Author: vtmh

VTMH is expanding!

We currently have a vacancy available for a permanent, part-time Education & Service Development Consultant (30.4 hours per week).

The successful candidate will be responsible for providing education and service development support to mental health services in Victoria’s public health system in order to improve quality of service delivery to people from diverse backgrounds.

Please visit the St Vincent’s Hospital careers page here to find out more about this exciting new role.

Spotlight on: VTMH Team Member – Kimberley Wriedt

This is a 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 we shared our interview with Shehani De Silva. This month Kimberley Wriedt has graciously agreed to be interviewed.  

Name: Kimberley Wriedt             

Job title: Education & Service Development Consultant

Qualifications: Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment

Time at VTMH: 11 years

Tell us your work story: I started working in the mental health field around 2009 as an Outreach Worker and Group Program Worker in the community managed mental health sector. I really loved that job and getting to meet people where they were – in their homes, shops, at the beach – it was a great experience. I then worked as a Team Leader for a Home Based Outreach Service again in the community managed mental health sector. It was in that role that I undertook training through VTMH and ended up working at VTMH a little while later.

What attracted you to this role at VTMH? I was really taken by the work of VTMH after participating in VTMH workshops. I really connected with the field of transcultural mental health and the systems focus of the Education and Service Development Consultant role as I’ve always been interested in the social determinants of health and how health inequities come about.

Proudest achievement/s while working at VTMH: I was really proud to be involved in a project a few years ago that developed resources around the topic of working with interpreters. The project included some video interviews that captured a range of perspectives that are often not captured when this topic is discussed. I’ve also been involved in the Mental Health and Cultural Diversity Community of Practice, which started the week before Covid impacted us all in 2019, and is still running today. I’ve met some fantastic workers through that project and believe the space has allowed for some really great discussions and learning moments. 

What do you hope for and envision for the future of VTMH? I actually got asked this question a few years ago for my website bio, and I’m giving the same answer as it still rings true – that VTMH continues to grow and evolve in ways that meet contemporary challenges and opportunities, and that we continue to collaborate with mental health services and systems in bold and creative ways to achieve greater equity in mental health care.

What do you enjoy most about your role? I like being able to focus on the big picture; about our systems and the impacts they have. I also really enjoy being able to be creative when it comes to developing resources, and collaborating with a range of people to develop them. In workshops and consultations, I’m always hearing new perspectives, and I feel very lucky to have a role where I’m always being challenged and learning something new. Lastly, it’s wonderful to work with a great group of colleagues who share a passion for this work.

What do you like to do in your free time? I enjoy playing social netball, dog-sitting, and hanging out with my adorable 4 year old niece.

What’s the last book you read? After deciding to go back to university this year to do a Graduate Certificate in Public Health, my reading of late has been centred on text books! However I think it was Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

What’s the first concert you ever attended? It was either Lily Allen or U2.

What’s the next place on your travel bucket list? Cambodia, to visit a good friend of mine.

Tell us something we might be surprised to hear about you? I was a movie extra in a Melbourne-based Zombie film once. People are often also surprised when I tell them I worked briefly in the Real Estate Industry, before working in mental health.

Reflections from our registrar, Nivanka, on her year at VTMH 

I began my work at VTMH in February 2022, but it was a role that I had dreamed of since I was a junior doctor fresh out of medical school. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in transcultural psychiatry and unfortunately such training roles are currently very limited in the public mental health sector. I was so happy when I found out that I got the job!

Sometimes when you have such high expectations, it’s difficult for the daily realities of a job to measure up. But my year at VTMH has been everything I imagined and more. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from the expertise of my colleagues, from community leaders and advocates and from other clinicians. 

For me, one of the biggest takeaways from this year is the importance of relationship building. For any project to succeed, there needs to be trust and safety in the relationships between team members and with external stakeholders. I’ve learnt so much from the way my colleagues conduct community consultations – how they listen, how they acknowledge power differences, their warmth, the richness of their stories and the stories they are able to elicit from others. They bring their whole selves to their roles including their own lived experience. They advocate with passion and heart. They are system thinkers and see the bigger picture. 

I hope that I’m able to take all this with me and embody such qualities in my future practice. I will miss this team dearly and I am so immensely grateful for all the lessons they have taught me. 

Another successful year of seminars for VTMH

VTMH continued our seminar schedule into 2022, with our seminars continuing to be held online via Zoom.

We held 8 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 discussion about Peer Supervision for Language Interpreters: Learnings from a Pilot Program. Facilitators of this VTMH program, Lew Hess and Radhika Santhanam-Martin discussed the learnings from this space along with interpreters Nari Kim and Susan Esmaili who participate in this reflective group for interpreters.

In April, our seminar focused on the VTMH and Spiritual Health Association’s ongoing Spirituality & Diversity Discussion space.

June hosted cohealth and a presentation on the reflections from their community led bicultural workers project.

July saw us delve back into the spirituality space with a presentation from advocates in this area titled ‘Spirituality, spiritual care, and mental health: What’s the correlation?’.

In August we heard from Dr. Trini Abascal, Rafaela Lopez OAM & Cristy Abela on the strengths and resilience of immigrants.

In September we hosted Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) and heard about their work in partnership with consumers towards a recovery and rights based mental health system.

October saw us hear from Ubuntu Mental Health and The Me + Mental Health Theater Production Project.

We ended the year with our most well attended seminar for the year, titled ‘Understanding the evidence and practicing cultural curiosity when working with children from CALD backgrounds’.

We thank everyone who attended and of course the speakers for so generously donating their time.

Our total audience numbers for seminars in 2022 was 483 and we are so happy that we were able to deliver important information to such a broad group of viewers across Australia.

