In October 2023, VTMH held a forum entitled “Women Empowering Communities – Deepening the Dialogue in Mental Health and Wellbeing.” This event was supported by the Darebin Intercultural Centre and was held at the Preston Shire Hall.
This year’s theme was inspired by VTMH’s decade long work with grassroots community work undertaken by women to strengthen mental health and wellbeing. The forum featured expert speakers and was captured live on screen by Debbie Wood, a digital scribe (https://debbiewood.com.au/). The forum was hosted by Tigist Kebede (https://polapractice.com.au/), who also facilitated the Q&A sessions. Furthermore, she engaged the speakers by interconnecting their key messages throughout the day.
The first keynote speech was by Nyadol Nyuon (https://www.instagram.com/nyadolnyuon/), who stressed the importance of self-care and knowing that “being you is enough” when taking on an advocacy role, and the critical need for funding, and governmental support. Nyadol also highlighted how community volunteers, particularly women, are undervalued.
The second speaker was Sheree Lowe (https://www.firstpeoplesvic.org/), who acknowledged her strong connection to country, culture and kin. Sheree brought the audience’s attention to the continued impact of colonisation; the need for treaty; and the social and emotional wellbeing model outlined by Indigenous women. We would like to thank Sheree and the First People’s Assembly of Victoria for their commitment to the forum, and for working hard to find us a speaker after Sue-Anne Hunter, and Ngarra Murray were unable to attend due to their respective important work at the Yoorook Justice Commission and the First People’s Assembly of Victoria.
The next presentation was delivered by Dr Mario Peucker, Linda Yang, and Huwieda Idris, the team working with Shire Councils on an anti-racism project. All three speakers stressed the importance of creating safe spaces, and that community-led efforts against racism require lived experience.
Mary Crooks (https://www.vwt.org.au/), delivered the afternoon keynote speech on women’s struggle, agency and achievement. Mary articulated Australia’s long history of oppression, and stressed the importance of truly knowing and understanding our past.
Our final session included snapshot presentations by Nicki Johnson, and Fazlinda Faroo. Nicki led the choir members of the inclusive Community Music Victoria choir, who introduced the audience to sing and respond to the “we honour the land” acknowledgement song. She conducted the audience to chorus along in harmony, and also spoke of the power of music and its ability to ‘soothe the savage beast inside’.
Fazlinda Faroo’s presentation was on conversational journeys with Muslim women. She emphasized the physical symptoms of mental health, as well as the importance of sharing stories for Muslim women in Australia.
Unfortunately Rocca Salcedo was unable to join the forum on the day to present on “Dance and Roll”: a wheelchair dancing project that she founded.
The audience heard a meaningful statement that was written by Rocca, and watched two video clips about her project and the philosophy behind it. You can watch these here and here.
Rocca is known as a person who deeply connects with human rights, and advocacy especially for those who use wheelchairs. We were grateful to have her contribution at this forum as she found a way to make her presence felt.
The day was wrapped up with MC, Tigist Kebede, and digital scribe, Debbie Wood, summing up key messages. Read more about the event here.
This is a fairly new section to our twice yearly e-newsletter. We realise that while many of you reading this do work with some members of our team, many of you don’t know who we are!
To change this, we have decided to share with you an interview with one of our team members in each of these e-newsletters.
In July 2023, we shared our interview with Consumer Consultant Naomi Chapman. This time, Adriana Mendoza has kindly agreed to be interviewed.
Name: Adriana Mendoza
Job title: Manager at Victorian Transcultural Mental Health
Time at VTMH: Almost 6 years
Tell us your work story: I have extensive national and international experience as a leader and mental health worker. I have worked in various regions of Colombia, Northern Territory and Victoria dedicating my professional life to contribute to the mental health sector and organisational reforms to respond to the realities of diverse communities.
Supervising, mentoring and coaching mental health practitioners has been a key component of my work, as I deeply value accompanying self-reflection processes.
I have also worked directly with consumers, family members, carers and supporters providing counselling and psychotherapy. In Colombia I worked with survivors of political violence, in Alice Springs with First Nations communities, and in Victoria with consumers and carers experiencing very challenging mental health situations.
