Mental Health Advisory Council

Mental Health Advisory Council 

Terms of Reference | Annual Report 2016-2017

The Mental Health Advisory Council (MHAC) provides strategic advice and guidance to the Mental Health Commissioner regarding major issues affecting people with mental health problems, their families and service providers.

To be able to provide balanced and confidential advice to the Commissioner, MHAC members obtain feedback from across the mental health sector, the community and the State. 

The MHAC works in collaboration with the Alcohol and Other Drug Advisory Board to achieve a coordinated focus on mental health, alcohol and other drug use issues.

Following a period of abeyance, the MHAC reconvened in December 2019 with a new Chair and some newly appointed members.

To contact the MHAC, phone the Mental Health Commission on 08 6553 0600 or email

Mental Health Advisory Council Members

Margaret Doherty, Chair

Margaret is committed to ensuring that a diversity of lived experience voices are meaningfully included in the design, delivery and evaluation of initiatives which affect them. Her values include equity, integrity and love.

Before becoming Chair in 2019, Margaret was a member of the Mental Health Advisory Council from 2011-2018. In 2010, she founded Mental Health Matters 2 as a result of her family's experiences in the mental health, alcohol and other drug and corrective services systems.  She blends this living experience with her professional background in education, corrective services and running her own business. Margaret holds undergraduate degrees in arts and commerce and post-graduate qualifications in education and mental health.  She is a member and co-chair of a number of committees. Current co‑chair roles include the National Peer Support Guidelines Development Steering Committee and the Forensic Mental Health sub-network. Margaret was the consumer/carer representative on the Review of the Clinical Governance in Mental Health of public mental health services in Western Australia (WA) and is a member of the Sustainable Health Independent Oversight Committee. Margaret is also a regular panellist and keynote conference presenter. She credits her family, friends, rescue pets and sprawling garden‑in‑construction with helping her maintain a semblance of sanity.

Associate Professor Michael Wright

Associate Professor Wright is a Yuat Nyoongar man whose ancestral country is known as the Victoria Plains just north of Perth, WA. He has held extensive and varied positions throughout his career, including researcher, Aboriginal mental health practitioner/manager and lecturer higher education. Michael completed his PhD in 2010 and his thesis explored issues of access and responses by services to Aboriginal families living with serious mental illness. Associate Professor Wright has a successful post-doctoral career and his work highly regarded and recognised by peers, both nationally and internationally. He is the lead investigator on several research projects including the Looking Forward, Moving Forward Project (2016-2021), funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Michael‘s research focuses on shared learning and working together in a participatory, non‑linear way and is based upon forming, and coming together in, relationships.  His research and advocacy holds central the tenets of trustworthiness, inclusivity and adaptability so as to ensure that work undertaken with the Aboriginal (Nyoongar) community does not replicate past colonising practices.

Rod Astbury

Rod is a consultant and independent director. His values are humanity, creativity, honesty, fairness and community.

Rod’s family history is farming on his father’s side and education on his mother’s side; he has lived family experience with depression, eating disorders and suicide. Rod worked as a social worker in community mental health, child, family and disability services and was Principal Social Worker, Department of Immigration WA. He has management experience with the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, WA Disability Services Commission and Mental Health Division, WA Health. From 2003-2011 Rod was the Australian Red Cross Blood Service’s general manager WA and the Northern Territory. From 2012-2017 he was the Chief Executive Officer of the WA Association for Mental Health. Rod is Community Co‑Lead of the WA Mental Health Network and a director with the Board of the WA Primary Health Alliance.

Dr Richard Oades

Richard is a human service manager and practitioner, with a strong background in the development of communities. His values include belief in human ability to achieve and community belonging.

Richard was born in the United Kingdom (UK), travelling to Australia at the age of 23. He has degrees in Sociology (Hons), Social Work (B Ap Sc), Community Development (MA) and a Doctorate (Social Sustainability). Richard has worked in mental health, training, child protection, justice (both adult and juvenile) in New South Wales and WA. He has 13 years’ experience in the Kimberley in Justice and Community Development and six years as Manager of state-wide Crisis Care (24 hour service). Richard is currently on three Boards (WA Association for Mental Health, Breakaway Aboriginal Corporation and Morrissey Homestead [aged and disability care]) and several advisory committees. He has three aboriginal children as part of a blended family of six children, the youngest being 30 years. He and his wife live on a 17 acre property near Donnybrook. His interests include golf, wine, music, his dog and fishing. Richard enjoys travel with his wife.

Andy Williams

Andy is a UK trained Mental Health Nurse working in private practice in Broome. He values equitable holistic mental health care across the spectrum of diagnosis and age.

Andy was qualified in the UK as a Mental Health Nurse 25 years ago. He has experienced working in Australia and the UK in the fields of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Schema based therapies. Andy has worked in rehabilitation and community mental health (child, adult and older adult). Andy worked in the first pilot project in the UK, putting mental health nurses into GP practices. He has also worked as a Mental Health Practitioner/Counsellor in Perth, Broome and Halls Creek and he managed an award winning not for profit mental health service before returning to his passion of therapy in private practice. Andy is experienced in service development, clinical governance and accreditation.

Lee Steel

Lee lives in Pingelly, a small remote rural community, and enjoys a peaceful lifestyle that includes a strong connection to her local community. Lee values family, integrity, compassion and respect.

