Altering States Day Two – Campaigning for Reform

Carmel Tebbutt

Carmel Tebbutt kicked off Day two with a fantastic address. Carmel placed great emphasis on the change needed within the sector and acknowledged that the levers to effect that changed are extremely difficult to manoeuvre. The topic for the day was “Campaigning for Reform” and Carmel reinforced this idea throughout her speech.

Effective campaigning is critical to achieving reform in a complex public policy area such as mental health. Throughout her address, she aimed to empower all delegates in attendance to campaign more effectively for change within the sector.

“We cannot influence change without the relationships we build alongside these campaigns.”

Relationship building is another key point from Carmel. She was adamant that in order to influence the agenda you must  must also build relationships along the way.

Carmel gave three key tips on successful campaigning and any campaign should be able to answer the following:
1. What you want done
2. Why it needs to be done
3. Who you want to do it

Governments need to see your issue is of public interest and that they can have a role in the solution.

Finally, we need a united voice when campaigning for reform. All governments have competing demands, limited budgets and usually a short-term focus. There is no shortage of worthy issues that need action and never enough money to stretch across them all. If a sector cannot speak with one voice, it simply lets the government off the hook.

Panel of Successful Campaigners – Bri Lee, Hetty Johnston, Georgia Ash

Today’s panel has successfully campaigned on issues that are incredibly close to their hearts. All three women were extremely passionate about change and have made it clear they won’t be giving up their fight for change. There was a strong emphasis on inspiring collaboration in order to achieve change.

Hetty Johnston, the founder of Bravehearts highlighted her mission and determination to create change. Hetty’s motto is “never give up”. Sometimes you need to change the course of your campaign in order to achieve change. We are all here for a reason and we just need to find that reason and my reason is that I want change.

Georgia Ash is a clinically trained psychologist with Mates4Mates. Georgia admits that healing does not occur overnight, it also doesn’t occur in an artificial environment with a psychologist.  Real healing happens out in the real world with peers and support networks. Mates4Mates is now placing a greater emphasis on informed and evidence based research within their practice.

Bri Lee, Eggshell skull author, spoke widely about her experience within the Queensland Justice System. Bri shared her insights on how and why she wrote her book. Her book gave her a platform. As she mentioned, “when punching up my greatest power was to be a mosquito and be annoying”. She always pushed for a collaborative approach with her local MP’s in order to campaign successfully for change.



The key message that stood out for all three of our incredible panelists today was to celebrate the wins and never give up.

Patrick McGorry AO

Professor Patrick McGorry AO outlined the current challenges faced within the mental health sector. Professor McGorry is a mover and shaker within the mental health sector and has created a number of campaigns. He is the Founding Director of Headspace and is currently the Executive Director for Orygen.

Mental Health Reform was one of the key focus points for Patrick. He says we are winning the battle of awareness but what the sector needs to be better at is taking action. Mental health makes up around 15% of total Australian health problems but only 5% of the health budget goes toward mental health.

Young people have very little access to mental health services and the statistics back this up.



Some of the issues he believes need to be addressed from the Royal Commission and Productivity Commission includes: funding equity, new financial models, new governance, research, workforce and training. Politically the sector needs to be stronger and to do this we must all work collaboratively. Be prepared to fight when you have to.

Some other key themes from Patrick’s address includes:
– Trauma and the role of trauma
– Access and quality
– Cost barriers
– Families
– Housing
– High Risk groups
– Police and ambulance first responders
– Coordinated access and 
– Community mental health hubs
– Campaigning at grassroots level is extremely important

Concurrent Sessions

Today we had double the amount of concurrent sessions. From 1:20pm to 1:40pm we had Karen Thomas from NEAMI talking about creating collaborative partnerships that deliver for the community and sustain the sector. Concurrently we had Sarah Coles from the Community Services Industry Alliance (CSIA) speaking about the excellence framework and how this relates to the Human Rights Act and Community Mental Health sector.

Our final concurrent session for the day from 1:40pm to 2:00pm saw Mark Schmitt from Thrive in Work and Mind Australia address our delegates.

These concurrent sessions were extremely valuable to our delegates. The timeliness of these discussions could not be better given the recent Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health and Royal Commission in Victoria.