The Australian Mental Health Prize was awarded to two very deserving recipients in 2020 and 2019. Please follow the links to each year to find out more about the winners and finalists.
Mental health advocate Honor Eastly and Professor Ian Hickie AM are winners of the 2021 Australian Mental Health Prize.
Dual winners of the 2021 Australian Mental Health Prize were announced on November 2021, recognising two individuals striving to improve the mental health landscape across the country.
The 2021 winners of the award are Honor Eastly, mental health advocate, writer and podcaster, and Professor Ian Hickie AM Co-Director, Health and Policy, the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre. The Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, the Honourable David Coleman MP presented the winners with their awards during an online ceremony on Tuesday.
Ms Eastly and Prof. Hickie were chosen from an extraordinarily strong and diverse field of six finalists for the prize, now in its sixth year. The prize is supported by UNSW Medicine & Health, through the School of Psychiatry.
Lucy Brogden AM, co-Chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group said: "The 2021 winners of the Australian Mental Health Prize are two outstanding Australians. Their contributions to the mental health sector reflect the breadth of work being done. Honor and Ian are strong advocates, using their voices and in fact the voices of many to improve participation, to improve access and to improve care."
Fellow co-chair, Professor Allan Fels AO agreed: “The opportunity the prize provides for our winners to openly discuss and debate the best options for mental health treatment in Australia is critically important. They challenge us with their work, highlighting the flaws in current models and pushing for change.”
Ms Eastly is an Australian artist, writer, podcaster and mental health advocate for a strong consumer voice. Her podcast No Feeling is Final has been downloaded over 500,000 times and she co-founded the Big Feels Club, an online community with more than 6000 members changing the way Australians talk about emotional distress and crisis. She was a Senior Advisor to the Royal Commission into the Victorian Mental Health System and part of their Expert Advisory Committee.
Honor’s testimony to the Royal Commission led to a role as the lead trainer and supervisor for the Expanding Post Discharge Support program, a seismic shift in service delivery which saw peer workers employed in all inpatient units across Victoria. The shift was a long time coming and there is more to do.
On winning the prize, Ms Eastly said: "I'll be advocating for the things I know would've helped and would still help me. Solutions that are led by people with their own experiences of mental health struggles such as peer respite, peer-led alternatives to emergency departments, peer-led crisis lines. There are examples of these in small pockets of Australia and around the world showing excellent results.”
The mental health reforms currently happening in Australia are an opportunity to reshape how we respond to mental health struggles in this country, she said.
“It also means there is a huge responsibility to make sure that we do it right. We need to make sure that people who've lived through these issues are at the very heart of how we transform the system,” Ms Eastly said.
The collective of shared lived experience is important to recognise through this award, she said.
“To me this award is a big vote of confidence for investing in services that are run by people with their own experience of mental health struggles - like the initiative I run, The Big Feels Club. I hope we see more leaders who are coming to their work in mental health off the back of their own hard-won life experiences,” she said.
"I've had a very non-linear career in mental health, so I've had many moments where I've questioned my work or whether it's really valued by the broader system. Winning the Australian Mental Health Prize is a big deal because it shows me that the kind of work that I and others like me with their own personal experience of mental health struggles [do] is valid and valued on the national level.”
Professor Ian Hickie AM
Prof. Ian Hickie is an internationally renowned researcher in depression, early intervention and youth mental health. He was founding CEO of beyondblue and helped create headspace and the Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre. He was also an inaugural Commissioner on Australia’s National Mental Health Commission overseeing enhanced accountability for mental health reform and suicide prevention.
“It’s very humbling to receive this most prestigious award,” Prof. Hickie said. “I assume that it is far less about ‘me’ and much more about ‘us’ – meaning that it reflects a wider appreciation of the collective value of the various teams that I have been privileged either to lead or those where I have been an integral member.”
As one of the dual winners of the prize Prof. Hickie will continue to advocate for a modern approach to mental health.
“We need much smarter, 21st century approaches to the implementation of effective public health and health services investments across our nation that really have a chance of delivering greater mental wealth for all who reside here,” Prof. Hickie said. “After 30 years of our national mental health strategy, we can’t simply do more of the same and expect to get different outcomes for those most affected.”
“To achieve better outcomes, we need smart regional implementation of the best social and health services options, co-designed with local communities, supported by 21st century technologies and linked to clear prioritisation of those in greatest need.”
Watch the 2021 Awards Ceremony
Six mental health champions named finalists for top prize.
Six impactful finalists have been selected for the 2021 Australian Mental Health Prize. The Prize, now in its sixth year and established by UNSW Medicine & Health’s School of Psychiatry, recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
This year’s winner will be announced by the Hon. David Coleman MP, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, at an online ceremony on 16 November 2021.
The finalists include a broad spectrum of Australians who have dedicated their lives to improving the mental health and wellbeing of people and communities across the country.