Lee has lived in remote rural communities for over 35 years and is currently the manager of the Pingelly Community Resource Centre. Lee enjoys her work as it allows her to assist in building capacity in both individuals and the community. Lee’s highest priority in life is her family and they are very supportive of both her career and mental health illness. Like many, Lee has struggled with her mental illness on and off for many years and has had long periods of time away from her family and community as there were no or very limited services available locally. Due to her illness Lee has also had to endure institutionalisation and imprisonment in both the Frankland Centre and Bandyup Women’s prison, including long stays in isolation. Lee looks forward to providing independent advice and guidance, particularly from a lived experience view point, to the Mental Health Commissioner regarding major issues affecting people who experience mental distress, their families, carers and supporters, as well as service providers.

Gemma Powell

Gemma is a Mental Health Clinical Nurse Consultant with a passion for providing quality care with compassion and integrity, including being an advocate for providing support and management of mental health and Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) issues concurrently.

Gemma has undertaken a role as a volunteer AOD Counsellor at Cyrenian House and is part of the LGBTIQ+ community. Gemma is a strong believer in recovery orientated mental health practice whereby consumers have the opportunity to be at the centre of their own care and that this care goes beyond a health focus. Gemma also believes in supporting mental health consumers to live a meaningful, quality life that includes social inclusion and being a valued member of society, whereby they can move through their life with a sense of hope and purpose.

Stan Chirenda

Stan is a social worker and teacher by profession and has been working in the mental health and disabilities sector since 2006, in New Zealand and Australia. Stan values respect and empowerment of all individuals, families and communities living with mental health illness and disability.

Stan is currently working at Explorability Inc as an Individual Advocate for individuals and their families or carers, living with disabilities including mental health illness/disorders. Since his entry into WA in 2012 Stan has worked for the Midwest Community Living Association in Geraldton as a NDIS Specialist Coordinator, and for WA Country Health Service Mental Health Older Adult in the Gascoyne Region based at Carnarvon as a Senior Mental Health Professional. He has worked for Communicare as a Facilitator in the Families without Fear Program in the Kwinana-Rockingham projects, as a Senior Community Mental Health Worker with Ruah Community Services in South East Perth, South Perth and as a Coordinator for the Ruah Drop in Centre for homeless people in Northbridge. Stan has also worked for Ngala as a Parenting Coordinator, and has also worked as a Casual Senior Community Support Worker for Senses WA.

Emily Wilding

Emily is a queer Youth and Community Worker, with a passion for providing equal opportunities to young people regardless of difference or disadvantage. Emily values diversity, equality and inclusion.

Emily currently works as a coordinator for a youth drop-in service in Stratton, and coordinates a drop in for LGBTI Young People aged 12-25 in the City of Swan. She is an advocate for LGBTI young people in the community services sector, to address the massive overrepresentation they face in most areas. Emily has a long‑standing interest in the way legislation and policy can impact on the lives of disadvantaged people, and has participated in programs like the 2019 Youth parliament.

Tracey Young

Tracey is a registered nurse with 23 years of experience in the public mental health sector. She values honesty, inclusion, team work, and integrity.

Tracey has worked in many senior roles in Queensland and WA Health. These include the youth, adult and child mental health sectors, and in acute, emergency, community and inpatient roles. Additionally, she has a breadth of experience with homeless mental health services, interagency collaboration, policy and special projects. She views herself as a ‘professional advocate’ for consumers, incorporating families, carers, and associated government and community-based organisations to achieve the individual's recovery goals and ‘a contributing life’. Road trips with a Ute and a tent, snorkelling, and time spent with her five adult children and one fine grandie (all of whom she likes very much) keep her motivated and balanced.

Jessica Nguyen

Jessica has been a pharmacist for just over a decade focusing currently on mental health pharmacy. She values maintaining psychopharmacology excellence in her profession and patient centred service.

Jessica graduated from the University of Western Australia in 2007 with a Master in Pharmacy and hence has been pharmacist for just over a decade focusing currently on mental health pharmacy. Jessica currently works at Fiona Stanley Fremantle Hospitals Group in the department of pharmacy as a senior pharmacist on the adult mental health wards. Jessica has a passion for patient centred medication treatment.

Dr Amit Banerjee

Being a  mental health professional member of the Mental Health Advisory Council is a privilege that gives Amit the opportunity to collaborate with other members from different walks of life to promote mental wellness for the entire West Australian community. Amit values Integrity and honesty and strives for conceptual clarity in mental health.

Amit is a consultant psychiatrist and currently Head of Department of Psychiatry at St John of God Midland Public Hospital. He has worked in public psychiatry in Midland since 2001. Amit is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and has completed a Masters in Addictive Behaviours from Monash University. Amit is a recovery‑oriented general adult psychiatrist with primary interests in social and critical psychiatry, cross-cultural psychiatry and addictions. He likes to critically appraise the delivery of mental health and addiction services. Amit’s forte is his understanding of the sociology of mental health and the addictions. Amit’s favourite quote on mental health comes from David Ingleby’s book on Critical Psychiatry: The Politics of Mental Health (1980). ‘Mental illness, “we are told” is a major problem of our time. But what exactly is this problem, and why do we seem so bad at solving it?’


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