressed through a mixed methods design using a documentation review, a survey of stakeholders and a series of semi-structured interviews and focus groups with students, teachers, carers, family members and Mind staff at the Mind Recovery College.


Findings and reflections: Data is currently being gathered and analysed. We anticipate that findings from this phase of the evaluation will inform ongoing development of the College and assist to inform future evaluation efforts. We are keen to share ideas about the best approach to evaluation of a new innovative service like the MRC that reflects its core principles, particularly co-production, and the implications of preliminary findings.


Teresa Hall - Research Fellow, Global and Cultural Mental Health Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Melbourne University

Teresa Hall is a Research Fellow at Melbourne School of Population and Global Health with a MSc Public Health from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has a particular interest in consumer-orientated mental health systems policy design, implementation and evaluation both in Australia and internationally. She has previously worked on the development of national guidelines for mental health in the criminal justice system in the UK, and the national mental health policy of Sri Lanka. 


- Part 1
- Part 2


Presentation three

Developing a progressive mental health research and evaluation agenda through researcher, consumer & practitioner collaboration.

Traditionally, research ideas and questions have been driven by research institutions or academics and at times can be removed from the real issues facing people who experience mental health difficulties and the services employed to support them. As a growing organisation with an increasing number of staff and consumers to work with; Neami was often seen as a potential pool of ‘subjects’ by researchers.


In 2008 we asked ourselves the question “How do we as an organisation with a focus on service delivery, become a leading organisation in recovery focused evidence based research and evaluation”? We wanted to enact a research and evaluation agenda that could be used to address priority issues that lead to direct benefits for consumers.


A key factor that has driven Neami’s capacity to undertake research and evaluation activities has been the development of a Research and Evaluation Committee. The committee is made up of Neami staff, consumers, and external academics. Each of the members bring valuable expertise, knowledge and experiences which contribute to decisions regarding which projects to prioritise and undertake, or where projects may require improvements in design or process. Over time it has evolved to reflect a coproduction process where each of the members contribute to decisions and are able to learn from each other. As an innovation, it has proven to be successful in progressing Neami’s capacity to undertake research and evaluation projects that can advance knowledge and service delivery practices in the mental health field.


“I love the idea that what I contribute has an effect on how things are done”. (Consumer member)


 “I have been so impressed by the breadth and depth of research and evaluation that Neami initiates and participates in, and also, how being on the committee has developed my own knowledge and skills.” (Staff member)


As a whole, the committee provides a vital function in ensuring quality and consistency is reflected in all of Neami’s research and evaluation activities. The members ensure all research is conducted in accordance with Neami values, ethical research practice, and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines consumer participation in research. Together they provide a frank and fearless review of project proposals, a willingness to offer informative advice and mentoring, and the ability to reflect on how their role can be refined to improve their contribution.


In this presentation we share:

  • Committee member profiles and how these contribute to decisions made by the committee.
  • The core functions of the committee and how these influence our research and evaluation activities.
  • How the committee has evolved over time to enact a co-production approach.
  • The benefits of engaging differing forms of expertise to further quality and relevance in research and evaluation.


Keren Wolsterncroft – Research Coordinator, Neami National

Keren Wolstencroft: Keren is research coordinator at Neami National and has a key role in ensuring research and evaluation activities participated in by Neami are enacted according to the oversight decisions of Neami’s Research and Evaluation Committee. She is a psychologist with a particular interest in research and practices that support health, wellbeing and a flourishing life.


Dave Peter

Dave Peters: Dave is a consumer with a lived experience of recovery. He has an interest in using his experience to be a voice and advocate for the consumer perspective of how it might feel to participate in any research project, how data collection methods can be negative or misinterpreted, and how research translates into service improvements. During his time on the committee Dave has also been participated in a number of steering group roles related to mental health research and program design.


Bridget Roberts – Senior Consultant, clear Horizon

Bridget Roberts: Bridget is a senior consultant with Clear Horizon. She is an experience evaluator with a background in education, community development and health service provision. Bridget has conducted multiple policy, system and program evaluations for state and federal government departments in Australia and New Zealand. Bridget is experienced in conceptualising and designing mixed method evaluation projects, reviewing relevant literatures and documents and conducting a wide range of group and one-to-one consultations involving consumers, front-line and senior service providers and senior policy executives. She is an accomplished writer for varied audiences and a published author of over a dozen peer-reviewed articles.






Partners in Recovery Symposium - an exploration of the future of the PIR program within the context of current reforms.

Presentation one

Partners in Recovery.  Building towards the NDIS. National progress- local experience.

Partners in Recovery (PIR) has achieved remarkable outcomes in its first 3 years of operations.  The NDIS has emerged during the same period as the largest health (disability) reform since Medicare in the 1970s. This presentation will compare the rolling out of the two initiatives so far and also raise some of the challenges as PIR starts to integrate into the NDIS over the next 3 years.


The presentation will compare and contrast the approaches of the two initiatives. While the content will focus on the PIRs’ experience there will be strong correlations between PIR practitioners and services experiences and those of the broader community mental health sector. The presentation will discuss the steps that have been taken and what still needs to done to assist people with mental health support needs to access the NDIS.


The speaker will gather the latest information available on the progress of the two initiatives; including numbers of mental health clients engaged in each, the current profiles of the client groups and the relationship to consumers and carers that each initiative is supporting.  There will be a comparison of the operational models of each, and an emphasise of the impact that each has had or is likely to have on the service system also the public and political profile of each


There will be an examination of the key component of PIR, the Support Facilitator role and a discussion of how support coordination is likely to be incorporated into the NDIS model. The question as to how people with high and complex support issues might be supported within the NDIS model will also be considered.


There will also be a discussion of the language and emphasis of both approaches, contrasting the recovery and strength motivated approach of PIR and the mental health sector, to that of a deficit focussed and assessment of life time disability assigned within the NDIS model.


The speaker will then discuss the next step issues and what is likely to change in the delivery of PIR services to better integrate with the NDIS.


