12 December 2016

NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley today welcomed the appointment of three Deputy Commissioners, whose diverse professional expertise and personal experiences bring valuable new perspectives to the Commission’s work.

The Deputy Commissioners are:

  • Karen Burns, CEO of UnitingRecovery and champion for the role of the community-managed sector in delivering mental health supports.
  • Martin Cohen, a psychiatrist and health system leader with particular expertise around the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
  • Allan Sparkes CV, VA, a former police officer and suicide prevention advocate who has a lived experience of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Feneley congratulated the Deputy Commissioners on their appointments.

“The enormous knowledge and connections of Allan, Martin and Karen will extend the Commission’s capacity to respond to some of the most critical current issues as we seek to embed the Living Well mental health reforms deeply in NSW policy and practice,” Mr Feneley said.

“I am delighted that they are taking on these essential leadership roles to guide the next phase of the journey.”

The Deputy Commissioners, who will work part-time in these prominent leadership roles, are appointed for an initial two year term. They join two inaugural Deputy Commissioners, initially appointed in 2013, who have been reappointed for a further two years:

  • Fay Jackson, the general manager of inclusion at the mental health organisation Flourish Australia, who has a lived experience of mental health issues and recovery.
  • Robyn Shields, a psychiatrist in training with particular expertise in the needs of Aboriginal people and communities.

“Robyn and Fay have been at the heart of the Commission’s thinking since its earliest days and they have shaped its strong values around respect for the particular insights and experience of Aboriginal people and people whose lives are affected by mental distress,” Mr Feneley said.

“Their continuing involvement will ensure our work program keeps these important principles firmly in sight, and I thank them for their willingness to renew their appointment terms.”

Catherine Lourey is also a Deputy Commissioner, appointed earlier in 2016 for a three year term in a full-time role overseeing the development of the Commission’s mental health system monitoring and reporting function and its internal business operations.

Bradley Foxlewin, an inaugural Deputy Commissioner, did not to seek reappointment in 2016 and now leaves the role.

“Bradley’s contribution, particularly his leadership in calling for more widespread implementation of trauma-informed recovery practice in NSW, been foundational to the Commission’s approach, and I thank him for his energy and commitment,” said Mr Feneley.

“Bradley’s lived experience, and his generosity in sharing his experience and expertise, have been vital in guiding not only the Commission’s work but also my own work as Commissioner. His deep thinking has informed and challenged us, and I look forward to working with him in future in his other mental health leadership capacities.”

Mr Foxlewin will continue his work in education around recovery and trauma-informed practice, and his advocacy for people with lived experience of mental health issues as leaders in mental health research.

Under the Mental Health Commission Act 2012, Deputy Commissioners are appointed by the Governor of NSW. The Act requires the Commissioner or at least one Deputy Commissioner to have a personal experience of mental illness.

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Last updated: 21 June 2017