Author: vtmh

VTMH’s online seminars for 2021

VTMH continued our seminar schedule into 2021, with our seminars continuing to be held online via Zoom.

We held 5 seminars between April and December 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 April with Emeritus Professor Andrew Markus AO from Monash University speaking about the findings of the Scanlon Foundation social cohesion surveys conducted in May, July and November 2020.

In June we welcomed, once again, Matt Ball from the Humane Clinic in South Australia who spoke about his “Suicide Narratives” approach which seeks to understand a person’s unique phenomenological reality and their current experience that life is unsustainable.

Matt teaches and consults nationally and internationally on humane approaches to working with a person in distress. Humane Clinic offers an alternative to pathologising and diagnosis-led mental health systems.

In August we had Professor Naomi Priest from the Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University speak to us about her research into racism as a critical child and youth public health issue.

Our October seminar (which was rescheduled to December) saw us hear from Professor Rebecca Wickes, Director Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre (School of Social Sciences, Monash University).

Professor Wickes spoke to us about her research into the safety and security of refugee women in Australia which was eye-opening.

Our last seminar of the year had us hear from Feifei Liao who spoke about her work with international students and the use of innovative ways of leveraging storytelling, arts and lived experience to explore mental health challenges multicultural communities face and support them to navigate their own journey for prevention and recovery.

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

Our total audience for seminars for 2021 was 348 and we are so happy that we were able to deliver important information for such a broad group of viewers across Australia.

Our seminars will recommence in the first half of 2022.

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

Spirituality & Diversity discussions in 2021

In 2021, VTMH and Spiritual Health Association (SHA) held a small webinar attended by approximately 30 participants on the topic of “Spiritual care responses to mental health crisis and recovery – Join the conversation.”  

Subsequently, 5 sessions of peer reflective groups were held. Topics discussed during these sessions included:  

  • “Spiritual identity and positive mental health and wellbeing: What’s the relationship?” 
  • “Understanding spiritual trauma through spiritual care: Where to begin?” 
  • “Back to basics – what is spiritual health and how does it support mental health?” (Coinciding with the lead up to International Spiritual Care Week)  
  • “Spiritual beliefs, values and personal biases: Do they influence my work?” 
  • “Recovery and spiritual care values: Are we talking about the same thing?”

VTMH and SHA look forward to continuing these reflective discussions into 2022.

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

Department of Health pop up clinics

VTMH, in collaboration with the Department of Health, conducted a strategic consultation with leaders and representatives of pop-up mental health clinics. 

As the Department of Health had initiated these pop-up mental health clinics to better service the community mental health needs, they sought involvement from VTMH to facilitate a discussion of each service providers’ strengths and areas for improvement regarding cultural diversity. This consultation was followed by an introductory workshop to strengthen principles and practices of cultural responsiveness.  

This workshop opened up the possibilities for future collaboration with these pop-up mental health clinics to further equip them to be more culturally responsive.

Mental Health & Cultural Diversity Community of Practice

For the last two years, VTMH has been facilitating the Mental Health and Cultural Diversity Community of Practice (MHCD CoP). MHCD CoP supports a community of professionals to have conversations about cultural diversity and mental health, and to share the successes and challenges they face when putting their learning into practice.

The group met 5 times in 2021, including a planning meeting that guided the direction of the program for 2021. Around 10 – 15 members attended each session. The CoP engaged a range of speakers to discuss contemporary practice issues such as undertaking meaningful research with refugee communities and ethical considerations around the handling of stories, experiences of working with communities during public housing lockdown and racial discrimination and vilification.

The final session saw the participation of Pam Anders, CEO of Mental Health Reform Victoria who presented on the current reform process in response to diversity, equity and inclusion.