This presentation could act as a curtain raiser for the more detailed PIR presentations to follow, particularly the Flinders University National PIR Capacity building initiative, which looks at how , the national program was supported and how regions all over Australia were fostered to develop a cohesive national program, while addressing the needs of local populations and mental health systems.


Kieran Halloran – Partners in Recovery Manager, Northern Melbourne

Graham Panther - Mallee Family Care/Red Panther Consulting

Garth Boyh - Malle Family Care

Jenny Donnelly - Murray PHN

Tania Shelby-James - Flinders University



Presentation two


Demonstrating value in the coming service system: lessons from partners in recovery from the Lower Murray Region. 

This is a time of great change for Australia’s mental health system. Most notably, the implementation of NDIS, and the sweeping reforms announced by the Commonwealth Government. In each case, there is a bold, ambitious vision for a more user-friendly system, as well as a great deal of debate about how it will all really work. In Victoria, other major recent changes include the recommissioning of community-based mental health services, and a new Mental Health Act. 


While this churn has brought a measure of uncertainty and trepidation amongst the sector and the broader community, it has also opened up important conversations about how we meet the mental health needs of our community, and how we put these big ideas of recovery and consumer choice into action in meaningful ways. 


Partners in Recovery is particularly well-placed to lead this conversation. The advent of PIR can itself be seen as a major development in the system, with the creation of a whole new form of mental health support, and the program’s system mandate to bring us closer to a recovery-oriented, truly client-centered service system.


PIR has also built up a strong working knowledge of the ins and outs of the system. The program operates at two levels – working directly with community members, and coordinating the system itself – which provides unique insights into the system’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement via the embedment of systems change work as core to the work of PIR.


Our project aims to capture that working knowledge. As the lead agency of Lower Murray PIR, Mallee Family Care is undertaking an evaluation, with a particular focus on possibilities for the future.   In addition to a standard evaluation of PIR’s impact in the region, we are exploring the question of how PIR can demonstrate value in the coming funding environment – to funders, consumers, and other stakeholders. We will explore outcome measurement practices in the particular context of service coordination, with regard to likely future funding scenarios.   Engagement   with communities in and around Lower Murray, will explore the broader question of what people want out of the system in this region – hopes for the future system, common roadblocks to getting help, and types of support they would purchase under individualized funding if it were available.


Our approach is one of shared sense-making, working with our partners, funders, and the community to envision where the sector can go from here, and what PIR’s role in that may be.   In this presentation, we will offer up our initial findings in the interests of contributing to the broader, ongoing conversation about future sector development.


Graham Panther – Red Panther 


Graham Panther has over a decade's experience in the mental health sector as an evaluator, researcher, and innovator. Graham has worked on a number of ground-breaking projects, including New Zealand’s first Peer Support Services, and Australia’s first Recovery College. Graham’s consultancy, Redpanther, are currently evaluating multiple Partners in Recovery programs across Victoria.


The ‘learn as we go’ approach of Partners in Recovery fits nicely with Redpanther’s practical, partnership-based approach to evaluation. Graham believes that when it comes to mental wellbeing, no one has all the answers, so it pays to share what we've learned – whether in professional roles, messy life experiences, or both. He has a passion for getting people talking and listening to one another in new ways.


Kane Alderson - Partners in Recovery Team Leader – Lower Murray Region 


Kane is the team leader of the Partners in Recovery Program for the Lower Murray region.  Kane is a trained social worker and a passionate advocate for systems reform that will assist people with mental health issues, their families and carers.  Kane’s work experience to date ensures he is well placed to speak broadly about how the systems interact, and provide commentary for the future landscape within this space.   




Presentation three

Contributing to personal recovery through a monitoring and evaluation process.

Hume PIR have taken a non-traditional approach to evaluation and one that aims to enhance the recovery process for our participants and create opportunities for two-way feedback. We have chosen an interview approach that allows respondents to tell their own story. It has been important to us that respondents have the chance to explain their own experience and perceptions, without having to tick boxes. As such, our methodology is largely qualitative and driven by informal dialogue, not statistics. It has enabled us to gain rich insights into the impact of PIR, and allows our participants to control their contribution to the evaluation, putting respondents in the driver’s seat, and giving them the opportunity to qualify and substantiate aspects of their PIR experience.



Jenny Donnelly – Manager Hume PIR Program

Jenny has a background in community health, particularly in the area of health promotion, and has utilised the knowledge gain in that sphere to implement an effective strategy to engage consumers in monitoring and evaluation which is respectful of their participation and the information which they share, and which is extremely valuable in indentifying program/service outcomes.




Presentation four

Building capacity within the Partners in Recovery initiative

The national Partners in Recovery (PIR) initiative (funded by the Australian Government Department of Health) aims to advance and improve support for people with severe and persistent mental illness with complex needs through the effective coordination of services and supports across multiple sectors.  The purpose of the PIR Capacity Building Project (CBP) is to increase the capacity of PIR organisations to deliver the PIR initiative by creating regular opportunities for national networking and information-sharing across the PIR network.


To achieve this, a number of activities and resources are being delivered, including:

  • An annual national meeting and regular state and territory workshops
  • A PIR web portal that provide resources and information and facilitates networking between PIR organisations
  • Numerous training modules and webinars that cover specific activities and challenges relevant to PIR
  • A national mentoring program and staff exchange program that facilitate ongoing networking
  • A governance structure that enables the CBP to be responsive to stakeholder needs and challenges


A recent evaluation of the CBP indicated that the project has made a positive contribution to the staff involved in the implementation and ongoing delivery of PIR.  There was excellent evidence from respondents that the CBP team had met its objective to increase the capacity of PIR staff to deliver PIR.  Networking events such as the annual meeting and the state/territory workshops were the most highly-rated activities in the evaluation findings.  The evaluation also indicated that without the CBP, the work of PIR staff would have been more difficult and staff have believe that the this impacted their work in several ways including

  • Providing consistency and direction
  • Decreasing isolation
  • Providing new ideas
  • Providing support when staff feel lost
  • Opportunity to get new information and exchange ideas
  • Better sharing and support
  • Improved efficiency


The PIR Capacity Building Project provides essential support to the PIR program. The project is continuing to build momentum, evolve in response to emerging themes and key challenges and disseminate best practice approaches and innovative ideas to PIR organisations and their staff.


