Report Recommends Action to Improve Mental Health Services in Regional Queensland

16, May, 2018


Link to the full report can be found here.

Action must be taken to address a lack of services, higher rates of suicide and improve attitudes to positive mental health in rural and remote parts of Queensland.

Queensland Alliance for Mental Health CEO Kris Trott said a new joint report, informed by organisations providing mental health services across Queensland and the Northern Territory, revealed the extent of the problem in our most regional communities.

“Sadly, evidence shows suicide rates in remote and very remote areas occur at a much higher rate than our major cities, and particular groups like men, primary producers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are most at risk,” Ms Trott said.

“A Federal Senate inquiry is currently considering these issues and as part of that we’ve done a major submission with the Northern Territory Mental Health Coalition which highlights the biggest challenges in providing equitable mental health services in bush areas.

“These include cultural issues, particularly stigma, the extremely low rates of mental health professionals working in remote communities and the distances and costs involved in accessing services in country areas, to name just a few.

“The nature of the mental health workforce is one of the most critical issues, including a lack of bulk billing GPs, the cost of attracting and retaining staff in rural locations and the loss of experienced staff due to the lack of professional development options.”

Ms Trott said a rural and regional taskforce, totally independent from government, was needed to deliver a complete package of recommendations to transform the delivery of mental health services in rural and remote communities.

“We welcome the Federal Senate’s focus on this issue, but we need to involve grass-roots mental health providers and organisations delivering services on the ground in these communities in coming up with a proper solution,” she said.

“What is made clear in the evidence provided by a range of providers from rural locations right across Queensland and the Northern Territory is that it’s going to take significant focus and effort to address these inequalities.

“To improve attitudes towards mental health in rural and remote locations we need to improve services by making them more available and responsive.

“This will transform mental health across regional Queensland and deliver positive results for countless families and communities.”

– ENDS –



  • Despite about a third of Australians living in regional Australia, around 90 per cent of psychiatrists and two-thirds of mental health practitioners work in major cities.
  • Only three psychiatrists per 100,000 of population and 30 psychologists per 100,000 of population are employed in remote and very remote areas.
  • Evidence from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows mental health-related GP encounters in outer regional, remote and very remote communities is occurring at a far lower level than in more populated centres
  • The lack of bulk-billing GPs in rural and remote areas limits the access of low income workers to mental health plans.
  • The rate of suicide in young men aged 15-29 years who live outside major cities is almost twice as high as it is in major cities.
  • In Australia, it has been found that farmers have suicide rates around 1.5 to 2 times higher than the national average.


The QAMH is the peak body for the Community Mental Health Sector in Queensland. Representing more than 140 organisations and stakeholders across the State, the QAMH works with our members to build capacity, promote professionalism in the sector, facilitate innovative partnerships and advocate on behalf of people experiencing mental health issues.

Inquiries regarding this media release can be directed to the following Media Contacts:

Tim Braban – Senior Advisor – Policy and Advocacy

Mobile: 0413 022 519

Phone: 07 3252 9411

Oi-Lai Leong – Communications & Events Officer

Phone: 07 3252 9411

Federal Budget 2018-19 – what’s in it for mental health?

9, May, 2018

Treasurer Scott Morrison last night handed down the 2018-19 Federal Budget, which many expect will be the last before the next election.

But what commitments has the Federal Government made in relation to mental health? The Queensland Alliance for Mental Health has done a quick explanation below.


Prioritising Mental Health Package

The following initiatives make up a Prioritising Mental Health package totalling more than $90 million. More information on this package can be found at this link – page 122-124.

Providing $37.6 million over four years from 2018-19 to improve follow-up care for people discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt. This includes $10.5 million for beyondblue to oversee the implementation of the Way Back Support Service in Primary Health Networks (PHNs) and $27.1 million for the PHNs to commission services to be accessed by Way Back Support Service Clients (contingent on co-contributions from states and territories).

Investing $500,000 over two years in The Junction Clubhouse Cairns to continue to support people with long-term mental health issues.

Providing $4.7 million over two years for Head to Health, which will provide users with access to evidence-based information and advice on mental health services through an improved telephone service and enhanced web portal.

Putting an additional $33.8 million over four years into Lifeline Australia to enhance its crisis telephone services. This will enable Lifeline to meet increasing demand for services and to be more responsive. This also includes an ongoing annual commitment of $15.5 million.