The overall purpose of the CoP is to promote better practice in the delivery of culturally safe and responsive mental health care. Membership to the CoP is open to people with an interest in mental health and cultural diversity working across a range of roles within publicly funded mental health services, and other community sectors, including educational and social services, across the state of Victoria.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining this group, please email your enquiry to

New Community Engagement Resource project

VTMH is embarking on a project, with the guidance of community members and clinical practitioners, to develop a suite of resources to support the mental health workforce. The focus of the project is to strengthen the skills, knowledge and practices of the workforce in order for them to engage with diverse communities. A secondary aim of this project will be to consolidate the learnings of VTMH and the sector in the area of community engagement for mental health. 

At the time of writing, an advisory group has been set up and plans for consultations with the workforce is underway. This project will continue into 2022. 

VTMH’s ongoing input into mental health reform

VTMH continues its strong commitment to join efforts with the Department of Health (DoH), mental health, community and academic sectors at the micro (teams), meso (organisations) and macro (mental health system) levels to support culturally responsive mental health reform. This is linked to our vision of a mental health system ‘where no one is left behind’, which implies that systemic barriers need to be addressed for multicultural and diverse communities.

The mental health system needs to sustain policies and practices that allow consumers, carers and communities to feel that all their identity points are embraced, their healing practices and community perspectives (explanatory models) are incorporated, and their communities or carers are invited to be a crucial voice in a culturally sensitive system.  

The following highlight some example of VTMH’s involvement in the mental health reform in 2021:

Following VTMH collaboration with the Royal Commission, VTMH has participated in various advisory groups to support systemic change and sustainable practice with regard to cultural responsiveness. Some examples of formal feedback include the DoH Workforce strategy advisory group and the previous Mental Health reference group.

Moreover, VTMH would like to share the nomination of our VTMH manager (Adriana Mendoza) to be part of the The Interdisciplinary Clinical Ministerial Advisory Group (ICAG). 

VTMH is committed to continue providing a proactive, collaborative and solid voice to join efforts for inclusive and culturally responsive mental health reform.  

VTMH has utilised a number of channels to continuously contribute to the reform. More examples of that include:

  • VTMH hosting the reference group round table to provide feedback for the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act
  • Providing concrete suggestions for the local services to DoH
  • Providing concrete suggestions regarding the Capability Framework to DoH
  • Meeting with Eleanor Williams (Executive Director Strategy & Policy, Mental Health and Wellbeing Division, DoH) to discuss the role of the workforce advisory group
  • Presentation in collaboration with ECCV to Mr Steve Dimopoulos (the Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health) regarding the co-written paper “Recommendations for a Culturally Responsive Mental Health System”
  • Organisational and individual engagement surveys
  • VTMH has taken every opportunity to contribute with feedback and work in collaboration with the DoH Workforce advisory group and Mental Health Victoria
  • Advisory groups with organisations to support decision making processes towards cultural responsiveness.  

VTMH also made a submission to the Parliament of Victoria on ‘Inquiry into Support for Older Victorians from Migrant and Refugee Backgrounds’ concerning the adequacy of services for aged Victorian migrants and refugees. As part of this submission, it was highlighted that effective workforce training should involve training in cultural safety and responsiveness as well as reflective programs and organisational strategies to support culturally safe and trauma informed care practice.

Additionally, following the recommendation from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System to extend Child and Youth Hospital Outreach Post-suicidal Engagement (CY-HOPE) service, VTMH is involved in the DoH Youth HOPE service design (for children and young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds) and became part of the project advisory group (PAG). The specific objective of this project is developing design briefs for the Child and Youth HOPE service to support children and young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds who are at greater risk of self-harm and suicide attempts. VTMH participated in workshops and its suggestions were very well received, especially in regards to cultural responsiveness, cultural safety, and intersectionality. VTMH’s significant contribution involved the decision of HOPE workers to receive training in cultural safety and responsiveness. Some of the other members of the PAG included the Royal Children’s Hospital, Orygen, Alfred and Monash Health Services, and Foundation House.  