Associate Professor Tania Shelby-James - Manager PIR Capacity Building Project,  Flinders University.

Tania is a health service researcher specialising in complex or chronic disease and capacity building and is passionate about ensuring high quality care for all people regardless of income or location.  She has represented the research community on national committees for the Australian Government and is a member of the Scientific Working Committee of PC4, a national primary healthcare collaborative for palliative care.  She has led projects exploring care coordination within primary care and ways in which patient centred care coordination can be delivered.






Presentation one

Co-designing a sustainable living program for people living with a mental illness.

In 2014-15, Neami National (NN) adopted a co-design approach to develop, implement and evaluate sustainability focus groups with consumer participants living with a mental illness. The co-design process and resulting focus groups aimed to collect consumer perspectives about the importance of various ecotherapy options (activities in green environments) on their recovery from a mental illness and ongoing wellbeing. 


Green spaces present an opportunity for replenishing and improving many aspects of health and wellbeing including physical, spiritual, emotional, neurological and psychological health (Townsend & Weerasuriya, 2010). Some of the physical and mental health benefits from spending regular time in green spaces have included improvements in mood as well as lower levels of anxiety, sleep disturbances and stress. Physical health, fitness and immunity have also been shown to be linked to time spent being active in green spaces. Research has shown that people experience time in nature as calming and like a mental, physical and spiritual renewal or like a ‘mini holiday’ (Townsend & Weerasuriya, 2010; (Mind UK, 2007; University of Essex, 2013).


The NN consumer participants who took part in the focus groups placed highest value on:

  • opportunities to connect with nature as a relaxation strategy and positive mood enhancer; 
  • skills to source, prepare and eat healthy, fresh and seasonal produce;  and
  • creating community and social opportunities around focused sustainable living activities such as gardening, cooking, outings into nature, mindfulness in nature, art in nature, conservation activities and exercise outdoors.


While community gardening opportunities have long been a part of many community mental health services, these findings indicate that consumers see ecotherapy activities as beyond just gardening and as important to their recovery and wellbeing.  While the focus groups collected feedback from a small sample of 30 consumers, the information is a valuable resource to inform improvements in service delivery and practice at NN. Furthermore the co-design process was a valuable experience for Neami staff and consumers, resulting in improvements in the evaluation and planning of NN’s sustainable living programs.


Since September 2015, Neami has used the information gathered through this co-design process to develop opportunities for consumers to engage in ecotherapy activities as part of their recovery including a ‘Get active in nature’ program and resources for people to build their own mini garden box to install at their home. 




Amy Piesse - Sustainability Officer, Neami National

Amy has worked at Neami National since 2011, initially as a Community Rehabilitation and Support Worker before her current role as a Sustainability Officer. Amy works with staff and consumers to implement sustainability initiatives across NN, including the Sustainable Living Program, which offers consumers opportunities to engage in sustainable living activities relevant to their personal recovery goals.




- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Part 5
- Part 6
- Part 7
- Part 8
- Part 9
- Part 10


Presentation two

Meaning making and the Hope Factor: making space for spirituality.


The presentation will focus on the conference key concepts of hope & recovery, transformation and empowerment/rights with scope to contribute to staff and organisational development that directly impacts the quality and depth at which workers are able to engage with and support individual consumers and their carers.


I will present the findings of a pilot training program that ran in 2015. It introduced mental health staff in regional Victoria to concepts of spirituality and spiritual care and how this knowledge enhances the delivery of recovery orientated services and outcomes for consumers of mental health services. 


By way of background information, this presentation will briefly consider the historical origins of the recovery movement and where it intersects with spiritual care philosophy. Both champion hope, choice, dignity & respect, inclusion and empowerment. These values, whether viewed from a recovery or spiritual care perspective underpin the things that give people meaning and purpose in life. And when we attend to this dimension of the person, we begin to connect more deeply, which in turn fosters trust and a greater capacity to work together in meaningful ways.


‘Meaning making’ is a process that a person naturally engages in when confronted with illness, trauma or change. How confidant and equipped do staff feel when called upon to engage in conversations that are spiritual in nature and support hope for the future? What stops us from connecting with people at this level? What personal, professional or systemic prejudices come into play?


Analysis of the data collected from pilot program which includes pre-training surveys, post training evaluations and survey monkey questionnaire distributed six months on from the training. The data resoundingly suggests that after some specific education into what has long been regarded a taboo area (especially in mental health), workers feel more confident to be with and initiate conversations that support their consumers to identify additional resources that aid their recovery. In one instance, the additional skills of the worker proved to be a game changer.


Recovery must consider the whole person including the spiritual dimension. It is not until the whole person and their needs are addressed that meaningful change is possible for people. We can no longer neglect the spiritual care needs of our consumers because we don’t feel comfortable or equipped to have these conversations. Our consumers want to experience this depth of connection when seeking support in their healing journey.


Jennifer Greenham – Mental Health Leader, Spiritual Health Victoria

Jennifer commenced in her role as Mental Health Leader at Spiritual Health Victoria in March 2015. She brings a wealth of experience working in both community, clinical and forensic mental health settings, in a variety of capacities over a 25 year period. Her work at SHV is supported by an Interfaith Ministry Ordination and units in Clinical Pastoral Education. Interfaith honors and celebrates all paths to the sacred and has been described as ‘spirituality without borders’. In her experience this speaks beautifully to the spiritual care needs of those with a lived experience of mental illness.


Jennifer is a Board Member of the Interfaith Centre of Melbourne and a volunteer Community Chaplain with the Victorian Council of Churches Emergency Ministry Program. Additionally she co-creates rites of passage ceremonies and rituals with and for people who increasingly identify themselves as ‘spiritual, but not religious’ from her private celebrancy business.




Presentation three

Pilot program with outside the locker room.

Bendigo Health Carer Support Services works closely with their local communities amongst rural isolated and socio demographically disadvantaged consumers.  Within this work a need was identified to support young people with risk taking behaviours, anxiety and depression.


