Mental Health Community Coalition ACT Home

We advocate for a mental health system that offers people support and belonging within their community.

The best place to receive mental health care is where you are right now. The foundations of good mental health come from our community. It comes from having a sense of belonging among your friends and family, it comes from having a stable home environment, nourishing food to eat, adequate childcare, affordable living costs.

In the ACT, the bulk of government funding is funneled to acute hospital-based care. Think sirens, waiting rooms, the discomfort of sleeping in a hospital bed, and the potential trauma associated with being at a crisis point. This is a missed opportunity.

Acute hospital care is of course, a vital part of the mental health system. But wherever possible, we want to avoid hospitalising people. Each person who is hospitalised is a person who has reached a crisis point in their lives. Their condition will have escalated, often unnecessarily, because they didn’t get help when they first needed it.

We imagine a mental health system that is less costly – both in dollar amounts, and to the wellbeing of Canberrans. The Mental Health Community Coalition ACT advocates for prevention, early intervention, and recovery. The community is the perfect place to deliver holistic, recovery-focused, person-centred, and human rights-informed care.

We want to make sure that the community organisations that deliver this care are adequately funded, accessible, and easy to navigate to benefit every Canberran.

We advance this aim through our work in mental health policy and advocacy, workforce training, sector coordination, and initiatives to promote the critical role of community services in facilitating recovery and enhancing wellbeing.

We are a not-for-profit organisation funded by the ACT Government. We work closely with Carers ACT and the ACT Mental Health Consumer Network to ensure our work is informed by the needs of consumers and carers.

We are accredited at Certificate Level of the Australian Service Excellence Standards (ASES). We are a Quality Innovation Performance accredited organisation. We are registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

Service Excellence Certificate logo
Quality Innovation Performance (QIP) Accredited logo

Our work

We aim to improve the mental health of all Canberrans by advocating for policies that would improve everyone’s wellbeing, and making sure that help is available where and when we first need it.

We represent the views of the sector to influence systemic change, advise governments on policy development and program implementation, and advocate on behalf of the community-managed mental health sector in relation to funding and sustainability. We also research and report on current priorities and directions in the sector.

Read more about our policy and advocacy work.

We support the community-managed mental health sector, including through:

  • providing training, networking, celebratory, and workforce development events, especially for our members
  • engaging with the sector, based on two-way open communication that involves listening to our stakeholders, keeping them informed, and being clear about how their contributions are being used.

Find out how you can get involved with our sector support.

Mental Health Month is an annual event, celebrated in over 100 countries, to raise community awareness and understanding of mental health conditions, reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health conditions, and promote positive mental health and wellbeing. We see it as a valuable opportunity to raise hope and celebrate the amazing efforts of our community to foster a sense of belonging and to recover from/with distressing experiences.

The Mental Health Community Coalition ACT proudly coordinates Mental Health Month for the ACT each October.

We are responsible for planning a diverse calendar of events that bring the community together in support of people living with mental health conditions and their carers.

We also provide public resources both for those experiencing mental health concerns and their loved ones and workmates.

Visit the Mental Health Month ACT page to learn more and see how you can get involved this October.

Stay up to date with our work

Subscribe to our fortnightly ACT Mental Health Sector Update

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Our sector helps keep people with mental health challenges out of our over-stretched hospital system and is a cost-effective approach to treatment and care.

The community-managed mental health sector

When people hear the term ‘mental healthcare’, they usually think about clinical services—psychologists and psychiatrists—or perhaps about acute hospital care.

However, two-thirds of Canberra’s mental health services are delivered by the community-managed mental health sector. This sector supports people with mental health conditions to live well in our community and meet everyday challenges when and where they need it most.

The community-managed sector is a vibrant, creative place which adapts to the unique needs of individuals, families, and communities. These needs might range from crisis to ongoing recovery support, housing, employment and social connection. It comprises Canberra’s soup kitchens, child care centres, domestic violence shelters, health services for marginalised groups, and more.

This sector provides services and programs to help prevent people from spiralling into mental health crisis, and picks them up after they have been in acute situations to help them heal over their recovery journey.


We are governed by a Board of Directors, who implement the Strategic plan in line with the MHCC ACT Rules of Association.

Strategic plan 2022–24


Our vision is of an inclusive ACT that prioritises community-building and wellbeing in all policies.


Our purpose is to ensure all Canberrans can find support where and when we need it.


To support providers to deliver quality, sustainable, responsive, recovery-orientated services, we will:

  • be guided by lived experience and preserving human rights with honesty, integrity and accountability
  • deliver on our commitment to equity and diversity.

