A nation is only as strong as the health of its people…
These words are the closing line of a video from 2013 by the Lowitja Institute that details ‘The Gap’ in health care and outcomes for our First Nations people, and their intent to close it.
The video is worth a look here, but it is also worth noting that up until the pandemic not much had changed since it was first made some seven years ago.
The idea that the strength of a community, and a nation, comes from good physical and mental health is also at the core of what we advocate for here at Mental Health Australia: mentally healthy communities.
And when you consider such a statement in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Australia’s positive health response, it’s worth looking further at how, and why, Australia’s First Nations people have recorded the best result for any Indigenous population in the world when it comes to COVID-19.
All aspects of the pandemic were covered from testing, PPE social distancing and hygienic practices, provision of care, to social and nutritional support, isolating communities and protecting elders, and very impressive health promotion messages on social media, Indigenous TV and radio (in language and culturally appropriate). They lobbied for the implementation of the Biosecurity Act to close remote communities.
We congratulate our colleagues and Mental Health Australia members, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the many other organisations and individuals involved for their leadership and delivery of these successful health outcomes.
Outcomes that, like many of the achievements in the health system over the last 12 months, have come out of ‘need and speed’, but also outcomes that we must learn from, and leverage if we are to see improvements in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
In 2005, Professor Tom Calma called for governments to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the areas of health and life expectancy within 25 years.
In 2020, we saw COVID-19 shed a light on the outcomes achievable when First Nations people guide their own health response. Mental Health Australia endorses this as the way of the future. The ‘Close the Gap’ efforts must reflect this leadership model reflected at #2 of the pledge below.
Closing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy gap is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual, organisation and group in Australia can play a role. To achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians within 25 years I call on the Australian Government to:
Commit to providing adequate and long-term financial resources to achieve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality;
Invest in real partnerships, including increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation and control around health service delivery; and
Address critical social issues of housing, education and self-determination that contribute to the health crisis affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
On Monday our team will be celebrating Harmony Day together with a lunch. On Tuesday I will be attending a Parliamentary Breakfast, Ending Loneliness. On Wednesday I am looking forward to joining the consumer and carer advisors who support our Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Project, and in the afternoon I will be meeting with Minister Darren Chester about veterans mental health and suicide prevention. On Thursday I have the National Peak Bodies Bushfire Recovery Coordination Forum and also our second Mental Health Australia Policy Hub on housing and homelessness. Later I will be attending an event with the Australian Institute of Company Directors. On Friday I have a meeting of the Expert Advisory Group of the National Initial Assessment and Referral Project and later that day our regular meeting with the team from the Society of Mental Health Research.
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Butterfly Foundation Butterfly Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them. Butterfly changes lives by providing innovative, evidence-based support services, treatment and resources, delivering prevention and early intervention programs and advocating for the needs of our community.
Primary & Community Care Services Ltd Primary & Community Care Services (PCCS) is a local health organisation working to make it easier for people to access the health and community services they need. We provide access to community-based services that include nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, social work, care coordination and psychological support services.
The Australian Department of Health’s implementation plan sets out principles to ensure that information and services for the COVID-19 Vaccination Program are delivered in appropriate languages and formats for people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and within appropriate facilities and locations. You can access the plan here.
$10 million for National Mental Health Research Centre
A national network of leading mental health researchers will work with more than 2000 people living with mental illness to deliver better models of mental health care across Australia. Funded by $10 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Special Initiative in Mental Health, the new national centre, called ALIVE, will help to lead a generational shift in mental health care research.
Breaking ground on the Peacock Centre redevelopment
Jeremy Rockliff, Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, said building works have officially begun on the Peacock Centre redevelopment as part of the Tasmanian Government’s plan to build a better mental health system. The $9.6 million project is a key commitment to deliver integration hubs under the Tasmanian Mental Health Reform Program. The new Peacock Centre will provide integrated and community-based mental health care, bringing together a range of care and services under one roof to support people with their recovery.
Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service to continue operating until December
Beyond Blue welcomes the Commonwealth’s extension of funding to the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service. The Federal Government announced the dedicated service would continue to the end of 2021 as the impacts of the pandemic continue to be felt, COVID-19 restrictions remain in place and while its vaccination program rolls out.
Help for all first respondents and frontline members that serve our community
Narrogin could become home to one of the country’s first wellness retreats for Australian defence and emergency services communities. Not-for-profit organization, REACH, proposes to create an affordable wellness retreat for service people on an 88-acre property.
$15 million for development of innovative therapies for mental illness
The federal Government is launching a $15 million competitive grant round to kick start Australian clinical trials exploring the use of potential breakthrough combination therapies for the treatment of debilitating mental illnesses in light of a strong and emerging body of international evidence that shows that substances such as ketamine, psilocybin, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), when used in a controlled environment and supported by psychological/ psychiatric care, offer a promising new approach to effectively treating pernicious mental illnesses that are resistant to first-line treatments.
SANE Australia publishes research about importance of lived experience informing campaign development
SANE Australia’s Anne Deveson Research Centre has published an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research – Formative Research about the importance of involving people with lived experience when developing suicide prevention campaigns. Understanding the needs and preferences of people with lived experience of suicidal thoughts and actions was critical to making the Better Off With You campaign engaging, safe and meaningful. The article highlights the power of peer-to-peer storytelling and describes the focus groups and user testing sessions carried out as part of the research that shaped this award-winning campaign.
Lived Experience Australia conducted unique a national survey of both consumers and carers across Australia asking why they didn’t engage or disengaged from the mental health system. Their survey reports include the voices and statistics of 535 people who responded and will be launched on 29 March by Ms Christine Morgan, Prime Minister’s National Suicide Prevention Advisor and CEO of the National Mental Health Commission along with a specialist panel. Registration for the launch is now open.
Following the Australian College for Emergency Medicine’s national launch of the Nowhere Else to Go report examining Australia’s mental healthcare system and urgent reforms needed, ACEM is hosting a series of jurisdiction-based roundtable meetings across Australia. They have now had four roundtables and continue to move around the country. The next roundtable will focus on the ACT on 31 March. Register for the ACT event here.
The Embracing Change Project brings you a FREE half-day NDIS and Psychosocial Disability Quality and Safety Forum (National Forum) on 29 April showcasing a national perspective on NDIS psychosocial disability Quality and Safeguarding issues at the intersection of Mental Health and Disability. This forum is for anyone interested in learning about psychosocial disability quality and safety in the NDIS. More details and registrations here.
Beyond Blue has launched a mental health coaching program to support small business owners across Australia. The program is part of the Government’s $7 million BusinessBalance initiative, announced in the 2020-21 Budget. A Federal Government survey of more than 1000 small business owners found almost one in three have experienced stress, anxiety or depression over the past year. The free NewAccess for Small Business Owners is a six-week program that offers support by trained mental health coaches who have a background in small business.
BEING - Mental Health Consumers seeks members for a new Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Advisory Committee, focused on mental health issues and challenges specifically affecting CALD communities. This is a paid opportunity, open to people with lived experience of mental health issues who identify as members of CALD Communities. More information on the CALD Advisory Committee is available in this pdf document.