Young carers were identified as needing active role models (mentors) in their lives, and people suffering from mental illness needed support to reduce stigma and discrimination within small communities.


Key leaders, committee members and parents within local sporting clubs were challenged with their thoughts and beliefs in relation to mental illness.  Carer Support services set out to change the culture and thinking of local football and netball clubs in Campaspe.


Living in rural isolated communities has many disadvantages when it comes to accessing services to support mental health and wellbeing.  Education is required to reduce the stigma of people on our communities living with a mental illness and informing the communities of pathways to seek support.


Today’s youth are constantly challenged by internal and external pressures of social experimentation which can lead to the development of drug and alcohol abuse and other socially destructive behaviours.


A pilot program was developed in partnership with Goulbourn Murray AFL to target 13-25 year olds within 12 local football and netball clubs in the Shire of Campaspe region.  The age group was targeted as the most vulnerable in our region with increased risk taking behaviours, social pressures, and drug and alcohol issues.


The program’s aim was to develop a collaborative network designed to foster and equip players as they transition from junior to senior ranking whilst promoting and encouraging strong social values within their local communities and everyday lives.


Juniors, delegates and community members were challenged on their personal beliefs of mental illness through three 2.5 hour workshops, which was facilitated by Outside the Locker Rooms Jake Edwards.


Each workshop was designed for the target group to interact with their peers, to achieve powerful and sustainable outcomes, including their thinking, practise, outcomes and options to determine the direction of the individual.


A local theatre company was engaged to perform a series of role plays including examples of eating disorders, drug overdose and body image.  The group was encouraged to ask questions and discuss their thoughts on the scenarios that unfolded.


The third and final workshop was delivered by Justyna Kalka, a practising nutritionist.  Justyna shares how her past experiences with eating disorders, depression and body image issues led her to what is now a true passion to inspire men and women of all ages to have self-confidence.


Evaluations have been compiled from 2300 youth attending the workshops.  The importance of delivering these initiatives through sporting hubs in rural communities has proved an invaluable experience for all participants.


Julie Bright - Carer Support Worker, Bendigo Health

Julie Bright is a medication endorsed EN and has worked as an aged care nurse for over 15 years.  For the last seven years Julie has worked as a Carer Support Worker and mental health project worker for Bendigo Health in the community.  Julie believes if we can work in a collaborative approach with networks and service providers, our youth of today will be better equipped to tackle many young persons’ issues in today’s world.


- Part 1
- Part 2





Friday 20 May Day two - Concurrent sessions 1.55-2.55 pm



This session will explore the intersection of mental illnes with family violence, alcohol and other drugs and trauma.


  1. Deb Tsorbaris - CEO, Centre for excellence in child and family welfare.
  2. Sam Biondo - CEO, Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association
  3. Carol Vale - Service Response and Development Leader, McAuley Community Services for Women
  4. Belinda Stevens - Director of Workforce Development, VACCHO


There was no formal powerpoint as part of this session.




Presentation one

Aligning consumer and carer peer workers in parallel work practice.

This presentation will provide the audience with an overview of how the principles of Shery Mead’s Intentional Peer Support and the CHIME model of recovery can be applied to carer peer work.  Focussing on a family member’s own recovery as a separate but perhaps parallel journey to their loved ones, can support the potential of hope and recovery for all. The audience will be invited to consider the parallel practice of carer and consumer peer work and reflect on strengths, challenges and ways forward in regards to this approach.


Cassy Nunan, Consultant Consumer Advocacy and Leadership, MI Fellowship

Cassy Nunan (BA Hons, Grad Dip Couns’) is MI Fellowship’s Consultant Consumer Advocacy and Leadership. Cassy is a trained counsellor who has 12 years experience working in community mental health.  She has performed multiple roles at MI Fellowship, and her contribution includes:  Research and development of the peer facilitated MI Recovery Program, facilitation of MI Recovery groups, development of peer workforce framework and peer specialist training, delivery of peer specialist trainings and peer hub establishment workshops, delivery of peer supervisor training. Cassy has presented on peer workforce development and peer education at multiple conferences and forums in Australia and internationally.  Lived experience informs and motivates Cassy’s work values. She is passionate about justice and inclusion for people experience mental health challenges, and their families. Cassy is currently finishing a cross-disciplinary PhD in English and Social Work.


Rachael Lovelock, Consultant Consumer Carer Leadership and Advocacy, MI Fellowship

Rachael Lovelock is MI Fellowship’s Consultant Carer Leadership and Advocacy and an experienced Family Support Practitioner who utilises her own lived experience of caring to lead, develop, implement and advocate for family inclusive practice, models of service and carer workforce development.  Drawing on her background in community development Rachael believes in building strong partnerships, working cohesively and co-designing programs that include lived experience.


Rachael is passionate about working with families and her approach is informed by a belief that those in caring roles experience their own unique journey which requires personalised and individual support in their own right.




Presentation two

The role of natural supports, space and place, and sense of belonging in recovery from mental illness.

Research suggests an interrelationship between natural supports, space and place, and sense of belonging in recovery from mental illness (Golden City Support Services, 2013; Sidebotham, 2014), and that these factors contribute to social inclusion and community participation. However, little is known about the role of these factors in recovery from the perspectives of people with mental illness. The MI Fellowship Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) Program based in Mornington Peninsula Victoria is a community-based recovery service aimed at increasing social inclusion and community participation.


This paper outlines qualitative research completed at the MI Fellowship PHaMs Program exploring the role of natural supports, space and place, and sense of belonging in recovery from mental illness; and investigating the influence of the PHaMs Program on experiences of natural supports, space and place, and sense of belonging. Four new PHaMs Program clients completed in-depth interviews incorporating photo elicitation methods across two time-points: on commencing the PHaMs Program and one month later. Data analysis drew on thematic analysis and narrative approaches.


Participants’ recovery was influenced by an interplay of natural supports, space and place, and sense of belonging, confirming previous research findings. Participants’ negative life experiences shaped their natural supports, use of space and place, and sense of belonging. A range of natural supports, including spaces and places, were identified by participants that contributed to sense of belonging and supported recovery.

