Deputy Commissioners

The role of the Deputy Commissioners is to support the Commission and the mental health community by speaking up about the issues that matter to people with a mental illness, their families and carers. The Commission's work will be informed by the diverse expertise of the Deputy Commissioners, and importantly by the insight of those of our Deputy Commissioners who have a lived experience of mental illness.

Allan Sparkes

Allan Sparkes CV, VA, Deputy Commissioner

At his darkest time, Allan Sparkes could easily have died. A police officer, who had brought off an extraordinary rescue of a child trapped underground in a stormwater drain, Sparkes was a hero in the eyes of the world. In his own mind he floundered in the event’s aftermath, with severe depression... more
Martin Cohen

Dr Martin Cohen, Deputy Commissioner

Conjoint Associate Professor Martin Cohen is a long-time advocate from within the system for people who experience mental illness. “I know the sector very well from working in the public and private sectors. I understand the pushes and pulls that make things happen,” says Dr Cohen, who until May... more
Karen Burns

Karen Burns, Deputy Commissioner

As a leader with exceptionally wide experience, Karen Burns brings technical knowledge and cultural understanding of the community-managed mental health sector to her role as Deputy Commissioner at a time of unprecedented system change. The National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the devolution... more
Fay Jackson

Fay Jackson, Deputy Commissioner

Fay Jackson experienced mental ill health from her early teenage years and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 37. Early medical advice included that she would not be able to work and would have limited ability to contribute to the lives of those around her, advice which devastated... more
Catherine Lourey

Catherine Lourey, Deputy Commissioner (full time)

Catherine Lourey brings great insight and value to the role of Deputy Commissioner (full time) through her 30 years experience in the NSW health and mental health sectors. Most recently, Ms Lourey has held the position of Special Advisor at the Commission, with her role integral in developing the ... more
Robyn Shields

Dr Robyn Shields AM, Deputy Commissioner

Growing up in the shadow of an asylum, Dr Robyn Shields’ first impression of mental illness was that it was about being locked away and was not to be discussed. "I didn't know what asylums were about until I found myself having a professional career in mental health,” recalls Dr Shields of the... more

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