“From fires to floods to COVID, we as Australians have never faced such a challenging time for our mental health. I think our finalists, and indeed all the nominees, have shown that our industry is ready to step up and be counted in our country’s time of need by innovating,” co-chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group Lucy Brogden AM said.
“This is not the year for a one-size-fits-all approach, and I’m thrilled by how our finalists have tailored their approaches to meet the needs of individual Australians.”
The breadth of this year’s finalists demonstrates the diverse and deeply compassionate work being undertaken in many challenging areas: improving the care of veterans and first responders with mental illness, reducing the stigma of mental health in young people, promoting positive mental health in the performing arts industry, leading and advocating at a national and international level and embracing the power of digital media to amplify stories of lived experience.
Fellow co-chair Professor Allan Fels AO highlighted the strength of the talent working for better mental health in Australia.
“There were so many strong candidates in the field for this year’s prize. It was truly inspiring for me and the other judges to see such passion and dedication.”
Australian Mental Health Prize 2021 finalists
John Bale has changed the face of mental healthcare for veterans and first responders through the two organisations he founded – Soldier On and Fortem Australia – which bridge key service gaps in the care of ex-Defence and first responder or national security communities. The organisations deliver mental health literacy, awareness, prevention and treatment, and are the leading non-governmental support agencies for these high-risk, yet deeply valued service communities. Both Fortem and Soldier On are unique in their focus on inclusion of the family members of serving personnel, acknowledging both their role in sustaining the viability of a high-stress workforce and the potential impacts of that role on the broader family’s wellbeing.
John was pivotal to the development of the National Centre for Veteran’s Healthcare, a holistic service for the 60,000 veterans in the community. Through the work of Fortem Australia, John also co-founded the Thank A First Responder Day, an initiative to recognise the effort and value of the work that all first responders do for the community and Australia at large, every single day.
Honor Eastly is an inspiring mental health advocate that has contributed significantly to the reform of Victoria’s mental health and wellbeing system, and to the lives of many individual Victorians, their families, carers and supporters. In 2018, Honor released the No Feeling is Final podcast about her experience of mental health issues, including suicidal ideation, and Victoria’s mental health system. The podcast was an enormous success, reaching many international “top podcast of the year” lists and winning multiple awards, including the Third Coast Fest Award. Honor also co-founded The Big Feels Club, a social experiment in connecting people with big feelings. The club creates safe spaces for individuals who may be experiencing mental health and wellbeing issues to talk, connect and reflect.
More recently, Honor was a key contributor to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System as an expert advisor, sharing her lived experience to shed light on critical issues in the current system and advocating for meaningful reform. She then led the Our Future project, one of the first projects to implement the recommendations from the Royal Commision to develop standardised training for the lived experience workforces in both the mental health and Alcohol and Other Drug sectors.
Professor Helen Herrman AO
Emeritus Professor Helen Herrman is one of Australa’s leading psychiatrists and mental health leaders whose research, advocacy and leadership over the past three decades have had a profound influence on mental health, both nationally and internationally. She has combined psychiatry and public health throughout her career to improve the mental health of marginalised groups such as the homeless mentally ill, people with severe and enduring mental illness, and children and young people in out of home care.
Helen established the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre in Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and subsequently embarked upon a new career direction in global mental health, which has included (among other prestigious appointments) Presidency of the Pacific Rim College of Psychiatrists, and more recently, the Presidency of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA). Helen is the first Australian and the first woman to be elected to this role with the WPA.
A highly collaborative leader, Helen has forged the development of international partnerships between academia, health service providers and policy developers to influence good practice and promotion of mental health. Over 25 years, she has worked with a range of local, regional and global organisations, providing advice to committees, reports and consultancies on mental health and quality of life. Her contribution was recognised in 2017 with an Order of Australia (AO) medal.
Professor Ian Hickie AM
Professor Ian Hickie AM has had a long and distinguished career as a world-class academic psychiatrist and thought leader. He has made major innovative contributions to knowledge in the field of mental health and has held a series of influential leadership roles in key institutions across the nation, from Beyond Blue to Brain and Mind, headspace and the National Mental Health Commission.
He has been a fearless and highly articulate advocate for mental health reform and is a prominent media voice for mental health nationally. He has made uniquely effective contributions to prevention, awareness, improved models of care, biopsychosocial research and as a role model. He has published over 600 peer reviewed articles in leading international journals and has received many awards including an Australian Honours Award of Member (AM) for services to the mental health sector.
Claire Spencer AM
Arts Centre Melbourne CEO Claire Spencer AM has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of positive mental health in the performing arts industry. A chartered accountant with a Masters in Theology, she has steered the Arts Centre Melbourne towards increased social impact and sustainability, and through the COVID-19 emergency. Under her guidance and support, the Arts Wellbeing Collective (AWC) was established by Arts Centre Melbourne in 2017 in collaboration with the performing arts sector. The AWC is an initiative that comprises a consortium of arts and cultural organisations working together to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in the performing arts. This is a tailored solution, with the intention of addressing the very significant challenges to mental wellness that working in the performing arts represents at an individual, company and sector level.