The PHaMs Program positively contributed to the participants’ natural supports, use of space and place, and sense of belonging. The findings will inform the development of the MI Fellowship PHaMs Program, and potentially other programs outside the MI Fellowship, in promoting personal recovery, social inclusion and community participation to facilitate improved outcomes for clients.




Jade Houston - Honours Research Graduate, Monash University
Dr Primrose Lentin - Senior Lecturer, Department of Occupational Therapy, Monash University
Sean Hegarty - General Manager Operations, MI Fellowship Victoria
Emma Ladd - Regional Manager Quality and Service Management, MI Fellowship Victoria


- Part 1
- Part 2




Presentation one

Each innovation lab – through the eyes of co-design.

This is a collaborative presentation in partnership with clients & carers who were involved in the advising, planning, facilitation and participation in the EACH Innovation Lab, a Service Model Development event to co-design the new EACH Service Model through human centred design.


The week long Lab involved clients, carers and service recipients across the diverse services of EACH, who engaged with proposed Service Model Principles to test their viability and provide feedback on the ideal service experience. This event provided a safe space to welcome complaints, hear client experiences and explore the impact of collaboration in the pursuit of developing a customer promise.


This presentation will provide the client experience of the Lab through their eyes and the outcomes of this innovative and creative way to co-design the ideal service model principles. It includes the following key concepts:


  • Hope and recovery – Through the Innovation Lab, the way in which the Service Model has been designed has focused on a hopeful future for development of services. The importance of hopeful service delivery was a key theme that came out of the Lab sessions.
  • Innovation – Using human centred design, the Lab provided a new and creative way of working with clients and carers.
  • Co-Design – The Lab sessions were co-designed and facilitated by clients, carers and staff of EACH – Social and Community Health.
  • Peer-led – This presentation will be co-designed and co-presented by clients and carers of EACH.
  • Transformation – Through working together with staff, clients and carers, the Lab focused on how we can create a better future for people attending our service and offered insights into how our systems might transform to meet their needs.
  • Empowerment – Through co-designing and facilitating the Lab and this conference presentation, we can empower the community, our clients and carers to have a voice in the way that we work and the way that services are designed in the future.


Jenni Thompson, Manager, EACH Knox Social and Community Health Service

Jenni Thompson is the Manager of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Counselling Programs (Federal) at EACH Knox Social and Community Health Service. Jenni is a Psychotherapist (Gestalt) who has worked in the Not for Profit sector for 30 years and the last 19 years in the AOD sector. Jenni has extensive experience in providing therapeutic counselling, training and program development in both out-patient counselling and as Program Director of a large residential drug rehabilitation program. Jenni has led the EACH ATOD team (Knox) in the implementation of a range of innovative therapeutic methods including Trauma Informed Care, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, Schema Therapy & Acceptance & Commitment Therapy for substance use concerns, the establishment of a smoking cessation clinic, Peer Support Program, Project HOPE and the inclusion of families and clients as collaborative partners in the treatment process and program development using co-design. Jenni works full time for EACH combining roles of Program Management and Service Model Development in the Strategy, Planning & Development Team.


- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3



Presentation two

 Work for wellness: creating innovative employment pathways for people with a mental illness.

Research tells us that people with a mental illness experience double the unemployment rate of those without a mental illness. This is despite a large proportion of people with a mental illness wanting to work and seeing it as important to their wellbeing.


Ostara Australia is Australia’s largest mental health specialist in the Disability Employment Services sector. Our extensive experience working with people with mental illness who are also long term unemployed has shown us that looking for work can be stressful and can exacerbate mental health issues – especially anxiety and low self-esteem, issues that a large proportion of our clients are already experiencing.


On the other hand, finding a job can be beneficial to a person’s mental health through opportunities to regain a routine, a more hopeful future, a better standard of living and social interaction.


Ostara Australia recognised that a program that provided tailored, intensive interventions through emotional and mental support, followed by vocational skills training, would give these participants the very best chance of finding a meaningful and sustainable job. 


We engaged a psychologist to help us develop a program that could provide participants with a toolkit of skills and strategies to increase their “job readiness” – that is, able to manage their anxiety and other mental health issues through addressing the various emotional triggers that can arise in the workplace.  


Our innovative “Work for Wellness” program aims to build confidence, resilience and work-related skills in people with significant mental health issues that may affect their ability to remain in work or to gain employment.  It is delivered as a six week course through practical workshops, while also offering support with individual challenges through counselling and mentoring.


The program combines Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and other recognised psychological principals with Eastern Meditative practices which allow participants to address their emotional barriers to employment and build on their sense of self confidence and self-esteem, while also building important job skills.


By building emotional and mental resilience, the Work for Wellness program helps provide participants with a feeling of hope and increased confidence in putting themselves forward for roles. In improving their sense of wellbeing while also preparing them for employment, it also sets them on the road to recovery from their illness. 


Work for Wellness has achieved a 28% placement rate and a 48% outcome at 26 weeks. For a program that works with some of the most disadvantaged job seekers, these figures help demonstrate the resilience and self-management skills that the program instils in its participants.


With the proposed NDIS model to focus on the consumer as having choice in which support options they spend their money on, having a program that specialises in assisting people with a mental illness to become job ready – and that has been shown to successfully place people into sustainable employment – will be key to attracting consumers and to the ongoing success of the program.


Faiza Yunus, Trainer, Ostara

Faiza Yunus is a Trainer at Ostara Australia delivering the “Work for Wellness” program both for men and women living with a mental illness. For the ten years before coming to Ostara Australia Faiza worked as a Performance Coach, Facilitator and an Entrepreneur coaching clients who were transitioning through different careers. For around eight years during this period she also ran her own consultancy business specialising in Corporate Training and Performance Coaching.  Prior to that she worked in the Higher Education sector for fifteen years both in Australia and New Zealand. Faiza specialises in training, motivating and coaching clients who have come through disadvantaged backgrounds to overcome their barriers and find suitable employment.


Marie Dowling


There was no formal powerpoint as part of this presentation.




