Category: VTMH Forum

Celebrating women empowering communities

Graphic Illustrations of the forum by Debbie Wood

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 ( The forum was hosted by Tigist Kebede (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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.

Vocation Works Forum

During mental health week, nearly 100 people came together to raise awareness and discuss the relationship between recovery and vocation and the importance of considering diversity in this context.

We heard from a broad range of perspectives and different voices on vocational rehabilitation. This included people with lived experience, migrants, advocates, practitioners and researchers from a range of organisations, agencies and services. Overall, there were 12 presentation sessions from 21 presenters from across 11 individual organisations within Victoria. The feedback from audience members and presenters was overwhelmingly positive. A selection of quotes and images are presented below:

“Finding out about organisations I was previously unaware of. Now have an increased resource base that I can refer to, to assist my clients.”

“…the lived experiences of people with more service-based traditional presentations really brought this forum to life…”

“Great mix up of perspectives and ideas…”

“Presenter’s spirit, speaking from their experiences and the open discussion.”

“I found it to be such an inspiring forum.”

“All the stories were so positive, energetic and so inspiring.”

“Finding out about organisations I was previously unaware of. Now have an increased resource base that I can refer to, to assist my clients.”

“…the lived experiences of people with more service-based traditional presentations really brought this forum to life…”

“Great mix up of perspectives and ideas…”

“Presenter’s spirit, speaking from their experiences and the open discussion.”

“I found it to be such an inspiring forum.”

“All the stories were so positive, energetic and so inspiring.”

The main ideas discussed throughout the day included:

  • It takes courage for consumers to face very real barriers to gaining and maintaining meaningful work 
  • Aspects that are common in vocational recovery from serious mental illness include: hope, sense of purpose, social connectedness, self-identity, meaning, dignity, perseverance, goals and planning 
  • Evidence-based models for supporting people with serious mental illness to gain competitive employment is critical towards recovery 
  • Supporting people from migrant and refugees backgrounds and asylum seekers to gain competitive employment is vital towards successful settlement in Australia 
  • Opportunity creation, capacity building and a holistic approach to address vocational and non-vocational barriers faced by disadvantaged job seekers is imperative
  • Identifying barriers for people with a disability (including those with serious mental illness) to enable organisations to support them in more concrete and creative ways 
  • Policy recommendations can reduce barriers and facilitate improved employment opportunities for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers 
  • When consumers, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers share their insights they are helping to promote a more inclusive, diverse and understanding society. 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our presenters, audience members and special guests, for participating in the VTMH Forum on this very important topic. This collective effort helped stimulate these discussions and produce a meaningful event.

Our hope is that the dialogue generated by this Forum is one of many to be had around this area. We believe that the Forum was a critical step towards helping us understand more about how vocation, recovery and diversity are inter-related and the implications in our work and day to day lives.

The Forum ended by encouraging all the participants to continue doing what they are doing in this space, learning from each other, thinking about diversity, and reflecting on their own practice and experience.

Sharing Minds Forum — Community Capacity Building

The Forum will take place at the Darebin Arts Centre, Cnr Bell Street and St Georges Road, Preston on 14th August, 10am–3pm, and will feature interactive discussions, performances and a variety of speakers.

Further details and booking information at eventbrite.

For more information please email Cherie Windsor at VMIAC.

Information about the aims of the Program and the list of funded projects can be viewed on the Tandem website

Forum: ‘Vocation Works!’ — Diverse Voices on Vocational Rehabilitation

A forum to discuss vocational rehabilitation from a range of perspectives. You will hear from people with lived experiences of mental health challenges, advocates, practitioners, and researchers about the role of work and other meaningful occupations in peoples’ lives.

The forum is open to mental health and community workers within Victoria. 
A number of subsidised places for consumers, carers, and peer workers are available.

For more information, click here

For more news about this and other VTMH programs and events, join the mailing list here.

‘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. 

“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.