Author: Madeleine Orneus

‘Opening Doors to Spiritual Experience’ — Recapping the Forum

The forum for practitioners working with people experiencing mental health or emotional issues, including consumer and carer peer workers, was presented by Victorian Transcultural Mental Health in collaboration with Spiritual Health Victoria and the spiritual care team at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions explored perspectives on spirituality and personal recovery, practice approaches informed by anthropology and psychotherapy, and multi-faith models of spiritual health.

We heard from Camilo Martin, a person with lived experience, on the role nature and faith play in his recovery; Jenny Greenham,from Spiritual Health Victoria, who discussed  ‘Making Space for Spirituality ’in mental health work; Peg Levine, an anthropologist and trauma specialist, presented on the power of Morita therapy in healing trauma; and John Adamsons, who shared his reflections on encounters with consumers that are inclusive of faith dialogue.

An opportunity for reflective practice in smaller groups followed, inviting practitioners to experience a spiritual care model they can take back to their work places. The forum concluded with a Q&A session, involving all the speakers, and a networking lunch.

Find out more about the speakers and the program

The forum was a first step toward creating more opportunities for practitioners, consumers, and carers to come together, share perspectives and build capacity.

What did participants find most useful about the forum?

Practical examples of spiritual care and stories of people who have received this”

“Lived experience.  How to promote spirituality as part of the everyday scenario”

“Naming the elephant in the room”

“Incorporating both consumers and providers”

The organising committee would like to thank all the presenters and the partner agencies who assisted in developing this forum.

VTMH hosts a number of Forums each year. Register with our mailing list to receive updates. 

Statement of Support for LGBTI People of Faith

Over 100 individuals, service providers and faith leaders came together to reflect on the role that faith and community leaders can play in fostering inclusive environments for LGBTI people.  

The forum built upon the 2016 Departmental Roundtable on LGBTI Youth in Faith Communities, which identified challenges to mental health and well-being and the increased risk of self-harm and suicide experienced by LGBTI Victorians.

In view of the impending vote on same sex marriage rights, the day concluded with a whole-of-forum consultation to make the following Statement of Support in regard to the rights of LGBTI people to live in the community free from fear, exclusion, discrimination, and violence. 

Victorian Government Forum on LGBTI Inclusion in Faith Communities Statement of Support

Today over 100 faith and community leaders came together to better support the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse and intersex (LGBTI) Victorians in our communities. This occasion was planned in April; however the federal government’s planned postal survey on marriage equality, and the negative impact this will have on LGBTI communities, has greatly increased the necessity of this day.

As representatives of Victoria’s diverse faith and multicultural communities we would like to say the following:
Faith has been a source of both solace and suffering for many LGBTI Victorians; many continue to cherish their faith community but too many have been forced to leave those communities behind due to condemnation of LGBTI people.

We know that many LGBTI Victorians from faith and culturally diverse backgrounds continue to face exclusion and rejection from their families, their communities and their places of worship, and also from parts of the broader LGBTI community.We also know discrimination and conversion therapy has a devastating impact upon the mental health and well-being of LGBTI people. And we know that LGBTI people from all backgrounds experience significantly higher levels of mental distress, self-harm and suicide than heterosexuals. This will only be exacerbated by the divisive debate if the postal survey on marriage equality goes ahead.

As faith and community leaders, we recognise that supportive communities help to protect and nourish the self-esteem of LGBTI Victorians and provide a sense of belonging and worth. We commit to treating LGBTI Victorians with respect and compassion, seek to continue the development of inclusive faith-based resources, and work towards creating safe and affirmative spaces in our communities for LGBTI people and their families.

All Victorians are entitled to live their lives free from fear, exclusion, discrimination, and violence. We call for all Victoria’s communities, including faith communities, to take a strong stand against discrimination in all its forms.

Community Capacity Building Projects: Small Grants Available — Apply in July

The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC), and Tandem would like to announce that funding from the Department of Health and Human Services is available for organisations and small groups in culturally and linguistically diverse communities for work relating to mental wellbeing and mental ill-health in those communities.

The program will run between now and 31 December 2018. VMIAC and Tandem are co-ordinating the program on behalf of the Department. They are working in partnership with Victorian Transcultural Mental Health, and the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria. The 2016-17 State Budget provided funding of $1.013 million over two years for the grants program. The program closes at 31 December 2018.

Applications are now welcome and will close on 28  July 2017.

Tandem and VMIAC are calling for a range of proposals that will build capacity to support the mental health needs of culturally and linguistically diverse people, which includes immigrant and refugee communities.

The program aims to assist those experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, mental ill-health, their families and carers, and their wider community and aims to assist people of all ages within these communities, including those living in rural Victoria, to:

  • Identify and build protective factors (things that increase resilience) and reduce risk factors for mental ill-health and trauma that are culturally responsive and safe. These can be at the individual, family or community level.
  • Reduce stigma and discrimination associated with mental ill-health (taking into account cultural understandings of mental ill-health).
  • Build capacity for: self-determination and management of a mental health condition; enhancing family and carer wellbeing; advocacy for individual and broader community needs; and understanding and navigating the mental health service system.
  • Better understand mental wellbeing, mental ill-health and the impacts of trauma (often called ‘mental health literacy’).

Proposals can request a contribution from the program of up to $80,000. 

Applications can be for smaller amounts.Non-governmental organisations, community organisations/groups, local government agencies, are welcome to apply. Applicants must possess the operational and financial ability to carry out the tasks that they propose.