Presentation one

Powerful women delivering powerful change:  how a women-centred network helps consumers replace despair with hope and gain collective strength.

The Women’s Mental Health Network Victoria is an innovative organisation that aims to embed a culture of safer gender-sensitive care into our mental health services, promoting a healing environment for women consumers. The Network has been a front-runner in co-design and co-production of projects involving consumers, carers and service providers from its establishment in1988.


Key to the success and collaborative nature of the network is the combination of consumers, carers and professionals (and combinations of these) working together to promote awareness of issues that impact on women’s mental health. Central to the network is the recognition of consumers’ lived experience and their expertise and ability to partner in their own recovery.


The process of collaboration is strongly demonstrated in the diverse make-up of our Committee of Management and direction of the organisation; and through to the specific projects we undertake.  A typical example is the development and delivery of the ‘Building Gender Sensitivity and Safe Practice’ training. The modules were developed in consultation with key stakeholders including service providers, clinicians, managers, consumers, carers, CALD groups and the LGBTI community.


Training modules were co-delivered to Victorian acute mental health inpatient units through collaboration with the Centre for Psychiatric Nursing. Women consumers co-delivered the modules, illustrating their experiences and providing ‘real life’ examples of the impact or lack of gender sensitivity and safety. 


Committee members and other Network members have been empowered through the Network’s activities, effective lobbying and rights work. The Network’s list of achievements is interlinked with the lives of women with mental illness. These include successful lobbying government in order to achieve policy change and funding toward increasing gender sensitivity and safety.


Over the last 3 years the Network has successfully trained women with lived experience to tell their own stories through delivery of a unique program. There is no better way to motivate services and staff than by consumers telling it like it is. Doing this, has a healing and uplifting effect on women who find the courage to put their pain into words for others.


Jude Stamp will discuss training and support offered to women through the ‘Women Speak Out’ and ‘Breaking the Silence’ programs. In these programs women are encouraged to tell their stories at conferences, training sessions, through media opportunities and to build their confidence to join boards and committees.


Julie Dempsey will talk about how the Network has been a powerful influence in her Recovery journey enabling both professional and personal growth.


Sabin Fernbacher will talk about her experience of working collaboratively with women with lived experience from a service provider and committee member point of view. 


Bringing together the passion, expertise, innovation, hope and determination of consumers, carers and workers makes for a powerful voice of change.


Julie Dempsey, Chair Committee of Management, Women’s Mental Health Network Victoria

Julie Dempsey has used psychiatric services since 1982, with many admissions to acute in-patient wards as an involuntary patient. Julie is very proactive in consumer rights and is a consumer consultant at Forensicare in the secure setting of Thomas Embling Hospital. Julie has been an active member of the Network since 2005, providing consumer perspectives in facilitating the Listening Events and delivering gender-sensitive training. She has a BA from Monash Uni which informs her public speaking on consumer issues at forums, conferences and workplaces as well as her publications in the mental health field.


Jude Stamp, Consumer and Facilitator, Women’s Mental Health Network Victoria

Jude Stamp is a consumer and a facilitator in gender sensitivity training for acute inpatient unit staff. She has completed a study investigating what makes women feel safe or unsafe when receiving care in inpatient units in Victoria. Jude has a degree in Human Services and spent ten years as a consumer consultant for Southern Health. She believes passionately in the right of consumers to play an active part in their own care and has a particular interest in promoting positive relationships between consumers and service providers.


Dr Sabin Fernbacher, Vice Chair Committee of Management, Women’s Mental Health Network Victoria

Sabin Fernbacher works at the Northern Area Mental Health Service in service development across Aboriginal and Women’s mental health and Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness. She is passionate about working collaboratively on systemic change to increase gender sensitivity and safety and cultural safety for Aboriginal people in mental health care. Sabin is the Vice Chair of the Committee of Management of the Network. She relishes the opportunity to co-work with women with lived experience, in particular the women on the COM.







Presentation one

Developing peer workers to drive a contemporary metnal health system.

The peer support workforce is made up of individuals who have a lived experience of mental health either as a person who has lived with a mental illness or as a carer of someone who has experienced mental ill health.


In a review of mental health workforce requirements by the National Mental Health Commission, a number of strategies have been identified as being effective and developing and supporting the role of peer support workers in mental health services.  One strategy outlined was, ‘to train peer workers with skills and tasks required by their roles including using their recovery story to benefit consumers, effective listening skills, creating positive relationships, goal identification and setting, responding to an emergency situation, documentation requirements, ethics and confidentiality, boundaries, self-care and resolving conflicts in the workplace (Ridoutt K, Pilbeam V and Perkins D 2014, Final report on workforce requirements in support of the 2014 National Review of Mental Health Programs and Services, National Mental Health Commission, p.41).


This presentation will outline how the Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work has been developed as a national qualification to meet the above goal.  It will describe:

  • The national qualification development process
  • Tailoring the qualification for a Victorian context, including the selection of electives that suit a local workforce
  • Design and development of the course using previous training experience, and advice from the broad-based steering committee
  • The partnership between Wodonga TAFE and VICSERV that facilitated the delivery of this course
  • Delivery modes and structure to meet the needs of local employers
  • Improving access to this qualification through subsidies, traineeships and formalised volunteering arrangements
  • Future plans


This presentation will describe how the design and delivery of this qualification works towards the strategy outlined in the Victorian 10-year mental health plan to ‘support mental health workers and peer support workers to provide high quality care’ (DHS 2015, Victoria’s 10-year mental health plan. Victorian Government, Melbourne).


Sue Harrison - Senior Training Consultant, VICSERV

Sue has been working with VICSERV since 2010. She has extensive experience in community mental health service delivery, across a range of adult and aged mental health programs. She also has expertise in training, program development and evaluation, and is passionate about the design and delivery of high quality training packages.


John Katsourakis - Education and Training Manager, VICSERV




Presentation two

Peer worker traineeship… innovation in the emerging community mental health sector.

There is an increasing movement in mental health care towards the employment of individuals with a lived experience of mental health recovery as Peer Support Workers. The peer model acknowledges that people who have similar experiences can better relate to others who may have experienced mental health challenges and can consequently offer more authentic empathy and validation to those people who are still recovering their mental health.