The AWC has since won the ‘Martin Seligman Health and Wellbeing Award’ at the 2019 Australian HR Institute Awards, has been a finalist in the VicHealth Awards ‘Improving Mental Wellbeing’ in 2017, 2018, 2019, and at the Australian HR Awards ‘Best Health & Wellbeing Program’ in 2017. Claire is the Chair of the Pinnacle Foundation and a member of Chief Executive Women. In 2020, she was recognised with an Order of Australia (AM) for services to the arts and community.
In 2011 at the age of only 25, Sebastian founded the not-for-profit organisation batyr, a mental health charity which has become a national leader in innovative mental health programs for young Australians aged 14 to 30. Sebastian was the Founding CEO for five years and remains actively involved as Chairman. Batyr’s Being Herd Program came from Sebastian’s own lived experience with mental ill-health, where he felt the stigma and shame that many young people face.
The peer-to-peer program trains young people to safely share their story of lived experience with mental ill-health, drawing out the hope, positivity and resilience in their stories. batyr has trained 888 young speakers and reached over 200,000 young people across Australia with its innovative programs.
Chronic underinvestment in child mental health highlighted as nominations open for the 2021 Australian Mental Health Prize.
Professor Helen Milroy says mental health systems for young children in Australia are under resourced and poorly supported. Image: UNSW
Australia’s child mental health system is buckling under the strain of current demand and the effect will be felt for decades.
This was the message from Professor Helen Milroy, delivered when she launched this year’s Australian Mental Health Prize at UNSW Sydney on Wednesday, calling for nominations from the public.
The prize, now in its sixth year and established by UNSW Medicine & Health’s School of Psychiatry, recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
Prof. Milroy, descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region, is recognised as Australia's first Indigenous medical doctor, and was one of the winners of the 2020 Australian Mental Health Prize. She is the current WA Australian of the Year and is Commissioner of the Australian Mental Health Commission.
Prof. Milroy said there has been investment into adolescent and youth services in recent years but nothing significant for services which deal with children under 12 years old.
“The underinvestment in child mental health services has continued for well over a decade and we cannot keep up with the demand,” she said.
“The mental health systems for children are so under resourced and poorly supported in Australia that the capacity to respond to children early in life and early in illness is severely compromised.”
Prof. Milroy said decades of evidence shows that intervening in the lives of very young children with the right mental health services would save a lot of misery and harm later.
“Many of the mental health problems faced later in life have their beginnings in childhood. The early years are such an important part of development and yet the significant changes that can occur in the brain due to significant adverse experiences are often overlooked until it is too late, and the intervention required for healing and recovery is much more difficult,” she said.
“We have the knowledge, evidence and interventions but they are just not funded effectively nor prioritised for action. It appears the system would rather spend more money later when things are much more difficult.”
Prof. Milroy said it’s a misconception to think of child mental health as child’s play.
“We would never ignore a significant physical injury to a child. In fact, they would be able to access timely, effective and expert care. Yet the psychological injury or challenge is completely ignored. The mind needs to be able to heal and get back on track during development just like the rest of the body.”
Prof. Milroy said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many pre-existing conditions and created new problems for children, families and development.
“It can be difficult to understand what a mental health challenge is for a child compared to what we see in youth or adults, but there is mounting evidence for not only prevention but also for comprehensive, evidence based early intervention. We only get one chance at childhood, can’t we pull together and give kids the best outcome possible?” she said.
Recognition for mental health sector
Co-chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group, Lucy Brogden AM, agrees with Prof. Milroy’s comments and said awards for contributions to mental health are often adult focused.
“Having the work in child mental health recognised is more important than ever given this field lays the foundation for better mental health and wellbeing later in life,” Mrs. Brogden said.
Fellow co-chair Professor Allan Fels AO said the prize ensures mental health stays top of mind for Australians.
“It’s important for those working in the mental health sector to recognise the progress our colleagues are making in research and improving patient outcomes. This prize helps to improve mental health care in Australia,” he said.
UNSW Dean of Medicine & Health, Professor Vlado Perkovic said UNSW Medicine places high importance on mental health research and works with many other mental health institutions and individuals in this area.
“We encourage clinicians, health professionals, community groups and individuals to nominate people whom they feel are making a real difference in the area of mental health research, advocacy or service delivery for the 2021 Australian Mental Health Prize,” he said.
“Mental illness is something that affects our whole community, and the Australian Mental Health Prize is a valuable way to highlight progress being made in this space.”
How to nominate
To enter, nominees must provide a CV and 200 words outlining the work being undertaken and how it is making an impact. Nomination forms can be obtained from: australianmentalhealthprize.org.au
Entries close on 27 August 2021.