To reshape the mental health landscape to help providers better meet the needs of consumers and carers, we will:

  • provide leadership to ensure community-based mental health care is prioritised
  • contribute to access to a range of services and supports that allow people to live meaningful lives in the community of their choice
  • contribute to better knowledge and understanding of needs and issues
  • work towards sector reform.

To recognise and value the role of community-managed services in supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing, we will:

  • attract, retain and appropriately remunerate a skilled workforce
  • promote the sector’s work with lived-experience advocates, consumers and carers and community members who benefit from the community-managed services available.

To be a dynamic peak body with robust governance, financial sustainability, active membership and engaged staff, we will:

  • support staff wellbeing and provide development opportunities that honour diversity and inclusion
  • be ethical, responsible and accountable.

Download the MHCC ACT Strategic plan

Our people

Melanie Poole
Chief Executive Officer

Melanie Poole is a well-regarded advocate in the community and health sectors nationwide. She has led the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s national policy, government relations and research work for the last two years, and previously held senior leadership roles in the community and Aboriginal legal services sector, and in global human rights-based development organisations such as CARE. Melanie has also been engaged as a consultant to many social service organisations, with her work spanning issues such as homelessness, LGBTIQ equality, family and domestic violence, drug law reform and criminal justice reform. A Fulbright-Anne Wexler Scholar, Melanie holds a Masters in Public Administration from New York University, and Arts and Law degrees from the Australian National University. She is a regular guest lecturer at the ANU, Sydney University and the University of Canberra, where she presents to both undergraduate and postgraduate students studying human rights law and public policy topics.

Jane Brownbill
Chief Operating Officer

Jane is a proven and successful leader with over 20 years’ experience in senior executive roles servicing national industries, associations and profitable businesses. As an experienced manager, she provides high-level advice and strategic direction to senior officials, Boards’, Directors, bureaucrats, staff and other key stakeholders to ensure outcomes.

Her varied experience comes from working across different industries from food manufacturing, wool growing, postgraduate students to the NDIS. She compliments this wide experience with degrees in psychology, counselling and industrial relations.

Jane enjoys the challenges that come with compliance, governance, risk and strategy. Having overseen governance reform and worked with, and for Boards prompted her to complete the AICD Company Directors Course. Jane has always been a passionate supporter for mental health awareness and will use her full suite of skills and knowledge to advocate for a better mental health future.

Erin Stewart
Media and Communications Manager

Erin has dual passions in writing and public health. She has previously worked on ending period poverty in the UK with the Red Box Project, as well as in mental health communications at Mental Health Australia. She holds qualifications in medical anthropology and public health. She has also consulted for projects to evaluate and create effective mental health resources for audiences such as first responders and people with lived experience of mental ill-health.

Erin came to the nonprofit sector with over a decade of experience as a freelance writer. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in nonfiction writing and has authored a book, The Missing Among Us, about missing persons and coping with uncertainty.

Ben Matthews
Sector Development and Lived Experience Officer

Ben has worked at the MHCC ACT for the past three and a half years and is currently Sector Development and Lived Experience Officer. Ben has lived experience of mental health challenges and has been an advocate for improving outcomes for those who also have lived experience.

He has qualifications in Mental Health, Mental Health Peer Work, Adult Learning Community Services Coordination, and was a chef before falling headfirst into the mental health sector 14 years ago.

Ben’s involvement with the MHCC has been over 11 years since he developed and delivered the Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work in 2012-13 and has also been a director on the MHCC board.

His expertise specialises in training program development and all things Lived Experience Peer Work. He enjoys the multiplicity of “roles“ he has delivered for the MHCC ACT over the years. Ben’s vision is for a society where all people’s needs and abilities are recognised, and all people can enjoy a life living well in their community of choice free from stigma and discrimination.

Rahni Orr Deas
Events Manager

Rahni is an accomplished events manager with extensive experience coordinating and managing local and national-level events. Passionate about her local community, and providing opportunities for those within it, Rahni was the first ACT State Coordinator for the Pink Boots Society, a not-for-profit that aims to assist, inspire, and encourage women and non-binary individuals in the fermentation industry to advance their careers through education. Rahni made the move from the independent beer industry to the mental health sector in January 2023 to apply her skills to her passions for mental health and community wellbeing. 

Yvonne Luxford 

Leanne Heald
Vice President

Rocky Bali

Peter Lennon

Kylie Burnett
Lived Experience Director

Bianca Rossetti
Lived Experience Director

Stephanie Stephens
Governance Director

Brad Shrimpton

Join our team

Find out if there are any opportunities to work with us.

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