It is well acknowledged that peer-led intervention provides individuals and families with increased knowledge of the mental health recovery process, enhances individual feelings of empowerment and self-righting, and leads to an improved quality of life. Peer workers judiciously use their own experience of adversity and overcoming mental health challenges to support others who are currently struggling.


However with the roll out of the NDIS in the Barwon region it has had implications for the role of peer work to support individuals and family members. The current understanding of peer work within the NDIS, and the funding requirements under the scheme has limited the capacity for the growth or continuation of peer work in a community mental health setting. This limitation is effectively moving against the tide of change where mental health peer work is increasingly recognised and growing.


Unfortunately, in this new disability focused system, there are reduced incentives for community mental health organisations to develop, expand or enhance their lived experience workforce. To address some of the above limitations in the scheme, Pathways has recently piloted a new Peer Support model employing six individuals with a lived experience of mental health challenges in an official Traineeship in Mental Health Peer Work. This pilot project employs six people with a lived experience of mental health recovery, to be employed as Peer (Consumer) Support Workers.


The Traineeship provides formal mentoring and support in the workplace, and the peer workers complete a range of training and professional development options including the nationally accredited, Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work.


At the conclusion of the traineeship, Trainees will be supported to apply for ongoing work with Pathways or within the community sector. The Peer Worker Traineeship initiative is supported by a broadly representative steering committee of local community service organisations and State based peak body organisations. In addition, a thorough and independent evaluation has commenced.


Brooke Baxter, Executive Strategic Operations & Development, Pathways

Brooke Baxter is an Executive at Pathways in the role of Strategic Operations and Development. For the last three years, Brooke has had a lead role in supporting Pathways transition to the NDIS, responsible for creating and implementing change management strategies to ensure that Pathways was well positioned for the transition. This has included the development of business processes, systems and technology, and the redesign of programs. Brooke has extensive project management experience in the Mental Health, Education and Family Services sector. Brooke’s passion is to inspire and develop people to build their knowledge and skills, to develop new approaches, and different ways of thinking. Brooke has a Bachelor of Social Work and most recently completed her Masters of Human Service Management, completing a research study on the personal and professional impact on support workers involved in the NDIS in the Barwon region.


James McLure, Peer Support Worker, Pathways

James McLure is currently employed by Pathways Mental Health and Wellbeing Services in the role of Peer Support Worker in the Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) Employment Service. He has held this role for two and a half years and has mentored, supported and being a companion to over forty people recovering their mental health during this time. James also worked as a Project Officer Peer Support where he collaborated with a team within Pathways and externally to establish a framework for the peer project (six people training up to be peer support workers, funded by Give Where You Live). Furthermore, James has also taken on a mentoring role for the six peer trainees as they traverse the employment landscape. James has a lived experience of impaired mental health and recovery, has written a book on his experiences entitled ‘Eight Stones: My journey through schizophrenia and depression’ and is in the process of writing another book documenting his transformation to mental health and happiness. James has also played AFL football for Geelong, gained a doctorate in Clinical Pharmacology at Flinders University, and had a football career in the SANFL with Woodville West Torrens Football Club.






Presentation one

Stories of recovery: incorporating peer support into eating disorder treatment services.

Sharing stories of recovery from a mental illness can be a powerful way to promote hope, inspiration and optimism among groups of people currently receiving treatment.  For people experiencing an eating disorder such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder, hearing first-hand accounts from people who have recovered provides a unique kind of peer support not commonly found in existing eating disorder treatment services across Victoria.


Eating Disorders Victoria has long been an advocate of peer support and the affiliation that comes from allowing people to simply ‘be’, outside of the constraints of traditional relationships that characterise one person as the patient and one as the professional (Mead, 2001). While tertiary treatment services for eating disorders have historically combined medical and allied health services, there has been an emphasis on the traditional expert/patient relationship and fewer opportunities for structured peer support. Medical and community models of care are now converging towards a complementary and holistic approach, and health service providers increasingly reflect a variety of available treatment options.


In 2015, EDV revised the ‘Stories of Recovery’ program, whereby trained and recovered speakers are supported to share aspects of their experience with groups of patients receiving hospital-based treatment for an eating disorder. The program provides valuable insight into different perspectives on recovery, allowing patients to hear about the practical aspects of the recovery process that were both positive and challenging for the speaker. In sharing these experiences, EDV aims to emphasise the individual nature of recovery and further destigmatise this mental illness. To date, the program has consistently received positive feedback emphasising the significance of being able to talk to someone who identifies as recovered, and being able to discuss practical strategies that assisted them during their recovery.


This presentation by Eating Disorders Victoria discusses the development of the Stories of Recovery program to date, including recent establishment of partnerships with key tertiary facilities and the incidental benefits afforded to speakers taking part. We will share the successes, challenges, obstacles, solutions and future opportunities identified so far, and touch on how other organisations might incorporate formal aspects of lived experience to work innovatively across treatment settings, enhance sector collaboration and provide greater choice to consumers.


Eating Disorders Victoria is a state-wide non-profit organisation that provides information, support, education and treatment services to people with eating disorders and related issues, as well as their families, schools and health professionals. The organisation’s values of Respect, Acceptance and Hope are upheld at all levels within the organisation, alongside the belief that recovery from an eating disorder is possible for everyone. Employing the voice of people with lived experience of an eating disorder is one way that EDV promotes hope and illustrates the possibility of recovery for people experiencing this increasingly prevalent mental illness.


Cathy Wyett - Client Services Manager, Eating Disorders Victoria





Presentation two

Reducing stigma and promoting hope through the lived experience of suicide.

This presentation will discuss how we can safely present the experiences of people who have attempted suicide via different mediums to help reduce stigma. In 2014, SANE Australia and the University of New England conducted qualitative research to examine the experiences of people who have attempted suicide to explore what helped or hindered them around the time of the suicide attempt. This resulted in a report called Lessons For Life. SANE has since produced a film that shows five participants talking about their experience of recovery after a suicide attempt. The video represents another way to promote the messages from the Lessons for Life report.