Providing $1.2 million to SANE Australia to deliver the Better Off With You suicide awareness campaign.

Investing an additional $12.4 million over four years in the National Mental Health Commission. This funding is targeted at strengthening the Commission’s oversight functions, including expanding its role under the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (Fifth Plan).


Mental Health Research:

The Government is investing a total of $125 million over 10 years for the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission. This funding should support priorities under the Fifth Plan.



There is additional funding of $92.1 million over five years to help provide continuity of support for people who are not eligible for the NDIS but are currently receiving supports under programs that are phasing out with the introduction of the scheme. There is also an additional $500,000 to undertake consultation and develop a new model for supported employment. A fact sheet on this measure can be found here.

The Federal Government is also providing $64.3 million over four years to establish a NDIS Jobs and Market Fund which will invest in initiatives to promote the development of the market for the NDIS workforce. A fact sheet on this measure can be found here.

The Budget also includes the updated budget costs of the NDIS over the forward estimates.


Aged care:

The Federal Government made a number of investments it believes will improve the quality of the aged care system. This includes $102.5 million to improve access to psychological services for older Australians. As highlighted in the Budget Papers, “mental health issues are under diagnosed and under treated in people over 65 with men over the age of 85 having the highest risk of suicide of all age groups”.

An investment of $82.5 million will enable commissioning of improved mental health services for Australians living in residential aged care. A further $20 million will go towards a pilot of services led by mental health nurses to target the mental health of older Australians who are still living at home and at risk of isolation.

Further information on these measures can be found at this link – page 119.


Rural Health:

The Government will provide $83.3 million over five years from 2017 18 for rural, regional and remote health outcomes by “aligning the distribution of the health workforce to areas of greatest need and building the capability of Australia’s medical practitioner workforce”. It also includes a focus on teaching, training, recruitment and retention.

A large focus of this is on general practice, supporting young doctors and on clinical areas. The main inclusion for mental health is through already announced funding to the Royal Flying Doctor service.



This is the analysis of Community Mental Health Australia Executive Director Amanda Bresnan, who was in Canberra for last night’s Federal Budget:

In terms of Department of Health, the measures for mental health included are positive, if not unexpected. There is a focus on suicide prevention, with more money going to PHNs and the expansion of programs already in operation. The funding to Lifeline crisis support line had already been announced. Much of the funding is focused more on the crisis side of services, a pattern we are seeing in state and territory budgets as well.

The inclusion of a rural health strategy is a positive, however there is a not a strong role for the community managed mental health sector articulated and a focus on GPs and doctors. A comprehensive rural health strategy needs to include all aspects of the workforce, particularly those professions that are more likely to be the ones doing the work on the ground, which often is the community sector. CMHA have called for all parts of the sector to be included in an overall mental health workforce strategy.

The most significant inclusion for the sector is funding for Continuity of Support arrangements. The funding will go to the PHNs, however, it is unclear at this stage how this will be administered; what will be the eligibility criteria (e.g. do people have to be existing clients in PIR, PHaMs and D2DL or can they have been clients in the past); and what a continuity of support service will look like.

Department of Social Services are continuing to argue people have to test their eligibility to access the support. CMHA has stated strongly, and will continue to do so, that people should not have to test their eligibility and that the intent of the Continuity of Support policy must be applied in that people must be provided with the same level of access to services.

CMHA developed a continuity of support position statement, which predicted that PHNs would have a role in administering this funding. The statement notes that people, whether eligible for the NDIS or not, will have to access one of four pools of funding – NDIS, continuity of support, the $80 million from the 2017-18 Federal Budget, or the PHN flexible pool of mental health funding. People shouldn’t have to go through an expensive and stressful test of NDIS eligibility in order to access the services they need and are entitled to. Preventing access is against Australia’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability.

There is also $64.3 million over four years from 2017‑18 to establish an NDIS Jobs and Market Fund, which will invest in targeted initiatives to promote the development of the market for the NDIS workforce. The Fund will develop resources to assist disability service providers to take advantage of NDIS opportunities, including provider toolkits, good practice guides and service coordination platforms. We welcome this initiative, however the key issue that remains for the community mental health sector is the loss of qualified expertise in the mental health workforce. This is an issue of safety and quality which won’t be addressed through such a measure as it is more complex than just encouraging more providers to come into the market. In fact it is about maintaining and enhancing existing expertise to be able to deliver appropriate support to complex clients.