Two outstanding winners awarded Australian Mental Health Prize
Gordon Parker and Helen Milroy
Dual winners of the 2020 Australian Mental Health Prize were announced on 5 November, recognising two exceptional advocates who represent the important work being done to improve mental health across the country. The Governor-General, David Hurley, presented the winners with their awards during an online ceremony held at UNSW Sydney.
The 2020 winners of the award are Scientia Professor Gordon Parker, founder of the Black Dog Institute and Scientia Professor of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney, and University of Western Australia Professor Helen Milroy, whose work and research has had a lasting impact on children’s mental health, combining Aboriginal and western knowledge in mental health education.
Prof. Parker and Prof. Milroy were chosen from an exceptionally strong field of seven finalists for the prize, now in its fifth year. The prize is supported by UNSW, through its School of Psychiatry.
Ita Buttrose, Chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group, said: “The Australian Mental Health Prize is a well-established platform to recognise those making a significant contribution to mental health nationally. In this especially challenging year, it is more important than ever to highlight the diverse and deeply compassionate work being undertaken.”
Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty, UNSW School of Psychiatry, said: “The Australian Mental Health Prize is a wonderful way to shine a light on those who dedicate so much of themselves to improving our approach in the mental health sector. This year’s dual winners, Gordon Parker and Helen Milroy, are perfect examples of Australia’s impressive talent working in this area. We should be proud of their achievements.”
Prof. Gordon Parker
Gordon Parker is one of Australia’s foremost psychiatrists. He founded the Black Dog Institute and is Scientia Professor of Psychiatry at UNSW. His research priority has been to define differing mood disorders with high precision and to determine the effectiveness of differing therapies for separate conditions, a model challenging the current ‘one size fits all’ approach.
“I am honoured to have been selected as a dual winner of the Australian Mental Health Prize. The prize has an important role in highlighting work being undertaken in the mental health sector,” Prof. Parker said.
“In observing my career over the decades, my work has always had a focus on ‘What is the correct diagnosis?’ When I entered psychiatry, I was struck by how many practitioners did not judge making a diagnosis important. Yet it is important for patients to know what is wrong, if it is serious and how long it will last.
“If the right diagnosis is made then choice of treatment becomes more logical. I developed the Mood Assessment Program (MAP) where patients enter data and the computer generates diagnoses and best treatment options. There are now over 5000 MAP providers in Australia with an 80 per cent accuracy rate in differentiating the two key depressive types and in identifying a bipolar mood disorder. Machine learning techniques adopted this year have improved accuracy rates even further in pilot studies.
“Diagnosis is extremely important in psychiatry and new artificial intelligence approaches have the potential to deliver highly accurate diagnoses to inform practitioners and their clients,” he said.
Prof. Helen Milroy
Helen Milroy is the Stan Perron Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Perth Children’s Hospital and University of Western Australia, and Honorary Research Fellow at Telethon Kids Institute. She is passionate about children’s mental health and combining Aboriginal and western knowledge systems in mental health education.
“I am very honoured and humbled to be a co-winner of this year’s Australian Mental Health Prize alongside my esteemed colleague Prof. Parker. I would like to thank the Prize Advisory Group and UNSW for making this award possible. I hope we can continue to shine a light on mental health and what else needs to happen to bring about the wellbeing of our nation, and especially that of our First Peoples,” Prof. Milroy said.
“I am particularly keen to highlight the needs of our children and the many difficulties and challenges they face, particularly during these most unprecedented times. As I think back about how my life and work has changed, I am mindful of the ‘new normal’ we are now entering into and just what this means for the wellbeing of our children.
“I have learnt so much and continue to learn from the many children, families, communities and colleagues I have worked with and shared the heartbreaks and joys with along the way. Children are no more immune to mental health challenges than the rest of society, yet they are easily overlooked or thought to be resilient.
“I believe Australia’s greatest hope for the future rests in the potential of our children. I look forward to a greater focus and investment in our children, their family and community. I hope we can feel proud when we look back, knowing we did everything to give children the opportunity to thrive, to support them when they faltered and to make sure they receive the most comprehensive and well-resourced mental health services available. That would be something to celebrate.”
The Australian Mental Health Prize was established in 2016 by UNSW Medicine's School of Psychiatry, Australia’s pre-eminent psychiatric research department. It recognises outstanding Australians who have made major contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
Watch the 2020 Awards Ceremony
About the Australian Mental Health Prize 2020 Finalists
Seven outstanding finalists were selected for the 2020 Australian Mental Health Prize. The Prize, now in its fifth year, recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
This year’s winner was announced by the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), at a ceremony at UNSW Sydney on 5 November 2020.
The finalists included a broad spectrum of Australians who have dedicated their lives to improving the mental health and wellbeing of people and communities across the country.
“The Prize showcases world-class contributions that have enhanced mental health in Australia. Each finalist announced today has worked selflessly to improve the lives of those experiencing difficulties with mental health,” said Ita Buttrose, Chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group.
