Community Advisory Council - Terms of Reference

1. Role and function

Section 10 of the Mental Health Commission Act 2012 provides authority for the creation of a Mental Health Community Advisory Council. The function of the Advisory Council is to advise the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales on any mental health issue it considers appropriate, or that is referred to it by the Commission. The Advisory Council will:

  • Identify pertinent mental health issues existing and arising in the State of NSW and have them placed on the agenda to have those issues comprehensively considered and discussed at Advisory Council meetings.
  • Provide high level advice and guidance to the Commission on those mental health issues. 
  • Consider and provide advice on specific issues as requested by the Commission.
  •  Act as a consultative forum to ensure that advice to the Commission reflects the broad range of views and experience of people with mental illness, their families and carers and the mental health community in general.

The Advisory Council does not have an executive policy or operational function. It is not the role of the Advisory Council to direct or command the Commission or the NSW Mental Health Commissioner to act on any advice it provides to the Commission. The Advisory Council should be protective of and respectful towards the Commission’s independence.

2. Procedure

The Commissioner will determine the procedure for the calling and conduct of meetings of the Advisory Council.

The Advisory Council will report to the Commission through the Chair of the Advisory Council.

3. Membership

The Advisory Council will consist of the Commissioner and such persons as are appointed by the Minister for Mental Health. The Minister will consider any recommendations made by the Commission in relation to the appointment of persons to the Advisory Council.

The Council will have 17 members including the Commissioner, Chair and Deputy Chair.

The composition of the Advisory Council will reflect the diversity of the community and will include representatives of the following groups:

  • people who have a mental illness and their families and carers;
  • mental health service providers;
  • people living in regional and remote New South Wales;
  • culturally and linguistically diverse communities;
  • Aboriginal persons.

An appointed member will be appointed to the Advisory Council for a period of three years or less. Appointment terms will vary among membership to ensure continuity as members change. The Minister for Mental Health may remove an appointed member from the Advisory Council at any time.

4. Confidentiality and conflict of interest

Members of the Advisory Council will be required to disclose any conflict of interest and sign a Code of Conduct and Confidentiality Undertaking.

5. Contact with the media

Advisory Council members will not make public statements to the media on behalf of, or on matters regarding, the Commission or the Community Advisory Council unless authorised to do so. All media requests are to be directed to the Commission for determination of action required, in accordance with Commission media policy guidelines. Where Council members publicly express individual opinions on topics related to the role of the Commission, it should be clearly noted that these views do not necessarily represent the views of the Commission.

6. External relations

Neither the Council nor the Commission are appropriate bodies for the handling of individual complaints about the mental health system. Additionally, the Commission is not a discretionary fund-holder and is generally unable to support requests for funding that may be received from others.

It is acknowledged that from time to time Council members in their role as Council members may receive information or correspondence from external parties. All formal correspondence, received via email or letter, should be referred for response to the Commission via the Secretariat. A copy of the Commission’s response to the correspondence will be provided to the Council member.

Council members may recommend issues for inclusion on meeting Agendas (see section 8.1 and section 9). These may be issues that are of concern for Council members themselves, or issues that have been raised with them by others in the community.

Council members may on occasion be asked to provide information about the Council or the Commission in external fora. Council members should refer these requests to the Secretariat. A presentation and/or information pack and/or a Commission staff member can be arranged to support these requests. In circumstances where a Council member presents on the work of the Commission at an external forum, feedback about the event, including any issues that are raised, should be provided to the Commission, via the Secretariat.

7. Remuneration and travel expenses

Advisory Council members are entitled to be paid such fees and allowances as the Minister for Mental Health may determine for the members. Decisions about the remuneration of NSW Government Boards and Committees are now guided by the December 2012 directive Classification and Remuneration Framework for NSW Government Boards and Committees (Document No. D2012_005, File No. PSC01939).
The following sitting rates apply:

Chair: $350 per day
Members: $220 per day

In line with policy decisions against “double-dipping”, public sector employees appointed to NSW government boards or committees do not receive remuneration unless an exemption is sought.
Advisory Council members are also eligible for reimbursement of a range of out of pocket expenses.

8. Operating procedures

8.1 Secretariat

The Advisory Council secretariat will be hosted by the Commission. The secretariat will be responsible for preparing and distributing the agendas and any supporting documentation for meetings, recording discussions during meetings, preparation and distribution of minutes, following up on any matters arising from meetings, and communicating with members on relevant matters relating to the business and conduct of the meetings.

The Agenda for each meeting will be formed by the secretariat in consultation with the Commissioner and the Chair of the Council. Council members should liaise with the Chair regarding the submission of items for inclusion on the Agenda. A template is provided for this purpose.

8.2 Meetings

The Advisory Council will meet no fewer than four times a year in addition to out of session work as required. It is expected that the Chair and members of the Advisory Council attend no less than 75% of meetings per year.

At least 10 appointed members, one of whom must be the Chair or Deputy Chair, must be in attendance for Quorum to be achieved.

8.3 Records

The secretariat will prepare and maintain the following records:

  • Agendas and minutes of meetings.
  • Correspondence, papers tabled at meetings and other papers circulated to members.

A copy of the Minutes is to be sent to the Minister for Mental Health and published on the Commission’s website within 14 days of each meeting. The Chair will be responsible for verifying the accuracy of minutes prior to their publication and distribution. The files are the property of the Mental Health Commission of NSW and must be preserved in accordance with the State Records Act 1998 and the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 No 52. The Health Services (Quality Improvement) Act 1994 may also apply to the documents.

The Terms of Reference will be reviewed every 12 months. Changes to the Terms of Reference will be recommended by the Chair to the Commissioner.

8.4 Role of the Chair

The Chair has the key role in ensuring the Council effectively fulfils its statutory obligations and contributes to the work of the Commission. The Chair will be responsible for:

  • Ensuring the Council adheres to its Terms of Reference and other governing documents
  • Preparing the Agenda in consultation with the Commissioner
  • Ensuring meetings are advertised in a timely fashion and Agenda and papers are distributed to members in advance of meetings
  • Ensuring that adequate time is allowed for the discussion of agenda items and opportunity is available for the contribution of all members
  • Verifying the accuracy of minutes prior to publication and distribution
  • Forwarding minutes to the Minister 
  • Leading a review of the performance of the Council

The Deputy Chair will fulfil the obligations of the Chair in the event the Chair is temporarily unable to fulfil their obligations or the Chair becomes vacant.

8.5 Performance monitoring

The Chair will lead a review of the performance of the Council and the support provided by the Secretariat at the end of 12 months of operation and every 2 years thereafter.

Factors considered in the review may include performance of statutory responsibilities, capacity and workload, and integrity.

9. Procedures for providing advice

The key mechanism through which the Council will provide advice to the Commission will be Council meetings.

Meetings will provide the opportunity for members to raise issues as well as give advice on policy questions put to them by the Commission. In most instances, members should communicate with the Chair to have issues included on meeting agendas. If the matter is of great urgency Council members may contact the Commission directly.

There will be regular communication between the Commission and the Council outside of regular meetings. Council members may receive regular updates from the Commission on its work and key issues affecting the mental health sector. In general, these updates will not be intended as a request to provide advice to the Commission and no response will be required. If members wish to provide feedback after receiving these general updates they should respond through the Chair.

On other occasions Council members will receive specific requests for advice. The Commission will in these instances specify the format and timeline for providing advice. These instances will be understood as official Council business and will attract the payment of sitting fees for eligible members.

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