Working in collaboration and co-creating possibilities have been part of my philosophy. For example, in the Northern Territory I supported services and community leaders to co-design wellbeing services with and for First Nation communities. In Victoria I have also supported community and mental health organisations to enhance their service quality and internal organisational culture. The meaning of partnership and collaboration has been deeply enriched by working alongside lived and living experience workers, as well as community members.
Working at VTMH over the last years has been deeply meaningful in many ways. I believe that my role as VTMH Manager is connected with all previous roles that I have undertaken nationally and internationally.
The mission of the VTMH Unit and the dedication of each team member make me feel very connected with VTMH. I can genuinely say that VTMH is fully committed to build the capacity of the public Mental Health and Wellbeing sector to deliver services that respond to the needs and strengths of diverse communities. VTMH is leading and joining efforts to build and sustain a safe, inclusive and responsive mental health system.
We do this by:
a) Providing recommendations to governments, peak bodies, and stakeholder groups to bring a transcultural and intersectional lens to key priority areas.
b) Supporting organisations to implement organisation-wide approaches to embed cultural responsiveness.
c) Strengthening the capacity of the mental health and wellbeing workforce by providing opportunities for learning, self-reflection, and sharing of knowledge.
In the context of the Mental health reform, I have found the conversations and collaboration with the leads of various organisations very stimulating and relevant. This includes mental health and wellbeing providers, the Department of Health (DoH), Lived and Living experience sector, Community sector, and strategic cross-sector platforms.
I have also found internal work at VTMH to be deeply committed to our own growth as a Unit, implementing strategies to maintain the quality of our programs and providing supportive spaces for practice development and critical reflections. At the VTMH Unit “collective aspirations” are shared, and “walking the talk” is a driving force for our internal development and practice.
I am looking forward to continue joining efforts that promote a more humanistic, inclusive and culturally responsive system
What attracted you to this role at VTMH? The mission. Supporting the mental health and wellbeing sector to enhance cultural responsiveness in Victoria is completely connected to all parts of my identity as a person and worker.
Proudest achievement/s while working at VTMH: Seeing VTMH growing, which meant creating two new ongoing positions at VTMH: 1) Carer Consultant, and 2) Monitoring, Evaluation and Research consultant.
What do you hope for and envision for the future of VTMH? Continue as leaders for change in the mental health reform, supporting the sector, organisations and individuals to embed and sustain culturally responsive practices, cultivating and creating more alliances and opportunity for collaboration, supporting inclusive practice where diverse voices are invited and valued and continue responding to the stages of the Mental health reform.
What do you enjoy most about your role? After working hard on a project and “planting seeds”, I really enjoy the feeling that I get when I can see “the fruits”. Seeing meaningful results takes time and effort.
What do you like to do in your free time? Going to restaurants with my kids and husband, talking with my mother and family who are in Colombia (even if this is through WhatsApp), watching a good movie, playing with my kids, enjoying a sunny day with family and friends.
What’s the last book you read? “The book of joy. Lasting happiness in a changing world” by his holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Demond Tutu with Douglas Abrams.
What’s the first concert you ever attended? Salsa music, when I was in high school.
What’s the next place on your travel bucket list? The Philippines! My mother in law is coming from Colombia to visit us, so we will have a family trip!
Tell us something we might be surprised to hear about you? Everyday in the morning, my husband and I have a mantra that we say with our kids to encourage self-confidence and self-love in them.
We’re delighted to share that VTMH had a larger presence at The Mental Health Services (TheMHS) Conference this year, with four submissions being accepted. These included two workshop sessions, a paper presentation and poster presentation. These touched on a variety of projects and themes VTMH has been involved in over the past year.
The two workshop presentations highlighted our Partners in Diversity Program and a recently released Community Engagement Resource. The workshop, Embedding cultural responsiveness in a mental health service – addressing human rights through equity of access, was co-facilitated with the two partnership consultants from Better Health Network, who have been leading the Partners in Diversity work at their service. TheMHS provided an excellent opportunity to showcase the work that VTMH and Better Health Network have been undertaking over the last three years to support organisational cultural responsiveness.
