MHiMA CALD consumer and carer working groups

18 April 2013

Earlier this year, the MHiMA project convened two working groups, the MHiMA Consumer Working Group and the MHiMA Carer Working Group, comprised of representatives from each state and territory. This is in line with MHiMA’s commitment to ensuring that consumer and carer perspectives and expertise are embedded across the work of the project. Here is an overview of how the groups were established and what the groups have achieved so far. More information about the groups, the terms of reference under which they meet and their activities will be made available on the MHiMA website shortly. This project is led by MHiMA consortium member, the University of South Australia. 

Selecting the representatives

The positions are held by individuals from a range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds and age ranges. Working group members were recruited for their lived experience of mental ill health or caring for someone with mental ill health and the impact on personal and family life of migrating to and settling in Australia. Group members’ capacity to harness their experiences and that of others around them in the interest of Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities was also core to their selection for MHiMA’s working groups. The selection process was intensive, taking several months to complete and resulting in 12 people being selected for the groups – six in each group.

We currently have four vacancies across the groups: in Tasmania and the Northern Territory for the MHiMA Consumer Working Group, and in the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia for the MHiMA Carer Working Group. More information about a second call for candidates to fill these vacancies will be appearing on the MHiMA website shortly.

Meeting for the first time

In early February, working group members participated in an induction process held over two days in Sydney. Almost all (11 of the 12) working group members were able to participate in the induction day. The sessions provided them with an opportunity to meet each other, and the facilitators who were some of the MHiMA project staff members. Consumer Working Group members were also introduced to the MHiMA Executive who were meeting nearby. Carer Working Group members had the opportunity to meet and discuss the project with the MHiMA project’s Executive Officer.  

The range of activities being undertaken within the MHiMA project were outlined and group members had an opportunity to consider how they could contribute to and extend this work. They also discussed the range of organisations and networks with which they are associated in their respective states or territories.   

Participants shared their perspectives on what has been achieved and the work that still needs to be done to better meet the mental health needs of Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities.   

The induction days ended with participants offering their reflections on the day, and the evaluations were extremely positive. Some of their reflections included:

“Happy to be involved and I’ll do my best from experience” (Carer Working Group Member)

“Excellent! Presenters very nice – participants all encouraged to participate in dialogue – made the day most productive!” (Consumer Working Group Member)

There was strong agreement that while it has been necessary for practical reasons to convene separate groups, it would be beneficial to create opportunities to bring the consumer and carer groups together from time to time.  

Getting on with the work

Each working group will usually meet separately on a bimonthly basis. It is anticipated that most meetings will be via teleconference link up.  Additional meetings will be convened as required. The groups have already participated in discussions regarding the development of the new Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia 

For more information about the groups or consumer and carer participation in the MHiMA project, please contact Amy Baker, Project Officer at: [email protected]  (08) 8302 2643.