Insights into the mental health needs of Aboriginal communities across NSW are increasingly informing the work of the Mental Health Commission of NSW.
Two additional representatives with Aboriginal backgrounds have joined the Commission’s Community Advisory Council to help shape the provision of mental health services that best meet community needs.
Associate Professor Faye McMillan (Riverina) and Ann Baker (South West Sydney) join Deputy Commissioners Jenna Roberts (Wagga Wagga) and Tom Brideson (Orange) to help support the Commission to better understand the issues that affect the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in NSW.
NSW Mental Health Commissioner, Catherine Lourey, said the appointments were vital to ensuring that Aboriginal people’s social and emotional wellbeing is a priority for mental health reform.
“It is unacceptable that rates of distress, suicide and interaction with the justice system for Aboriginal people far exceed those of non-Aboriginal people.” Ms Lourey said.
“Through our work with Aboriginal communities, leaders, service providers and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council, we have developed Journey of Wellbeing, an Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) model of care that emphasises the individual at the core of a healing plan.
“We hope that this document provides the inspiration and practical guidance to pave the way forward.
“It is clear there is more work to be done and our Community Advisory Council will add significantly to the purpose and vision of the Commission.”
Background on Aboriginal Community Advisory Council members
Associate Professor Faye McMillian - an Associate Professor at the School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Indigenous Health at Charles Sturt University and the 2019 New South Wales Aboriginal Woman of the Year. Since becoming Australia’s first registered Aboriginal Pharmacist nearly 20 years ago, she has worked nationally and internationally on a range of mental health initiatives.
“Many people in the community either have lived experience of mental health issues or know someone who does,” Dr McMillan said. “We all need to be talking about mental health like never before, and what opportunities should be pursued to provide support and recovery.
“This is particularly relevant as we move through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected many people, particularly Aboriginal communities. We also need to focus on ensuring there is equitable support in rural and isolated areas, to be sure people can get the support they need, regardless of postcode.”
Ms Ann Baker - District Coordinator, Aboriginal Mental Health South West Sydney Local Health District, formerly State Coordinator of Aboriginal Mental Health with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW. Miss Baker has gained extensive experience in the mental health/social and emotional wellbeing roles of a Registered Nurse in both community and acute mental health settings and has had executive roles in several Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
“I am a big advocate for local solutions,” Ms Baker said. I think that the Mental Health Commission of NSW has absolutely ensured that they are listening to the voices of minorities and other people who are under-represented in the mental health care system.
“I think that is one of the Commission’s greatest strengths – that they are welcoming and willing to listen. Having worked in both rural and urban environments I know that the Commission covers all those bases. They go to places such as Dubbo and smaller towns and they work hard to make sure we are able to comment on everything they are considering.”
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About the Commission
The Mental Health Commission of New South Wales (the Commission) was established in July 2012. The Commission’s purpose is to monitor, review and improve the mental health and wellbeing of the community by undertaking strategic planning, systemic reviews and advocacy - all guided by the lived experience of people with mental health issues and caring, families and kinship groups.
Any community members who are concerned about their own or a loved one’s mental health are encouraged to speak with trusted support services such as a family GP. Alternatively, find local services via Wayahead’s NSW Mental Health Service Directory or call one of the following support lines:
- BEING Supported Mental Health Peer Support Line: 1800 151 151
- NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
- Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636