Our seminars will recommence in the first half of 2023.

To ensure you are notified of upcoming seminars, please add yourself to the VTMH mailing list here

Staff Retreat Day

In October, the VTMH team came together with Education Changemakers for a team culture retreat day.

The team, with no knowledge of what the day would hold in store, met at Free to Feed in North Fitzroy. What transpired was a day of story-sharing, cooking, and connection to each other and the values and pillars which guide our work.

The VTMH team were honoured to connect with the values, mission, chefs and stories within the Free to Feed team and enjoyed preparing and sharing lunch together.

We thank Free to Feed for hosting us and the team at Education Changemakers for facilitating a wonderful retreat day.

Highlighting the history of the Mental Health and Cultural Diversity Community of Practice at TheMHS 2022

To date, the Mental Health and Cultural Diversity Community of Practice (MHCD CoP), convened by VTMH, has supported a diverse cohort of practitioners across a range of settings, including those beyond the mental health sector, to come together to exchange ideas, thoughts and experiences regarding a broad range of issues relating to cultural diversity and mental health.

VTMH chose this model to offer the workforce a space to have conversations about cultural diversity and mental health, to share the successes and challenges they face when putting their learning and knowledge into practice, and to support clinicians to navigate complexities in their work. We believe this model is helping to build bridges and connections amongst members, find common ground, and encourage robust conversations about cultural diversity and mental health that may not usually be explored.

After having facilitated the MHCD CoP for almost three years, conveners Shehani De Silva and Kimberley Wriedt had the opportunity to share their learnings at the Mental Health Services Conference (TheMHS) in Sydney in October this year.

Their presentation, entitled “Learning together: How has a transcultural mental health service approached a community of practice model”, explored the evolution of the CoP program at VTMH, and how we believe the CoP model is a supportive approach for building a critically reflective workforce, which is vital for a culturally safe and responsive mental health system.

For more information about the MHCD CoP visit

MHPN Book Club Podcast

Radhika and Nivanka from VTMH recorded a session for the MHPN Book Club podcast in September, 2022.

In this episode of Book Club, they explored Judith Herman’s ‘Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror’ (1992). Radhika and Nivanka reflected on the book’s powerful themes of witnessing and remembering trauma; how it has inspired a ‘new way of seeing and knowing’ in their practice; and why the ideas presented are more relevant than ever for Australian society and mental health practice. 

You can access the podcast here

VTMH’s Lived Experience Community of Practice

VTMH’s Education and Service Development Consultant Abie Jazi and Lived Experience Consultant Naomi Chapman have facilitated three further meetings of VTMH’s Lived Experience Community of Practice (VTMH’s LE CoP) since our last newsletter in July of this year.

The objectives of the group are to explore and expand understandings of:

1. How lived experience practitioners with diverse voices influence practice within their organisations and the mental health sector.

2. Systemic barriers and enablers that face lived experience practitioners from diverse backgrounds when trying to contribute or generate change. This will also become a relevant source of knowledge for the Department of Health (DoH).

The LE CoP membership benefits from a diversity of voices within the mental health system with representation from culturally and linguistically diverse and migrant communities, young people and LGBTIQA+ communities.

The group met in August, October and December online. The sessions have included a presentation by Naomi Chapman entitled “Challenging stigma of mental illness”; a presentation by Maria Dimopoulos on her recovery journey and the impact this has had on her employability; and facilitated discussion by Naomi on the topic “Persistent Negative Voices – from surviving to thriving.”

VTMH are excited to continue offering this valuable learning space in 2023 and hope to see continued growth in its membership.

Our work with Headspace

This year VTMH has worked alongside Headspace Dandenong/Hastings sites to pilot a brief and contained service development engagement to support their developing workforce in relation to culturally responsive practice.

The complexities of current funding arrangements and capacity consideration from both organisations rendered a whole of organisational partnership (VTMH’s Partners in Diversity Program) not possible this year.  However, collaboration in a short-term local level project specifically focused on localised needs at the Dandenong/Hastings sites was possible with reference to:

  • Establishing foundational knowledge and practice in cultural responsiveness
  • Establishing policies and procedures at a local level to ensure policies support practice
  • Support to establish a reflective practice culture
  • Implement activities /actions to sustain this culturally responsive lens into the culture of these identified sites. ie. staff orientation models

In close collaboration with the Dandenong/Hastings leadership team, VTMH provided a series of face to face and online workshops, provided guidance to a newly established Policy and Procedure taskforce and co-facilitated a number of reflective practice sessions with Headspace staff.

The project concludes with a brief evaluation to be completed by the end of 2022.

Better Health Network ‘Train the Trainer’ program

Star Health have been engaged with VTMH as part of our Partners in Diversity Program since 2020.

Recently Star Health, Central Bayside Community Health Services and Connect Health & Community amalgamated under the banner of Better Health Network (BHN).

The BHN network have enthusiastically extended support to continue the VTMH – Star Health partnership to progress the strategies Star Health have employed to embed cultural responsiveness practices in their organisation and work.

For this final year of the partnership, VTMH is supporting BHN by delivering a ‘Train the Trainer’ (TtT) program as one mechanism to extend and embed cultural responsiveness practice within the broader BHN network.

The TtT program was launched in September 2022 with an orientation session. This has been followed by the first two workshops. Further workshops and reflective sessions, to support the trainers as they begin to facilitate the training, will take place in 2023.

It is anticipated that the future BHN trainers in Cultural Responsiveness will be ready to begin supporting the broader BHN staff base to develop knowledge and skills in cultural responsiveness in the second half of 2023.