The breadth of this year’s finalists demonstrates the diverse and deeply compassionate work being undertaken in many challenging areas: improving the care of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system, promoting positive mental health in the performing arts industry, helping bring forward empathetic policy directions that support people experiencing mental distress, enhancing child and adolescent mental health, supporting the Aboriginal medical workforce and advancing Indigenous health and mental health.
“In this especially challenging year, we as a community are even more mindful that mental illness can affect any one of us. The finalists announced today have helped our society by their efforts, creativity and dedication to achieving better mental health in Australia,” said Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty, from UNSW Medicine’s School of Psychiatry.
“It is wonderful to see so much progress being made in this area.”
Australian Mental Health Prize 2020 finalists
Ms Claire Spencer AM, Melbourne, Vic
Arts Centre Melbourne CEO, Claire Spencer AM, has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of positive mental health in the performing arts industry. A chartered accountant with a Masters in Theology, she has steered the Arts Centre Melbourne towards increased social impact and sustainability, and recently through the COVID-19 emergency. Under her guidance and support, the Arts Wellbeing Collective (AWC) was established by Arts Centre Melbourne in 2017 in collaboration with the performing arts sector. The AWC is an initiative that comprises a consortium of arts and cultural organisations working together to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in the performing arts. This is a tailored solution, with the intention of addressing the very significant challenges to mental wellness that working in the performing arts represents at an individual, company and sector level.
The AWC has since won the ‘Martin Seligman Health and Wellbeing Award’ at the 2019 Australian HR Institute Awards, has been a finalist in the VicHealth Awards ‘Improving Mental Wellbeing’ in 2017, 2018, 2019, and at the Australian HR Awards ‘Best Health & Wellbeing Program’ in 2017. Claire is a Board member of the Pinnacle Foundation and a member of Chief Executive Women. In 2020 she was recognised with an Order of Australia (AM) for services to the arts and community.
Dr Gerry Naughtin, Cheltenham, Vic
Gerry Naughtin blends his commitment to social justice for people experiencing mental distress with his bureaucratic skills to help bring sensitivity and sensible empathetic policy directions that support people on their recovery journeys. His work has focused on improving the psychosocial wellbeing of Australians with significant mental health challenges. Currently, as Strategic Advisor Mental Health in the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), he plays a leadership role in the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the largest reform of psychosocial disability support services in the country’s history.
Gerry has worked extensively with mental health consumer and carer organisations, Mental Health Australia and a broad range of stakeholders in listening to feedback and making recommendations to the NDIA and government to improve the Scheme for people with mental health challenges. He is recognised for his expertise in creative and strategic mental health policy development. He chairs the NDIA National Mental Health Sector Reference Group that brings together national stakeholder groups and Commonwealth government agencies, and is a member of the Expert Advisory Committee to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. Gerry was the Chief Executive of Mind Australia, delivering innovative psychosocial services across Australia. He was a member of the NDIS Independent Advisory Council, the Expert Advisory Group for the Mental Health Service Planning Framework and Mental Health Victoria Board.
Prof. Gordon Parker AO, Northwood/Randwick, NSW
Professor Gordon Parker AO is one of Australia’s foremost psychiatrists. He founded the Black Dog Institute and is currently Scientia Professor of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney. For nearly two decades, he was Head of the School of Psychiatry at UNSW and Director of the Division of Psychiatry at Prince of Wales and Prince Henry hospitals. Known for employing innovative strategies to destigmatise mood disorders, including writing a successful play and a recent book of fiction, his research priority has been to define differing mood disorders with high precision and to determine the effectiveness of differing therapies for separate conditions, a model challenging the current ‘one size fits all’ approach that compromises management and clinical outcomes.
He was editor of the Royal Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry and inaugural psychiatrist surveyor for the Australian Council on Hospital Standards. He has published 20 books and more than 1000 scientific papers, and was awarded the 2004 Citation Laureate as the Australian researcher most highly referenced in the field of ‘Psychiatry/Psychology’, reflecting funding by the National Health and Medical Research Council for over 40 years.
Prof. Helen Milroy, Crawley, WA
Helen Milroy is the Stan Perron Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Perth Children’s Hospital and University of Western Australia, and Honorary Research Fellow at Telethon Kids Institute. She is a Commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission, Chair of Gayaa Dhuwi Proud Spirit Australia, Co-Chair of the Million Minds Medical Research Advisory Group, and in 2019 was appointed the AFL’s first Indigenous Commissioner. From 2013 to 2017, Helen was a Commissioner on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. She is a descendant of the Palkyu people of Western Australia and has always had a strong interest in health and wellbeing, especially for children.