Collaboration vs Competition in the NDIS Environment

30, August, 2017

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

Henry Ford


The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has reformed the disability sector and organisations are now required to meet the demands of a newly-empowered marketplace and transition from block funding to individual fee-for-service arrangements.

The introduction of the Scheme has significantly changed the business market place, and service providers now face changing their business models to focus on NDIS participants to remain competitive in this individualised market.

There is a real risk that the demand for services will greatly exceed supply, and organisations will need to compete to recruit and maintain qualified staff, especially for smaller organisations that do not necessarily have the capital to do so[1].

While such competition has empowered consumers, we risk a significant decrease in sector collaboration as organisations compete to retain a skilled workforce and client-base.

In July 2017, National Disability Services (NDS) released its Australian Disability Workforce Report revealing NDIS-related trends in the disability workforce, including workforce challenges. The Report revealed that only 12 per cent of the workforce were in a full-time permanent position, compared with 41 percent of casual employees, and that ‘casual turnover rates [were] much higher than those for permanent workers’[2].

A common difficulty faced by providers appears to be the increasing specificity of job requirements for disability support positions, a result of providers tailoring jobs to clients under the NDIS[3].

Research has long demonstrated the value of inter-organisational collaborations. A 2017 study found that one common value derived from social enterprises and their partner organisations is that of receiving knowledge and conducting relation-specific investments[4].

However, collaborations, while valuable, are not always easy to achieve. Queensland Alliance for Mental Health (QAMH) works with over 10 local alliances across the State, and it has been our experience that getting senior executives and thought leaders, with busy schedules and competing deadlines, to the table can be a challenge. Networking and strength in numbers are recognised advantages of collaboration, however, without key stakeholders regularly available to attend teleconferences and meetings, it is difficult to progress forward.

QAMH’s Manager, Partnerships and Engagement, Sue Pope says that it is concerning to see organisations moving away from collaborative relationships in the new market-place.

No organisation is an island. We all need support. The NDIS is the biggest reform we’ve seen since the introduction of Medicare and the mental health sector still has so much to learn. We are seeing mental health being fit into a system designed for disability. The changes are immense and the challenges significant. We need to stand together to increase our knowledge base, bounce ideas around and strengthen our voice.

There is no simple way for community mental health organisations to bridge the gap between competition and collaboration, particularly for not-for-profit (NFP) senior executives and thought leaders whose work never ends.

But let’s not be too hasty. How about we start with conversations? Healthy and robust discussions about the mental health sector from thought leaders who are shaping the landscape of this compelling cause.

In order to be successful, an inter-organisational collaboration needs to be flexible and innovative while allowing each participant to be independent within their own psychosocial space[5]. Therefore, QAMH has established the QAMH Members Group on LinkedIn, a platform open to our member representatives to form strategic relationships, share opinions and exchange ideas about current topics that are influencing the community mental health sector. This platform offers information sharing in a private environment that can occur while sitting in an Uber on the way to the next meeting.

QAMH will introduce a series of topics and members can participate in those topics relevant to them. Members seeking the opinion of other thought leaders in the sector are invited to propose a topic for discussion.

If you want to know more, visit us on LinkedIn, or contact Sue Pope, Manager, Partnerships and Engagement at or phone 07 3252 9411.

By Rebecca Somerville, Communications Officer
Queensland Alliance for Mental Health


[1] Gilchrist, D 2016, Understanding the NDIS: The challenges disability service providers face in a market-based system, The Conversation,

[2] National Disability Services 2017, Australian Disability Workforce Report,

[3] National Disability Services 2017, Australian Disability Workforce Report,

[4] Weber, C, Weidner, K, Kroeger, A & Wallace, J 2017, Social value creation in inter-organizational collaborations in the not-for-profit sector – give and take from a dyadic perspective, Journal of Management Studies.

[5] Kourti, I 2017, Why should we collaborate? Exploring partners’ interactions in the psychosocial spaces of an inter-organisational collaboration, Scandinavian Journal of Management.

Head to Health – Opportunities for Feedback: Spotlight Bulletin

26, July, 2017

*Posted for the Head to Health Information Team.

