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ACT Mental Health Sector Update: 10 November 2023

Currently, I’m writing to you from the Sisters Inside conference in Brisbane, which I and some of the MHCC team have had the fortune of attending. Sisters Inside is a wonderful organisation based in Queensland led by and for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls, as well as their children, families, and communities. 

Justice is a key advocacy pillar for us at MHCC, in light of our deliberations with many of our member organisations. The conference (which I’ve personally attend for over a decade now) is a very powerful example of what a conversation led by those with lived and living experience of criminalisation and incarceration looks like. We look forward to exploring opportunities for our sector to scale up our work in both preventing the criminalisation of marginalised people and communities, and to supporting those who are criminalised and incarcerated. Everybody is a member of our community and everybody deserves inclusion, connection, safety and the opportunity to heal. 

Last week, on 1 November, we were delighted to celebrate community connection and action at the 2023 Mental Health Month awards night. The inspiring event brought together a range of speakers, including Dr Andrew Leigh, the Member for Fenner and Assistant Federal Charities Minister, and Dr Sophie Lewis, the ACT’s Commissioner for the Environment, who each spoke to the relationship between connection and mental health. Dr Leigh focused on the prevalence of loneliness, the challenges of social media, and the degradation of communal life we’ve seen over the decades. Dr Lewis spoke about the importance of connection to our environment – and to each other – as we endure the spectre of climate change. 

We also heard from Coordinator General Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Dr Elizabeth Moore, and ACT Minister for Mental Health, Emma Davidson MLA. Both these speakers contextualised some of the mental health challenges we’re seeing in our Canberra context, and outlined the ongoing work towards building a mentally healthier community. 

At the centre of the event were, of course, the award, grant, and scholarship winners. These individuals and groups show us how to forge connection for the benefit of our communities. Some of their wonderful stories, such as that of Jacinta DubojskiChat to PAT, and Jane Grace have been covered by the RiotACT. Following from their win, Chat to PAT was further interviewed on ABC radio. We are delighted to see that the well-deserved admiration of these Community Wellbeing Heroes has spread across the community, both within and beyond our sector. We are so excited to continue to work with the winners over the next year, supporting and promoting their inspiring activities. 

Coming up, we have our Advocacy Workshop which will discuss the commissioning process, budget bids, and our plans for the upcoming ACT election. As well, the team and I, along with our Board, will be drawing up our plans for next year. It’s an exciting time as we get to envision what’s to come next. 

– Melanie Poole, CEO MHCC ACT

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