The second workshop, Engaging with community: Introducing a co-designed resource for workers to strengthen engagement with diverse communities, was focused on sharing a suite of new resources to support mental health practitioners and organisations to undertake community engagement work. The resources were produced as part of the two-year Community Engagement with Purpose Resource Project that had just been launched at the beginning of August 2023. The interest in the resource was evident given the number of audience members in attendance. The workshop featured a panel which included a number of Advisory Group Members who reflected and shared their knowledge and experience of working with communities around mental health and wellbeing.
VTMH also had the opportunity to present a paper entitled Dare to Care…Human Rights and Compassion in the Workplace. This paper aimed to address how education and training of the workforce could better support compassionate and rights-based services. Most importantly, how would the experience of people seeking support and wellness be improved? The session generated conversation about cultural safety and cultural humility and how sharing lived experience helps bring these ideas to life.
Finally, in collaboration with Headspace Dandenong/Hastings site, VTMH also submitted a poster for display entitled Improving cultural responsiveness: Reflections from a short-term localised project at a youth mental health service. The poster told the story of how the two services collaborated on a short-term pilot project, which aimed to explore and identify organisational cultural responsiveness learning gaps and considerations for addressing these.
VTMH continues to strengthen its relationship with the rural and regional mental health sector through the VTMH Rural and Regional Approach Implementation Project Showcases.
The showcases provide an opportunity for participants to communicate the needs of their organisations as well as forging collaborative relationships with VTMH.
To date, we have showcased our services and programs to six of the eight rural and regional mental health services:
Bendigo – March 2023
Goulburn – April 2023
Loddon Mallee (Mildura) – April 2023
Albury/Wodonga – May 2023 (Online)
Grampians (Ballarat) – July 2023
Barwon (Barwon Health) – November 2023
We have also showcased our services at:
Eastern Health Allied Health New Graduates Day – July 2023
Tasmania Victoria Multicultural Advisory Forum – September 2023 (Online)
Ballarat Mental Health Collective Expo – October 2023
We are planning to showcase at Latrobe Valley Mental Health Services (Gippsland) in April 2024 and Warrnambool Mental Health Services (South West) in June 2024.
We believe showcasing our services in the rural and regional areas is having a positive impact on the sector. We have observed a significant number of registrants for our monthly Spirituality and Diversity Discussions and Seminars from Bendigo, Shepparton, Mildura, Ballarat, Albury/Wodonga and the Latrobe Valley Health mental health services. We hope the numbers of participants from all the Victorian rural and regional mental health areas will continue to rise.
We are grateful for the hard work of the Rural and Regional Approach Liaison Group members in facilitating our visits. We look forward to working together on the next stage of the project.
We are happy to share that the Conversations about Community Engagement in Mental Health Podcast Series is now complete. The final episode was launched in November this year. There are now four episodes in this series, all focused on expanding on themes explored in the Community Engagement with Purpose Resource Project.
– Diversity of Communities: Who is left behind? – Varied Lived Experience: Not one size fits all. – Reimagining Community Work: How to start the journey of decolonisation in Australian healthcare? – Talking about Power in Engaging with Communities.
VTMH values the voice of lived and living experience (LLE), and continues to embed diverse voices across all our work. We would love to share reflections from the LLE team over this past year.
Naomi, Consumer Consultant:
In my role as a Consumer Consultant I bring a diverse range of identity points including the fact that I am a woman, I have lived experience of mental health challenges and I am a person of Christian faith.
Along with Olivia, our Carer Consultant, I seek to provide a transcultural lens to integrate lived/living experience with diversity instead of separating them. Many people bring both identity points and we advocate for community members to be part of decision making spaces.
I am the lead of the LLE COP (Community of Practice) within VTMH. The group runs bi-monthly and its objectives are as follows:
Exploring how lived experience practitioners influence practice within their organisations and the mental health sector.
Systemic barriers and enablers that face lived experience practitioners when trying to contribute or generate change. This will also become a relevant source of knowledge for the Department of Health (DoH).
I have also been part of a number of consultations. My role in supporting education strategies (such as workshops) is to help participants understand how concepts can look in real life. Furthermore, I encourage reflection on the experience of diverse communities.
