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ACT Mental Health Sector Update: 29 September 2023

It’s a busy time here at the MHCC ACT as we prepare for Mental Health Month, run a 2-day workshop to coordinate our members for the remainder of the commissioning process, and keep pace with mental health sector changes. 

Yesterday, the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability handed its final report and recommendations to the governor general. The Royal Commission has been ongoing since 2019. The report marks the conclusion of years of testimony by people with lived experience of disability and the organisations that support them. Through this Royal Commission, as well as through the Robodebt Inquiry, we have witnessed the courage of those with lived experience of discrimination and abuse. They have had to relive their most traumatising experiences in order to bring to light systemic abuses toward people with a disability. They have spoken up not only to seek justice and accountability for themselves, but for the many who cannot speak – including those who have lost their lives as a direct result of the abuses of power we have seen exposed. We are committed to holding the government accountable to delivering on this Royal Commission, and to working in deep collaboration with our friends and partners across the disability sector in doing so.  

Recently, The ACT Health Department briefed us on the latest Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Senior Officials (MHSPSO) meeting, which sounds very productive. At the meeting, four First Nations representatives were welcomed. The Black Dog Institute’s definition of lived experience, recognising intergenerational trauma and the importance of trauma-informed care, was adopted. It is particularly encouraging to see these steps the MHSPSO has taken to recognise intergenerational trauma and to increase First Nations representation, in the context of the 14 October Referendum on the Voice to Parliament. This period is of course taking an horrific toll on First Nations people, particularly due to the abhorrent racism coming from some members of the “No” campaign (including prominent leaders who should know better). 

The MHSPSO proudly endorsed the Gayaa Dhuwi Declaration Implementation Plan, which will guide reforms under the National Agreement. Notably, officials at the meeting discussed the launch of two national mental health lived experience peak bodies, representing consumers and families/carers/kin. 

Key priorities encompass regional planning guidelines, enhancing equity and access, and fostering collaboration with the private healthcare sector. Additionally, cross-portfolio issues such as domestic violence and substance use were addressed. 

There is a a commitment to transparency and to delivering the first National Annual Progress Report in November 2023, in collaboration with the National Mental Health Commission. 

Next week, we celebrate the start of Mental Health Month with our in-person launch on Tuesday 3 October at the Saltwater Community Centre at 9.30am. I’m looking forward to welcoming ACT Minister for Mental Health, Emma Davidson MLA, consumer representative Rose Beard, Big Picture Academy students, Margot Franklin and Neena Mathee, and Matt Morrissey of the Embrace Disability Group to speak to community mental health on Tuesday morning. We’ll also be offering light refreshments. There are still spots available, and we would love to see you there. Please RSVP here. 

From October 1, we will also be promoting our Wellbeing Trail. The trail is a set of fun, daily activities to foster positive mental health. Make sure to follow us on socials, like the Wellbeing trail posts, and tag someone you know, and let us know how your trail goes by tagging us. You’ll go in the draw to win some great prizes which have been kindly donated to us by artisans and restaurants around Canberra. 

Be on the lookout for these posts, starting Sunday, via your favourite social media platform below:


There are many other ways to participate in Mental Health Month over the coming weeks. You can see all the upcoming events in the “What’s On” section below, and visit our Mental Health Month website

On 4 and 5 October, we’re also facilitating our Outcomes Measurement Workshop and launching our Mental Health Commissioning Working Group. We will be offering members support and resources to put forward a strong, effective and coordinated voice throughout the remainder of the commissioning process. If you are a leader in our sector and who would like to attend the workshops but has not yet RSVPd, please reach out to me directly, we’d love to have you there. 

Finally, we hope you will join us in looking forward to a positive and exciting Mental Health Month this October, with lots of opportunities to engage with your friends and colleagues in the community and the sector – both online and offline. So often, conversations about mental health are framed in a deficit lens. We see images of people looking downcast, head in their hands, and in the shadows. We see sadness, frustration, isolation, despair. 

But in our sector, we see something else. We see care, passion, dedication, resilience, recovery, community. We recognise that to be human means to have lived experience of both wellbeing, and of mental ill-health, at different times in our lives. We know that sustained wellbeing is possible for all of us when we can access the care we need, and when we can also experience authentic, lasting connection to each other, and to the beautiful environment we live in. Mental Health Month is Canberra’s opportunity to celebrate the ways we look after each other and our environment. And to recognise our sector’s crucial role in fostering care, belonging, and connection.

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