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Chief Executive Officer's Review

Image of Christine Morgan, CEO
I am pleased to present the National Mental Health Commission’s Annual Report 2019-20, providing information about our work and achievements during the 2019-20 year.

It has been an honour to connect with people in their community to understand their personal experiences of mental health and wellbeing and hear the diverse perspectives about mental health care in Australia. I thank everyone for sharing their experiences and look forward to continued collaboration and engagement.

This year it has also been a privilege to lead, and work alongside, a dedicated and professional team at the Commission who have worked tirelessly to respond to the significant mental health and wellbeing challenges Australians have faced over the past 12 months. Their agility and responsiveness to contribute and collaborate with experts, people with lived experience and communities in need during the recent drought, floods, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, has been impressive.

Like many office-based Australians the Commission team has spent large amounts of time working from home in the first half of 2020. We adapted quickly and continued to find new ways to engage with communities and stakeholders. Innovation coupled with a commitment to our objectives and timelines has ensured projects and obligations have stayed on track.

This report sets out the Commission’s performance for the 2019-2020 year, and details our work and achievements. During this period, the Commission continued to lead projects that improve the policy, programs, services and systems that support mental wellbeing and suicide prevention in Australia. The Commission continued to strengthen its operations and improve efficiency, and align resources to deliver Government priorities.

From July – September 2019, the Commission’s Connections project connected with people in their communities to understand their personal experiences of mental health and wellbeing to inform a shared Vision 2030 for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. It sought to ensure that these voices are not only included in Vision 2030, but that they provide a starting point for the design of an improved approach to the Australian mental health system.

The Connections project was a seminal national conversation and consultation about the future of mental health and suicide prevention in Australia, and continued to be a tangible reference point for the Commission’s work, helping to inform contributions the Commission has made to the Government’s response to the complexity of need across our communities during 2020.

Central to the Commission’s contribution to the national response to the tragic bushfire season from early September 2019 to early February 2020 was the advice and support the Commission gave to Government to inform its immediate responses to support communities impacted by bushfires, and to commence early work on a mental health framework for use during national disasters and due to be delivered in July 2021.

The Commission transitioned quickly to the immediate recognition and response to the mental health and wellbeing impacts of COVID-19 pandemic. To this end we have worked diligently to ensure that advice and expertise has been provided to Government to inform its responses. Key to the Commission’s contribution was the development, together with all jurisdictions, of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Plan, endorsed by National Cabinet on 15 May 2020.

True to the Commission’s commitment to collaboration and partnership, in March 2020, the Commission worked closely with more than twenty leading mental health organisations and experts to develop the #InThisTogether campaign to inform all Australians need to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19. This information was widely distributed into homes and communities across Australia thanks to the mental health sector’s commitment to ensuring that Australians were prioritising their mental health equally with their physical health. It is this type of unified effort that the Commission will continue to foster across the sector and community.

As part of the Commission’s ongoing monitoring and reporting obligations, the Commission delivered a number of reports including the Monitoring Mental Health and Suicide Prevention: National Report 2019 (the National Report 2019) on 23 September 2019, the second annual report, the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, 2019: Progress Report 2 (the Fifth Plan 2019 Progress Report) which was delivered to the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) in January 2020.

The Commission commenced work in August 2019 on Australia’s first National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, as well as the National Workplace Initiative guided by the collective knowledge and expertise of the members of the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, to recognise and focus on the importance of mental health and wellbeing in our places of work.

The coming twelve months will continue to present challenges for many Australians who are impacted by not only the direct health, but the social and economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission will maintain its crucial role in monitoring and reporting, and to be the catalyst for change needed across the mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention system nationally.

I would like to thank Ms Maureen Lewis Deputy CEO of the Commission for her service and leadership up until her departure in March 2020, and to especially thank the Executive team for leading the delivery of the achievements this year.

Finally, thank you to our Chair Mrs Lucy Brogden AM, our Commissioners and all our staff whose dedication and hard work enables the Commission to work towards its goal of improving the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians.

signature of Christine Morgan, CEO

Ms Christine Morgan
Chief Executive Officer