Helen is recognised as the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor, completing medical studies and specialist training in child and adolescent psychiatry. She is passionate about combining Aboriginal and western knowledge systems to improve outcomes. Her work and research in the areas of holistic medicine, child mental health, recovery from trauma and grief, application of Indigenous knowledge, and cultural models of care have made a significant difference to the lives of children and young people, particularly those with a trauma background. Her efforts in developing and supporting the Aboriginal medical workforce and cultural safety in health and mental health through curriculum development, education and training, implementation and evaluation, has had a lasting impact on Aboriginal health and mental health across Australia.
Prof. James Ogloff AM, Alphington, Vic
For more than 35 years, Professor James Ogloff AM has played an integral role in identifying, advocating, and improving the care of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system. He has continuously worked as a clinical forensic psychologist in service development and leadership positions, as a prolific academic and mentor, and as a trusted advisor and advocate to government in matters at the crossroads of mental health and the law. Trained as a lawyer and psychologist, he is a leading international expert in forensic mental health – a traditionally under-recognised area of mental health. He has worked tirelessly on a national and international level to first, identify the existence and extent of mental health requirements in prison and forensic settings, and second, to address how those needs can be met.
He is a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, operated by Swinburne University and Forensicare, where he is Executive Director of Psychological Services and Research. He has held leadership positions in peak professional bodies in Australia and overseas. He has published 18 books and more than 300 articles and chapters.
Mr John Brogden AM, Bilgola NSW
John Brogden AM has been the Chairman of Lifeline Australia since 2012 and on the Board since 2009. As one of Australia’s leading politicians and now a business leader, John is living proof that even from the darkest places, there is a way back. While John has reached the highest levels in his professional career, his personal journey is one of highs and lows, strength and courage. In 2005, John survived a very public suicide attempt that saw him leave politics and move to the business world as a CEO. John has worked tirelessly to create awareness of the importance of suicide prevention, encouraging Australians in crisis to seek help and not face their darkest moments alone.
Under John’s leadership, as Chairman of Lifeline since 2012, Australians are turning to Lifeline in greater numbers than ever in its 57-year history. The 13 11 14 crisis line now receives 90,000 calls a month – supporting Australians at risk of suicide more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Keith Wilson, Freemantle WA
Keith Wilson is a former Western Australian Minister of Health and former chair of the Mental Health Council of Australia. He has been involved in ongoing mental health advocacy through membership of non-government agencies such as WA Association for Mental Health, the Mental Illness Fellowship WA, Carers WA, and the Learning and Attentional Disorders Society of WA. Keith was a member of the Board of St John Health Care for 10 years. He was awarded the Centenary Medal (2001) for service to people with a mental illness and their carers.
He is also a Member of the Order of Australia (2009) and is a director of Meeting for Minds – a not-for-profit company promoting research into the brain and mental illnesses through the partnering of researchers, clinicians and people with lived experience of mental illness in research. Keith is a powerful voice promoting the cause of mental health not only in Australia but globally. He is inspired in his work by his adult son, Daniel, who lives with chronic, lifelong schizophrenia. Keith is the primary carer for his son.
The Australian Mental Health Prize was established in 2016 by UNSW through its School of Psychiatry, Australia’s pre-eminent psychiatric research department within UNSW Medicine. It recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention/treatment of mental illness.
Meet the Finalists
Dual winners of the 2019 Australian Mental Health Prize:
Joe Williams and Christine Morgan
Two mental health advocates tackling suicide prevention have been named joint winners of the 2019 Australian Mental Health Prize at UNSW Sydney in November.
Joe Williams, a Wiradjuri man and passionate community advocate for mental health suicide prevention, and Christine Morgan, Australia’s first national suicide prevention advisor, have been announced dual winners of the 2019 Australian Mental Health Prize.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison presented the winners with their awards at a ceremony at UNSW Sydney on Wednesday night.
The Prize, now in its fourth year, was established through UNSW Medicine’s School of Psychiatry to recognise people who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
This year’s winners were chosen out of a field of seven finalists that included counsellor and author Connie Boglis; Sue Murray, Managing Director of the Zero Suicide Institute of Australasia; founder of the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Scientia Professor Gordon Parker AO; Aboriginal mental health advocate Donna Stanley; and CEO of Ambulance Victoria Associate Professor Tony Walker.
Ita Buttrose, Chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group said the Australian Mental Health Prize had established itself as an important platform to recognise those making a significant contribution in mental health in this country.
“This year’s winners and finalists demonstrate the diverse and deeply compassionate work being undertaken in many challenging areas across this nation,” she said.
Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty, from UNSW Medicine’s School of Psychiatry, said that “Australia leads the way internationally in many aspects of mental health and it is important to shine a light on those who dedicate so much of themselves to continually improving our approach in this area."
Professor Brodaty emphasised the importance of dedicating more resources to the overburdened psychiatric system, including implementing "aftercare for at least three months after people try to take their life."
"This year’s dual winners showcase the significant and collective work being done that we should all be proud of and grateful for,” said Professor Brodaty.