As you may be aware, over the past 18 months, the Australian Government Department of Health has been working with consumers, carers, health professionals and digital mental health service providers to develop Head to Health, the new digital mental health gateway. Head to Health is a key component of the Australian Government’s Response to the National Mental Health Commission’s 2014 report Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities – Review of Mental Health Programs and Services.

Head to Health is a tool which aims to support people more easily access online and phone mental health and wellbeing advice, information and treatment options that are most relevant to their needs (and alternative non-digital options if considered more appropriate to need) via a website, social media channels, and a dedicated telephone line.

Promoting the collaborative process used to develop Head to Health, the Department has engaged a specialist research agency, Objective Experience, to assist with the testing of the website prototype.  Feedback is currently being sought from a closed target audience prior to the public launch of the website in September 2017.

The Department is particularly keen to ensure there is diversity in the people participating in these activities including persons from: both metropolitan and regional areas; Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and or Intersex Groups; Defence Veterans; supportive others; and health professionals and mental health service providers.

Your participation, or recruitment for participation from within your networks, is sought for online testing.

Online Testing

An opportunity for users to complete tasks within their own environment which will be used to:

  • Seek feedback on the readiness and usability of the current Head to Health website, ahead of public launch; and
  • Provide users with an opportunity for unstructured exploration of the Head to Health website, with an option to provide feedback through online forms.


If you or someone within your network is interested in participating in the Online Testing, please contact direct with your details which will be provided to Objective Experience who may then be in further contact with you.

A recording of an information webinar about Head to Health held in May 2017 is available at the following link for your background:

To assist in our recruitment to the feedback activities, we would appreciate you circulating this email throughout your membership/networks.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at if you require further information.

Thank you and we greatly appreciate your contributions to this project.

Emergency Medicine Foundation Marks 10th anniversary with One-Day Research Symposium: Spotlight Training & Events

12, July, 2017

12 June 2017

Emergency Medicine Foundation Research Symposium banner

The Emergency Medicine Foundation is marking its 10th anniversary with a one-day Research Symposium and a pre-symposium Acute Care Research and Translation Workshop on 24th and 25th August.

Research Symposium: 25 August

The EMF Research Symposium is a strategic platform for healthcare professionals, researchers and academics to actively shape the future of emergency medicine research in Australia.

The Symposium will open with leaders in emergency medicine research reflecting on the impact that 10-years of EMF-funding have had on emergency medicine research and discuss the direction that research needs to take. Following this session, Symposium streams will include emergency medicine service delivery as well as core areas of pre-hospital and acute care.

Acute Care Research and Translation Workshop: 24 August

Clinical adoption and research translation are enhanced when there is early and sustained engagement with emergency medicine professionals and this event will also showcase positive examples of this in action. This workshop will provide participants with key lessons for research design, conducting collaborative and multi-site research, and research translation including the development of new clinical guidelines and clinical roll-outs. This workshop is being run by EMF in collaboration with PREDICT.


For further details, see the symposium website or download the program (opens as PDF), and register to secure your place.

‘Engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders People in the Proper Way – an Article by QAMH

3, July, 2017

Newparadigm Winter Edition 2017

Queensland Alliance for Mental Health (QAMH) and Synapse have together written the article, ‘Engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples in the Proper Way’ for the Winter Edition of the newparadigm Journal.

This edition of the Journal presents the latest research leading to new perspectives on how to create a more inclusive culture, language and attitude within the community mental health sector.

To highlight the importance of undertaking engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in culturally appropriate ways, Rebecca Somerville, Communication Officer and Sue Pope, Manager, Engagement and Partnerships, worked with some of the sector’s thought leaders:

  • Adjunct Associate Professor Jennifer Cullen, Chief Executive Officer of Synapse
  • Dr Michelle McIntyre (Research Fellow at the the Hopkins Centre, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University and Synapse)
  • Associate Professor Clare Townsend (Manager, Research and Development at Synapse).


The authors refer to two models; the Guddi Protocol and a Peer-Led Activity on Palm Island, to demonstrate that by conducting business in the Proper Way, it is possible to increase participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the NDIS.

Published in partnership with Community Mental Health Australia and the peak community mental health organisations across Australia, newparadigm exists to encourage discussion and information sharing on material relevant to mental health such as innovative service programs, evolving practice approaches, as well as research and contemporary thinking and evaluation of existing policy and service provision.