In addition, VTMH consulted with leaders/representatives of pop-up mental health clinics in collaboration with DoH to assess awareness of each service providers’ strengths and areas for improvement regarding culturally diversity. This was followed by an introductory workshop to strengthen principles and practices regarding cultural responsiveness.  Knowing that each clinic has a specific plan regarding cultural responsiveness, VTMH would also be interested in the possibility for  further consultations in 2022 to run through the implementation of the plans for clinics who need support in their cultural responsiveness.    

A culturally safe & responsive mental health system: ECCV & VTMH joint recommendations

The impact of the failures of the state’s mental health system on the mental health and wellbeing of Victoria’s migrant and refugee communities and recommendations for a transformed, culturally responsive mental health system are outlined in a new paper released today.

Produced by the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria [ECCV], in partnership with Victorian Transcultural Mental Health [VTMH], the Recommendations for a Culturally Responsive Mental Health System paper sets out how the mental health reforms underway in Victoria could also lead to better mental health services and outcomes for people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

It outlines key considerations for a mental health system that supports the needs of a diverse community and that is culturally safe, culturally responsive, equitable and inclusive for all members of the community.

The paper was commissioned by the Victorian Government, Department of Health to identify ways the mental health system in Victoria can increase its cultural responsiveness and improve access to mental health services for people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

The implementation of the ECCV-VTMH report’s recommendations will help build a more contemporary, effective and culturally responsive approach to mental health reform in Victoria.

The paper regards human rights-based and intersectional approaches as integral to mental healthcare. This involves addressing the systemic barriers that lead to discrimination and exclusion as well as engaging diverse communities as partners.

It also calls for partnerships with multicultural services, ethno-specific community organisations and people with lived experience to overcome the many barriers that prevent people from migrant and refugee backgrounds from accessing support.

Key recommendations include:

  • Developing and applying a strengths-based model to engage with migrant and refugee communities to draw upon their lived experiences of community mobilisation and mutual support
  • Ensuring all decision-making bodies are representative of the diversity of the community
  • Developing the capability of the mental health workforce to deliver culturally safe and responsive care and ensuring services are more representative of the cultural diversity of the community
  • Building partnerships with people with lived experience, ethno-cultural and multicultural organisations, community leaders and advocates to design and deliver mental health services
  • Improving access to professional interpreters who are mental health trained

Download the media release here

Download the full report here

Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System: Transcultural perspectives

The Commission has concluded and VTMH is referenced in Volumes 1 and 3 for the final report, including in a case study.

In May 2020, members of the long established VTMH Reference Group met with Chair of the Royal Commission  Penny Armytage and Commissioner Dr Alex Cockram. This was chance to advocate for a fairer and more just service system. Being more inclusive will be key. 

Firstly, we heard many voices. We listened to people with lived experience and leaders in education and research. Consumer and carer  advocates, community organisations and mental health and multicultural services also spoke.

Secondly, we explored three themes: engaging communities, consumers and carers; workforce development; and governance, data collection and research.   

Finally, we talked about solutions. About ways to create a more culturally safe, responsive mental health service system.

Keep reading to learn more about VTMH and the Commission.   

We’ve made a podcast!

‘Speaking from Experience’ is an exciting new podcast project for VTMH. In this series, you’ll hear the voices of lived experience, communities, and service providers – people based in Victoria, Australia and working in social and healthcare sectors to make mental health services more inclusive and equitable.

Listen to the 40-minute inaugural episode, ‘Diversity and Inclusion and Influencing Change’. We’ll be producing more episodes in coming months and we’re keen to hear your feedback. Visit the podcast page here.

Did you catch our September webinar, ‘Community voices: Cultural safety in the times of COVID-19?’

The pandemic has cast a light on the many unaddressed systemic issues affecting for communities living in public housing in inner city Melbourne. This session discussed the mental health implications, innovative community-led responses and the kinds of action government and services still need to take, with communities as partners.

The webinar featured respected therapists, community volunteers and advocates. It was collaboratively developed with the panelists and facilitated by VTMH’s Shehani De Silva.

Links to community projects, background reading plus a recording of the session are now available.

Follow this link for event information and to watch the video