Joe Williams, Dubbo NSW
Joe Williams, a Wiradjuri/Wolgalu man and former professional rugby league player, is an Indigenous mental health campaigner working in communities across Australia.
For most of his life, he has battled with suicidal ideation and bipolar disorder. After a suicide attempt in 2012, Mr Williams was driven to help people to overcome mental health challenges through his organisation The Enemy Within. He now speaks at motivational workshops in some of the most remote communities in the country, including remote East Arnhem Land and the Kimberley.
“When I was experiencing mental health issues, I didn’t speak to anyone about what was going on inside my head,” said Mr Williams. “Rugby league was a tough man’s sport so I didn’t want to show what I thought at the time was weakness. There is still considerable stigma that still exists around mental illness today, you can only imagine what it was like 20 years ago.”
“After I attempted suicide, I started to talk to people about my struggles, which in turn led to speaking in schools, sports clubs and elsewhere. The conversation was alive. The more I helped people heal from their traumas and tough times with mental illness, the more it started to help me."
“I deliver a lot of programs in regional and remote communities because the suicide rates are astronomically higher due to lack of services. As Aboriginal people, we have some of the highest suicide rates in the world. Our wellbeing is deeply embedded within the land. My biggest healer has been connection to culture and country.
“I am extremely humbled to be named a dual winner of this year’s Australian Mental Health Prize and would like to acknowledge the incredible work of my fellow finalists. We are all in this together. The work The Enemy Within does is about alleviating the despair that people face with mental health challenges every day. Suicide prevention starts in the family home, around the kitchen table. If you see someone struggling, don't wait for them to reach out, find out."
Christine Morgan, Lane Cove NSW
Christine Morgan is the CEO of the National Mental Health Commission, tasked with bringing together the 2030 Vision for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and associated system reform for Australia. As former CEO of the Butterfly Foundation, she led a collaborative advocacy strategy that included amplification of eating disorders as a serious mental and physical health issue.
“I am incredibly honoured to have been selected as a dual winner of the Australian Mental Health Prize. It provides an opportunity to pause and reflect on the journey to date, and to acknowledge the dedication and support of the mental health sector and people experiencing mental illness,” says Ms Morgan.
“Just as we will suffer from physical ailments, there will be times when our mental health and wellbeing will need attention and care. That is part of being human."
In July, Ms Morgan was appointed National Suicide Prevention Advisor to the Prime Minister, a role that oversees and drives a government-wide approach to suicide prevention.
“Many of us will experience mental illness, specific psychological disorders that require treatment, or we will support and care for someone with a mental illness. However, the levels of stigma are harmful and too frequently are the reason for people delaying or avoiding seeking help."
“I am inspired and driven by the stories of those who face and seek support for their mental illness – and who are testament to the fact that mental illness does not prevent anyone from living a full life in which they thrive."
About the Australian Mental Health Prize 2019 Finalists
Connie Boglis, Reservoir VIC
Connie Boglis is a passionate counsellor, youth worker and author who has turned her personal adversity into a positive platform for mental health reform. In 2017, Connie tragically lost her former partner, Afghanistan Veteran Jesse Bird, to mental illness. She took her grief and advocated for change within the Department of Veterans Affairs with a focus on improved transitional assistance for veterans and the need to acknowledge the role families play. Connie actively serves on national committees for Beyond Blue’s Way Back Support Service program and the Department of Veterans Affairs Open Arms Peer Mentor program, both of which have a crucial focus on outreach and peer mentoring to support individuals who have tried to commit suicide or are at risk of attempting suicide. She is working to install a sculpture in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, that will acknowledge the war that comes home and to create a place where loved ones and the general public can remember and grieve, and visitors can be educated. Connie is also the author of Once Upon a Feeling, a mindful story helping children to explore and express their emotions through creative techniques and conversations around feelings.
Christine Morgan, Lane Cove NSW
Christine Morgan is a dynamic leader in mental health care reform. She is the CEO of the National Mental Health Commission with responsibility to bring together the 2030 Vision for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and associated system reform for Australia. In July she was also appointed as Suicide Prevention Advisor to the Prime Minister for an initial period of 18 months. As former CEO of the Butterfly Foundation, she led a collaborative advocacy strategy that included amplification of eating disorders as a serious mental and physical health issue. This is now being replicated internationally. Christine is committed to listening and responding to the voice and needs of those with lived experience. She brings connection and commitment to mental health reform, built on the networks she established in the corporate world, her extensive legal expertise and her strong ability to demonstrate to people how their contribution can make a real difference. This has resulted in major policy reform, including federal government funding of $110 million for a specific Eating Disorders Item Number under the MBS (the first time a mental disorder has been recognised with its own item number).