Read Engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples in the Proper Way

Read the complete journal


Free Consumer and Carer Workshops Across Queensland – ADA Australia (Aged and Disability Advocates): Spotlight Training and Events

29, June, 2017

29 June 2017

Available across Queensland, these workshops can help you understand the new Advance Health Directive for mental health.

The new Mental Health Act is active in Queensland from March 2017. It enables you to express your views, wishes, and treatment preferences formally in a new document called an Advance Health Directive for mental health. This allows you to have your say and plan for future health care treatment if you become unwell.

With the new Advance Health Directive for mental health you can:

  • Discuss future treatment preferences with your doctor and have a formal document to reflect your wishes
  • Inform your treating team about your recovery journey plans
  • Choose support people you trust to assist in making healthcare decisions for you, should you become unwell. You can also set limits on the decisions they can make.

Click here to view flyers for each location.

$73 million to Support the Mental Health of Australian Children: Spotlight News

28, June, 2017

28 June 2017

The Turnbull Government will invest $73 million in two new mental health programs to ensure Australian children and young people receive the support they need during their school years.

Mental health organisation beyondblue will receive $52.7 million over two years to begin the first stage of developing and designing the groundbreaking education initiative, which will be delivered by beyondblue, headspace and Early Childhood Australia.

BeyondBlue CEO, Georgie Harman said the program would also educate staff about mental health and how to protect themselves.

“We will build on the best bits of existing Commonwealth programs, but give early childhood services and school communities a contemporary program that reflects the world in which they operate,” she said.

The government programs will also deliver an opportunity for teachers in schools to conduct specialist counselling services if a suicide occurs within the school.

“People of all ages can be affected by mental health – either directly themselves or because someone close to them might be suffering. It can impact even our youngest Australians,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.

“It’s important schools have the resources and training to deal with mental health issues, so they can support the individuals impacted and also the broader community,” he added.

“This might include training teachers on how to support a student going through a difficult time, or what to say to a student who has lost a parent.

Read the media release here .


CheckUP Calls for Abstracts for its 2017 Forum: Spotlight Member Activities

13, June, 2017

13 June 2017

CheckUP logoCheckUp will be hosting its signature event, the CheckUP Forum 2017 on 8th September. This year, following keynote presentations, there will be two concurrent sessions that will include a variety of presentations from CheckUP members and stakeholders.

From now until 26 June, CheckUP is calling for submissions form organisations that are undertaking work in one or more of the six topic areas:


Working Together

Forming collaborations and partnerships
Engaging with communities.

Working Smarter

Using data and digital solutions
Implementing new workforce solutions.

Working Better

Moving from illness to wellness
Providing cross-sectoral care.


Important Information

  • The CheckUP Forum will be held at Rydges Southbank, Brisbane on Friday 8th September.
  • Call for abstract submission close at 5.00 pm on Monday 26th June.
  • If your abstract is successful, you will be notified by Friday 30 June.
  • Abstracts not selected for a concurrent session may be offered a poster presentation.
  • If your abstract is successful, you will receive one complimentary ticket to the CheckUP Forum.
  • Reimbursement for other costs associated with attending the CheckUP Forum and/or Networking Dinner (e.g. travel, accommodation) is not available.
  • Additional information is located in the Call for Abstract form.


For further details, see the Call for Abstracts form

Submissions to National NDIS Mental Health Conference Closing SOon

5, June, 2017

5 June 2017

National NDIS Mental Health Conference logo


Calls for content for the National NDIS Mental Health Conference 2017 are closing soon on 23 June! Applicants will be advised of the outcome of their submission by 2 August.

The conference theme is towards a good life, and submissions focusing on the potential of the NDIS to improve the lives of those with psychosocial disability are welcomed.

Content Guidelines for the National NDIS Mental Health Conference 2017 are available on the Community Mental Health Australia National NDIS Mental Health Conference website, and proposals should link with one or more of the following streams:

  • Lived Experience: the experiences and reflections of NDIS service users
  • Families and carers: the experiences and reflections of carers and family members of NDIS service users
  • Service providers: the experiences, approaches, successes and challenges for NDIS service providers
  • NDIS, health and other services interface: the links between different types of services and cross-sector relationships and collaborations.


For further information, see the content guidelines or visit the National  NDIS Mental Health Conference 2017 website.