Author: Susan McDonough

A new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act for Victoria

The Victoria State Government asked for public feedback ahead of preparing the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act. A new Act was a key Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System recommendation.

Public engagement regarding the new Act opened in mid-June and closed on 1 August. VTMH provided a written submission in July. We also hosted a cross-sector consultation about the new Act with the VTMH Reference Group.

At the request of the Department of Health and the Victorian Refugee Network, representatives from more than 11 agencies joined the virtual roundtable. We discussed ways to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion considerations into the

  • objectives and principles of the new Act,
  • non-legal advocacy, supported decision-making and information sharing, and
  • compulsory treatment and assessment practices including seclusion, restraint, and their governance and oversight.

We emphasised the urgent need to embed culturally safe mental health practices and also discussed important human rights and intersectional frameworks. Overall, there was strong shared support for a new Act that is trauma-informed and responsive to diverse community experiences and contexts.

The Department is currently analysing all engagement and submission data. Parliament will then consider the new Act in the first half of 2022.

Credits: Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Spiritual care and mental healthcare 

In coming months, we’re once again joining with Spiritual Health Australia to talk about the spiritual aspects of mental healthcare. Following a webinar panel discussion in June, a new series of ‘Spirituality and diversity’ sessions will begin in August.

Registrations are now open for the first four sessions in this eight-part series. Open the links below for session and eligibility information. 

These small group sessions will offer a reflective space to share experiences and insights and unpack some of the unknowns that surround spirituality in mental health settings. 

Diversity equity and inclusion

We’ve published a new paper that outlines what it means to put diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) at the heart of a reformed public mental health service system.

This position paper begins by describing VTMH and key considerations regarding culture, intersectionality and mental health practice. It then outlines four areas of enquiry that are proposed as the basis on which to prioritise developing a DEI framework for Victoria’s mental health services. A review of relevant Victorian Government frameworks then follows, before a provisional outline of strategic domains is presented, along with their rationale and planning requirements.

Our key recommendation? Let’s work together, adopt high-level, integrated and strategic approaches and address Victoria’s mental healthcare system as a whole. We’ve identified six important domains:

  • Strategy
  • Governance
  • Policy environment
  • Workforce and practice
  • Community engagement and lived experience
  • Knowledge mobilisation

Go to our Reports and Publications page to read and download An Integrated Approach to Diversity Equity and Inclusion in Mental Health Service Provision in Victoria: A Position Paper

Talking about LGBTIQIntersect at a virtual national mental health forum

Silvana Izzo, one of VTMH’s service development consultants, joined colleagues at the National Occupational Therapy Mental Health Forum in November and delivered a session on “Enhancing inclusive mental health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer communities, from multicultural, spiritual and faith based communities via transmedia storytelling”.

LGBTIQIntersect is a co-designed and co-produced resource, developed to help services apply an intersectional lens to providing inclusive care for all LGBTIQ+ people; particularly for people and communities at the intersections of multiple marginalised identities.

People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer, inclusive of their allies, worked with Victorian Transcultural Mental Health to develop the resource that was launched in 2018. The forum session told the story from design to launch.

Culture plays a significant role in how people experience mental health issues. Culture also shapes mental health practice and how services are structured and organised.

Transmedia storytelling is way to share people’s experiences across many delivery channels and a powerful way to discuss culture and mobilise knowledge in mental health care.

The project has been creating opportunities for multiple-way learning between professionals and communities and highlighting community narratives.

The website is entering an exciting second development phase, and will soon include an expanded range of themes, on decolonising practice and anti-racism models. People with lived experience are preparing new practice tips.

We’re on track to launch the enhanced resource in early 2021.

Exploring intersectionality

Thinkers, practitioners, storytellers and researchers from across Australia got together in September to talk about how to apply an intersectional lens. Silvana Izzo from VTMH joined this inaugural session, initiated by Professor Olena Hankivsky, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne. 

Professor Hankivsky, respected expert in intersectionality, is Chair of Women’s Health and Director of the Centre for Health Equity Gender and Women’s Health Unit. We’ve been exploring her body of work, here at VTMH, for the past five years, thinking through the implications and playing our part in applying an intersectional framework to public mental health practice. 

Find out more about VMTH’s work in this area and follow links to resources, including Professor Hankivsky’s work on COVID-19 and intersectionality, here.

Partnering to build organisational capacity in cultural responsiveness: A recent report

This report discusses and reviews a three-year collaboration between Neami National (Neami), a community-based provider of psychosocial mental health support services, and VTMH as a state-wide capacity building unit that focuses on improving responses to culturally diverse populations.

The report provides a detailed description of our partnership processes in action, including

  • The VTMH partnership approach
  • Initiatives and strategies that emerged to address and support key goals
  • Learning gained through the collaboration

Read the report, Partners in diversity: A transcultural and community mental health collaboration to build organisational cultural responsiveness, via our Reports and Publications page

VTMH at Royal Commission hearings

Adriana Mendoza, VTMH Manager, appeared at the Commission on Thursday, 18 July, 2019 as part of a session that considered how the mental health system engages with, recognises and responds to the needs of diverse communities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people; and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.