Sue Murray, Balmain NSW
Sue Murray is currently Managing Director of the Zero Suicide Institute of Australasia, advocating for improved management of suicidality within healthcare systems and alternative pathways to emergency departments for those who are experiencing a mental ill-health crisis. Her passion for these areas stems from her six years as chief executive and research fund director with Australia’s peak advocacy organisation Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA). Under Sue’s leadership SPA championed quality improvement with several initiatives. Firstly, SPA published Australia’s first national strategy to amplify the voice and increase the participation of those with lived experience in suicide prevention. Secondly, SPA advocated for Australia’s first dedicated national research fund for suicide prevention with $12 million allocated over three years, prioritised towards accelerating knowledge into practice and supporting the next generation of new researchers. Thirdly, SPA promoted innovation through the National Research Action Plan for Suicide Prevention and knowledge sharing through shifting the national suicide prevention conference to an annual event and expanding participation three-fold. Sue is now supporting NSW Health roll out its $90 million Towards Zero Suicides initiatives.
Professor Gordon Parker, Northwood / Randwick NSW
Professor Gordon Parker AO is one of Australia’s foremost psychiatrists. He founded the Black Dog Institute and is currently Scientia Professor of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney. For nearly two decades, he was Head of the School of Psychiatry at UNSW and Director of the Division of Psychiatry at Prince of Wales and Prince Henry Hospitals. Known for employing innovative strategies to destigmatise mood disorders, including writing a successful play and a recent book of fiction, his research priority has been to define differing mood disorders with high precision and determine the effectiveness of differing therapies for separate conditions, a model challenging the current ‘one size fits all’ approach that compromises management and clinical outcomes. He was editor of the Royal Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry and inaugural psychiatrist surveyor for the Australian Council on Hospital Standards. He has published 20 books and more than 1,000 scientific papers, was awarded the 2004 Citation Laureate as the Australian researcher most highly referenced in the field of ‘Psychiatry/Psychology,’ reflecting funding by the NHMRC for over 40 years.
Donna Stanley, Orange NSW
Donna Stanley, a proud Gunggari Umby (woman), is a vastly experienced leader in Aboriginal mental health. With a shared experience and understanding of the negative impact that poor mental health has within Aboriginal communities, Donna is regularly sought to provide advice on initiatives to improve the mental health of Aboriginal people. Her work includes coordinating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid Program, working with the NSW Mental Health Commission, and the NSW Auditor-General’s Report: Mental Health Service Planning for Aboriginal People in New South Wales. Donna is frequently called upon to interpret issues of grief, loss and trauma, common among Aboriginal people arriving at hospital in acute distress, and to apply her knowledge of how Aboriginal communities’ social structures influence the mental health of individuals. She is a tireless advocate for the mental health needs of her people and a deeply compassionate, ethical and skilled clinician. Donna is currently the District Coordinator for Aboriginal Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol at Western NSW Local Health District.
Tony Walker, Newport / Doncaster VIC
Associate Professor Tony Walker ASM is the CEO of Ambulance Victoria and an outstanding champion for mental health. A registered paramedic with almost 34 years’ experience as a clinician, researcher and leader within the ambulance sector in Victoria, he has made it his mission to improve the mental health and wellbeing of first responders. In 2014, when Tony became CEO of Ambulance Victoria, mental health injury was normalised as ‘just part of the job’. Anxiety, depression and PTSD were common; paramedic suicide rates were four times that of the Victorian community and three times higher than other Victorian emergency services. Tony has led a multi-year, person-centred mental health and wellbeing strategy across Ambulance Victoria that is having a measurable impact. In addition to openly sharing his own experiences, he has partnered with organisations including Beyond Blue and Phoenix Australia to better understand the mental health needs of staff, breakdown stigma and normalise conversations around mental health, and improve mental health literacy through evidence-based education and awareness programs.
Joseph Williams, Dubbo NSW
Joe Williams is a Wiradjuri, First Nations man born in Cowra, NSW. Having lived a 15-year span as a professional sports person, playing in the NRL for South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs before switching to professional Boxing in 2009. Although forging a successful professional sporting career, Joe battled the majority of his life with suicidal ideation and bipolar disorder. After a suicide attempt in 2012, he felt his purpose was to help people who struggle with mental illness through his foundation The Enemy Within. Joe is an author having released his own autobiography titled Defying the Enemy Within, in 2017 and features in the global documentary Suicide The Ripple Effect with fellow advocate Kevin Hines. In 2017 Joe was named as finalist in the National Indigenous Human Rights Awards for his work with suicide prevention and fighting for equality for Australia’s First Nations people and received the Wagga Citizen of the Year in 2015 for his work within the community, mental health and suicide prevention sectors. In 2018 he received Suicide Prevention Australia’s highest honour, a LiFE Award for his dedication and work in community in the mental health and suicide prevention sector.
The Australian Mental Health Prize was established in 2016 by UNSW through its School of Psychiatry, Australia’s pre-eminent psychiatric research department within UNSW Medicine. It recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention/treatment of mental illness.