Another project which I am involved in which is dear to my heart is St Vincent’s LLEW Leadership Development Strategy Group. The group meets every fortnight and my role is to champion diverse voices of lived experience who might otherwise be marginalised or overlooked.
Olivia, Carer Consultant:
I have just passed one year in my role as carer consultant, and have enjoyed working with and learning from the VTMH team members. This year, I have had the opportunity to participate in several meaningful projects such as Victoria’s Lived and Living Experience Leadership Strategy, and the 2023 VTMH Forum: Women Empowering Communities – Deepening the Dialogue in Mental Health and Wellbeing.
A highlight from this year was being a part of the working group and presenting at the Tandem and CLEW, A New Way Forward – a showcase of relational practice with families, carers, and supporters. Justin Kuay, VTMH consultant psychiatrist, and I presented a short introduction to cultural responsiveness and cultural safety when working relationally. I was honored to have been a part of such a great and pertinent event for families, carers, and supporters, and I enjoyed listening to many of the other presentations.
Naomi and I work closely together and she has been a great support and mentor to me. We are currently working on our annual review of LLE integration at VTMH and have presented a session to the wider team.
On Wednesday, 23 August 2023 our VTMH Manager, Adriana Mendoza, received an invitation from the Department of Health (DoH) to be a member of the Central Implementation Team (CIT) for the “Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Capability Framework: Our workforce, our future.” The Framework “defines the skills and attributes required of the Mental Health and Wellbeing workforce to meet the needs of consumers, family, carers and supporters across Victoria”.
The DoH Capability Framework project team have been working with the Centre for Evidence and Implementation to ensure that there is a strategy grounded in implementation science. Additionally, the Central Implementation Team concentrates on providing recommendations and perspectives for the implementation of the Framework.
VTMH values this opportunity to join the implementation group where enabling factors and structural barriers can be discussed/addressed in the context of the implementation of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Capability Framework.
VTMH continued our seminar schedule into 2023, with our seminars continuing to be held online via Zoom.
We held 6 seminars between March and November this year and were thrilled to have the speakers join us.
It has been a wonderful experience for VTMH, holding these seminars online and being able to reach people around parts of Victoria and Australia, that otherwise would not have been able to attend our face to face seminars in Fitzroy.
We started off in March with a presentation about change and suppression tactics. Gregory Frank from Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission spoke about the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021 to help attendees understand harm caused by these practices and how to identify prevention and remedies for these.
In April, our seminar focused on spirituality and was presented by our very own Naomi Chapman and Justin Kuay alongside Tess Marotta (Mental Health Lived Experience Advocate/Consultant).
In October we heard about the amazing work of Parwin Miazoi and Zabi Mazoori (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House)) on their work on the Afghan Community Response Project (ACR) by Foundation House in response to the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan, which saw approximately 5000 people evacuated from Kabul by the Australian Government, the majority of whom arrived in Melbourne. The ACR project was led and delivered by a team of mainly lived-experience practitioners from within the Afghan Community.
Since 2019, Spiritual Health Association (SHA) in partnership with Victorian Transcultural Mental Health (VTMH) has been offering the opportunity for mental health practitioners to explore and nominate the challenges they may encounter when spirituality or religion comes up for their consumers.
In April 2023, VTMH presented a webinar on “Spirituality matters – what clinicians needs to know” that launched the program for the year.
After this, 6 reflective sessions on topics concerning spirituality and mental health were conducted over the course of 2023. Topics included:
– How do I respond caringly to someone who believes they are Jesus, Mohammed or other revered sages?
– Spiritual beliefs, values and personal biases: How do they influence my work?
– Discussing spirituality and mental health in my organisation: Do I feel safe?
– How do I affirm someone’s spiritual identity and resources when supporting their recovery journey?
– I’m not spiritual or religious. How do I support consumers who are?
– As another year closes, where am I with regards to my own spiritual health and wellbeing?
These sessions were run online and participants were very excited to discuss each topic in a small group. The program will run again in 2024 with new topics.
Please sign up to the VTMH mailing list here to receive updates about when these sessions will occur and to find out what the topics will be.