Project applications that propose partnerships between community and other organisations, such as local government or NGOs, are welcomed. There can be multiple implementing partners and associates for a project.

VMIAC and Tandem are eager to ensure that these grants are accessible to all sections of Victoria’s community, and that no one is excluded by the difficulty of making a submission. For general enquiries, and assistance with applications, community members and organisations are welcome to be in contact before applying.

Please contact Neil Turton-Lane  at VMIAC on or 9380 3900, or Anne Finch at Tandem on or 8803 5511 for further information.

Submissions are now open. Guidelines and the application form are available at:

“Hearing directly from young people” — Recapping the “Let’s Talk” Youth Forum

The forum was a collaboration between Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY), Forensicare, Indigenous Wellbeing Program, Western Young People’s Independent Network (WYPIN) and their auspice Melbourne City Mission (MCM) Victorian Transcultural Mental Health (VTMH) and all the young people who presented.

Throughout the day forum participants had the opportunity to listen to and have conversations with presenters who spoke about their experiences of programs and approaches that promoted cultural safety in practice and culturally responsive service design.

What did participants say were the most useful aspects about the Forum?

“Hearing people’s stories and learning about some of the programs available and the great work they are doing”

“It was great to see young people involved in leadership programs and speaking so brilliantly in public” 

 “Hearing directly from young people — inspirational”

The organising committee would like to thank all the young people who took time out of their studies, out of their work day, away from caring roles and from the many and varied commitments they have, to share some of their stories with us on the day. We thank them for trusting us with their experiences.

VTMH hosts a small number of Forums each year, with planning currently underway for our next seminar scheduled for September this year.

Register with our mailing list to receive updates as details are announced. 

Chasing Asylum: A Film Screening

The Australian documentary film by Academy Award winner, Eva Ormer aims to raise awareness of the resettlement conditions and lived experience of asylum seekers and refugees held in off-shore detention centres.

Chasing Asylum was presented at the Chamberlain Theatre at St Vincent’s Fitzroy campus, as a prelude to VTMH’s 2017 seminar series. The screening was authorised by the Director, Eva Ormer, and her associates.

Guest panellists David Manne (Director of Refugee Legal) and Samantha Ratnam (Service Program Manager, ASRC) were engaged to lead a discussion immediately after the film was screened, and provided expertise in their sharing, reflection and response to questions and comments from the floor.

Secondary Consultations in a Transcultural Context

This hard copy resource is for mental health practitioners interested in using a cultural formulation to better understand a mental health consumer’s cultural background and how it impacts on their diagnosis and treatment.

The casebook is only available to past and present organsiational partners of VTMH. For more information please contact Dr Justin Kuay at VTMH. 

VTMH and the Victorian Learning Clusters — Working Together in 2017

VTMH is joining forces with the Victorian Learning Clusters to deliver introductory cultural responsiveness workshops for the mental health service workforce.

“Cultural Responsiveness: Introduction to Principles and Practices” is being offered seven times in 2017 via the North East Cluster (NEVIL), the Southern Cluster (LAMPS), and the Western Cluster Training Calendars.

People working in public mental health services — clinical and community support sectors – are eligible to apply.

Visit the Cluster Training Calendars for more information about eligible services, workshop dates, venues, and how to register.

Southern Cluster (LAMPS)

Thursday 16th March, 2017

Thursday 18th May, 2017

Tuesday, 19th September, 2017 (Dandenong)

Tuesday 4th July, 2017

North East Cluster (NEVIL)

Thursday 30th March, 2017

Thursday 25th May, 2017 (Shepparton)

Western Cluster (CMHL)

Thursday 5th October, 2016

VTMH still offers other education opportunities, including free monthly seminars, forums, online resources, as well as education opportunities provided through organisational partnerships.

Explore the range of education and training opportunities at VTMH here.

If you or your organisation has other education and training needs, please contact us to discuss.

New VTMH Evaluation Report

Conducted over a three year period, the evaluation reflects the commitment of VTMH and partner organisations to implementing mental health policies, listening to multiple voices, and responding to diverse experiences while being inclusive of emerging and under-represented communities.
VTMH’s capacity to form partnerships with mental health service providers, design and deliver cultural responsiveness workshops and conduct reflective practice sessions throughout 2013– 2015 is examined in depth in the report. State and national contexts of the unit’s current programs are also discussed.  

Findings arising from the five individual evaluation studies undertaken for this project, including an external review by Australian Institute for Primary Care and Aging (AIPCA), Latrobe University, are guiding VTMH’s commitments into the future regarding specific program priorities and broader areas including communications, quality and collaboration. 

Daryl Oehm, Manager of VTMH explains:

‘External stakeholders were overwhelming positive about the work of VTMH and they provided some suggestions such as ways to extend our reach from mental health services into community agencies and organisations.’    

‘We are working with the mental health sector and beyond to promote greater understanding of cultural diversity issues in mental health and building momentum for change. The VTMH reference group, comprised of representatives from key diversity organisations, service providers and leaders in policy and research, is helping VTMH explore the implications of these evaluation findings.’  

‘We welcome any feedback and suggestions in relation to this report, and look forward to pursuing constructive dialogue with the Department of Health and Human Services in relation to evaluation outcomes, and strengthening cultural diversity awareness in the mental health system.’

Enquiries: Daryl Oehm
t: 03 9231 3300