The Lessons for Life film is aimed at reducing the stigma associated with attempted suicide. It will be used to inform the general public and also health professionals. Misunderstanding, stigma, and judgmental attitudes can be a huge barrier to people seeking help and opening up about their suicidal feelings. Many people feel particularly concerned about the assumption that suicide is selfish or attention seeking.


Another important message that we wish to convey in the film is that people who attempt suicide can recover and those who have survived an attempt are often strong and resilient. There are a variety of factors that can aid people in their recovery including; access to professional supports, understanding from family and friends, and increased coping skills. People who have attempted suicide can teach us much about the areas we need to work in to prevent suicide.


It is hoped that both the Lessons for Life report and short film can be used to inform suicide prevention and intervention programs and give voice to an often disenfranchised group of people – those with lived experience of suicide.


This abstract is focused on how we can turn key messages learned through research into an easily accessible message aimed to reduce stigma, and promote hope and recovery. There has been little exploration of the lived experience of those who attempt suicide in Australia, creating a gap in the current literature.  Similarly, there are few opportunities for the wider public to hear messages direct from individuals with lived experience of suicide. The Lessons for Life video was published on YouTube and SANE held a short survey to examine the key message/s taken. Three key themes were identified: there is hope, there is help available and recovery is possible.


From an anonymous respondent:


‘I have been suicidal and felt isolated and misunderstood. Learning that I am not alone in these feelings was a huge step for me towards recovery. This is a very important and valuable tool for families and others who are seeking to support people living with suicidal idealization.’


By exposing people to the real life experiences of suicide attempt survivors this promotes a strong message of hope and recovery and with the use of technology we have been able to reach a wider audience and encourage people to seek help if they, or someone they know are suicidal.


Samara Gray - Project Manager, SANE

Samara Gray has worked as the Suicide Prevention Project Officer at SANE Australia since January 2013. Samara’s background is in psychology and she is currently completing a Masters of Professional Psychology. Her passions include suicide prevention, dual diagnosis and improving the lives of people with mental illness. Samara is an experienced mental health telephone advisor and as the SP project officer assisted Sarah Coker (SANE’s SP Project Manager) with the qualitative research and the development, dissemination and review of associated resources, such as Lessons for Life.






Presentation one

Goal setting challenges: working with ambivalence and conflicting expectations.

The theme Towards Recovery immediately evokes an image of moving forward in the direction of a preferred destination.  This picture sits comfortably with the aims of mental health services to assist consumers reach their goals.  However, goal setting is notoriously difficult and can be viewed as a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it seems obvious that helping consumers set and achieve goals is absolutely in keeping with best practice and yet when it is forced it can also be the biggest barrier towards successful recovery for many people.  No one enjoys being coerced into anything they are not ready for, and in most cases we stubbornly resist any outside efforts to convince, cajole or force us into change, even when we know deep down it would be for our own betterment if we did.


Services are increasingly geared towards quick outcomes: we are urged to find out what the client wants and to make it happen quickly.  Unfortunately, change of any description not only produces gains but also loss.  For this reason we are all prone to degrees of ambivalence when we consider what we want to do with our lives.  I might hate my job and long to take the plunge and change career paths, but I’m also rather fond of the security my current position provides.  These two opposing views can make me dither endlessly.


A person centred approach alongside the use of Motivational Interviewing can be extremely helpful in assisting people to assess their options and move towards the change that is right for them at the time when they are ready.  This includes understanding the change process, which is essential to help workers navigate the difficulties people have when they consider their choices, and to make sure they do so in ways that will not create discord in the relationship (the biggest barrier to a genuinely respectful and collaborative working alliance).


This presentation will explain the concepts of both the Person Centred approach and Motivational Interviewing and discuss the inevitable but not necessarily insurmountable conflict these methods will create between what is right for the consumer and what is right for the organisation.  It will hopefully start a conversation about ways in which services can deliver programs that truly reflect the person centred approach, without paying it lip service.


Kaz Mitchell, Trainer, VICSERV

Kaz Mitchell is a fully qualified counsellor with 30 years’ experience supporting clients with their mental health and goal setting.   She provides individual and couples counselling, with a strong focus on supporting clients to focus on what is important in their lives and to feel motivated to make whatever changes they have in mind.  She also teaches in the Bachelor of Counselling course at the Australian College of Applied Psychology and is a trainer at VICSERV.





Presentation two

A holistic approach to outcome indicators of success within a non-government organisation.

WALSH Trust is a community organisation that since 1988 has offered a range of mental health support services in West Auckland. Beginning with a single house offering supported accommodation, WALSH Trust, through a number of contracts, now offers housing and recovery services, mobile community support, training, peer support and employment services.


The chorus for outcomes represented in meaningful and relevant measures has never been louder. Since 2003, applying US philosopher Ken Wilber’s integral framework, WALSH Trust has explored a broad and holistic approach to strategic planning and the identification, assessment and understanding of organisational outcomes.


At the same time there has been a quantum leap in the sophistication and content of our digital information systems – particularly due to the introduction of PRIMHD. In 2016 while we can regard ourselves as information rich; we know more about what we are doing than ever before. However we are now challenged to convert this information into knowledge and understanding that has meaning, is accessible, and is reflective of what is being achieved both across the organisation and in service delivery.  Shifting consideration of outcomes as a discrete project to become integrated into “business as usual” remains perhaps our greatest challenge.


This presentation will describe the framework and its introduction, the impact such an approach has had on organisational culture and work practices, and the tools and measures that have been utilised.  Also discussed will be some of the results (WHOQoL and LSP 16) and challenges in implementing and considering “outcomes”.


Rob Warriner, Chief Executive, WALSH Trust

Rob Warriner has worked in the community based NGOs (non-government organisations) since 1993. Since 2003 he has been employed as the CEO of WALSH Trust in Auckland, New Zealand.  Rob is a Board member of Platform (Platform is the national association of non-government mental health and addiction services) and Co-Chair of the Waitemata District Health Board Provider Executive Group.


- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Part 5