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Celebrating the inspiring stories of Canberra’s Community Wellbeing Heroes 


Media release

An innovative youth body image educator, a veteran recovering from PTSD by building a likeminded community, a social welfare and mental health activist, and a young music community-builder are among the recipients of tonight’s Mental Health Month Awards.

The ACT Mental Health Month Awards recognise the achievements of individuals, groups, organisations, businesses and initiatives that improve Canberra’s mental health.

“While there are many amazing mental health heroes in our community, they are so often under-recognised. These awards are an opportunity to tell the hopeful, inspiring stories of our communities,” says Mental Health Community Coalition CEO, Melanie Poole.

Reflecting on the achievements of the Community Wellbeing Heroes, Ms Poole says, “When we go through a difficult experience, we often struggle to make sense of it. We may ask: why did this happen to me? And eventually: how can something good come from my struggles?

“Our award winners have answered those questions in thoughtful, kind, and creative ways to serve their communities.

“People with lived experience of mental ill-health and experience as a carer of someone with mental ill-health often face difficult experiences such as stigma and exclusion. They see the ways society could better support those with this lived experience, gaining expertise in the mental health system as they live their day-to-day life.

“Many of our award winners have harnessed their expertise to create a better, more humane mental health system.

“Often when we discuss mental health, the focus is on crisis points and acute care settings. So much media about mental health is framed in the negative. You see pictures of people looking downcast, head in their hands, and in the shadows. You see sadness, frustration, isolation, despair.

“But our awards tell the unsung stories: the care, passion, dedication, resilience, recovery, and community that exists all around us in the ACT.

“Projects that support people’s mental health in the community have a strong evidence base. They enable people to make friends, and they’re cost-effective. They prevent people from becoming unwell, and help people recover in their homes while building a sense of belonging and connection.”

2023 Community Wellbeing Heroes

A selection of award winners, available for interview (contact details upon request) include:

  • Neena Matthee. Nina is a high school student with lived experience of ADHD, anxiety, and depression and musician who started a non-profit organisation, ‘The Youth of Today’ to benefit people in the music scene who share similar experiences. Noting that the Canberra music scene was void of all-ages gigs, Neena took it upon herself to give teenagers and young bands in the region the opportunity to perform and attend gigs surrounded by people their own age. Her mission was to create spaces where young people feel safe, can express themselves, feel inspired, and can connect with others.
  • Jacinta Dubojski. Harnessing her lived experience of abuse, bullying and mental ill-health for good, Jacinta delivers delivering positive and empowering messages of strength, resilience, and hope to girls of all ages through her “Just Another Girl Project”.
  • Ben Farinazzo. Ben has overcome post-traumatic stress disorder from active Army service, depression, anxiety, and a broken neck and back, to represent Australia in indoor rowing and powerlifting at the Invictus Games, winning two gold medals. He is an advocate and speaker for several national organisations to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, particularly our veterans.
  • Jane Grace. Jane has devoted her time outside of her full-time employment to pursuing better representation and advocacy for the ACT’s mental health consumers and carers over a decade. She has offered her expert insights on mental health reform as a lived experience expert and founded Red Flag Canberra, a non-profit mental health advocacy organisation. She is an active volunteer in her community in projects targeting stigma, homelessness, and providing outreach to vulnerable people.
  • Rebus Theatre has modelled consume-led advocacy through the arts since its inception in 2013. Many Rebus performances have aimed to raise awareness and accessibility for mental health consumers through theatre-based workplace training, creative development, and public performances of original theatre works.
  • Members of the Mental Health Carers Voice Advocacy and Policy Advisory Group (APAG) have an unwavering dedication to advocating for the rights and needs of mental health carers. Members of APAG come from all walks of life, each with their own unique caring responsibilities and journeys. Despite their busy schedules, these carers demonstrate remarkable resilience and compassion as they navigate the complex landscape of mental health care, providing invaluable support to the people they care for and time to advocate for all carers.
  • The ACT Consumer and Carer Mental Health Research Unit (ACACIA) employs academic researchers with lived experience of mental health issues. Through genuine partnerships with others with lived experience, ACACIA undertakes research that directly reflects the needs, and benefits the lives, of mental health consumers and carers.
  • Chat to Pat is a holistic health service, delivered literally to the door of some of Canberra’s most vulnerable people. It has been life changing for many residents of Ainslie Village. Dedicated service workers have successfully demonstrated that if you take non-judgemental, collaborative, person-centred health care to marginalised people who face insurmountable barriers to accessing mainstream health services, they experience significant improvements in their health and wellbeing.

Mental Health Month is coordinated by the Mental Health Community Coalition ACT in partnership with ACT Health and the Mental Health Month ACT Advisory Committee.

For full details about Mental Health Month, visit

Media contacts:

Erin Stewart, Media and Communications Manager, 0493 388 756 |

Rahni Orr Deas, Events Manager and Mental Health Month Coordinator, (02) 5104 7711

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