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Mental Health Advisory Council

Terms of Reference | Annual Report 2019-2020

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 mhac@mhc.wa.gov.au.

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 of a number of committees, including the Forensic Mental Health Sub Network Steering Committee and the National Peer Support Guidelines Development Steering Committee.

Margaret was the consumer/carer representative on the Review of the Clinical Governance in Mental Health of Public Mental Health Services in Western Australia 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.

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 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 Western Australia. 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 on the Board of Morrissey Homestead (aged and disability care) and a member of several advisory committees. He is the former Director of the Western Australian Association for Mental Health.

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, fishing and 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 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.  

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 centre 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 almost 15 years, following graduation from the University of Western Australia in 2007 with a Master’s degree in Pharmacy. Jessica has a focus on mental health pharmacy and  values maintaining psychopharmacology excellence in her profession and patient centred service.

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.

Patricia Councillor

Patricia is a strong Yamaji Nyarlu (woman) originally from Meekatharra. Patricia has been working in mental health since 2009 and working as a mental health practitioner and counsellor since 2013. Patricia has been a carer for a family member with disability and mental health issues for thirty-two years.

Patricia values respect especially of our Elders, sharing of knowledge, commitment to helping and supporting others, and compassion. Patricia is currently working as Service Manager for a step up step down mental health service in Geraldton and servicing the Midwest region.

Patricia holds a bachelor degree in mental health and various certificates related to human and community services, and has worked in government, non-government and Aboriginal controlled organisations. Patricia has served on many boards and committees including Indigenous Allied Health Australia, Meekatharra Aboriginal Reference Group and Wungen Kartup Carer Consumer Advisory group. Since 2012, Patricia has been delivering Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid around the state to community and agency staff in remote areas. Her most recent workshop was delivered to prisoners  in Greenough Prison.

Patricia’s journey into mental health came about due to one of her family members becoming mentally unwell and the hoops she had to jump through to get the correct and appropriate support for them. She now shares her resources and pathways into mental health services with whoever asks and tries to keep updated on all the resources and services available. Patricia believes mental health is talked about more now than it ever was, and it’s just about finding the correct service for whoever needs it. For Patricia, as an Aboriginal person, it is about finding services that are culturally appropriate to help her mob that little bit more. 

Paul Parfitt

Paul Parfitt is a Balladong/Wilman Noongar Marmun with connections to many Noongar and Yamatji people throughout WA. He has worked all his life doing a range of different jobs such as Shearing, Boilermaker-Welder, Aboriginal Education Worker, Aboriginal Health Worker, Aboriginal Alcohol and Other Drug Worker, Quitline Aboriginal Liaison Worker and Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Officer that involved family tracing and uniting families who have been separated since childhood and never known or met their parents. This particular work of re-uniting families together was delivered Australia wide and globally, including over-seas locations such as Scotland, England and America.

Paul’s training qualifications include; Boiler Maker-Welder Trades Certification, Aboriginal Health/ Mental Health Certificate IV, Aboriginal AOD Worker Certificate III and an Advanced Diploma in Aboriginal AOD Worker Narrative Therapy Counsellor. Paul is a father, husband, brother, grand-father and Noongar Elder who currently resides in Northam and is proud to represent his community and families. Paul has worked in both Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and mainstream Government Organisations for well over 40 years and still has the passion and commitment to helping and supporting Aboriginal individuals, families and communities.

Paul is a Stolen Generations survivor who Co-Chaired the inaugural WA Stolen Generations Committee and the National Stolen Generations Committee for over 10 years, during this period they were instrumental with their involvement and implementing the National Sorry Day Apology. Through this process Paul has built up the strength and resilience to overcome many challenges and continues to advocate strongly for his people to highlight and address the many struggles and disparities they experience in their lives today.

Virginia Catterall 

Virginia is a dedicated consumer representative and system advocate in the mental health, alcohol and other drug (AOD) and criminal justice sectors.  She works as a consumer representative for Start Court, the Forensic Mental Health Sub Network Steering Committee, the Forensic Community Partnership Advisory Group and as an AOD consumer representative for North Metro Mental Health, Public Health and Dental Services. Virginia is currently on the system advocacy group, Mental Health Matters 2 Steering Group. Previously, Virginia has worked for the Alcohol & Other Drug Consumer & Community Coalition (AODCCC) as Treasurer and Vice Chair. Currently she also works for Avivo on their Experts by Experience Council. Finally, she was the recipient of the Lived Experience Impact and Sustainability Award sponsored by the Mental Health Fellowship of WA at the Western Australian Association of Mental Health Awards in 2020.

Virginia holds a business degree and a Masters certificate in Project Management and has a significant background working in these fields and is always looking for ways to increase her knowledge and expertise in the fields she is now working in.

Pauline Cole

Pauline is a psychiatrist working in private practice as a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) guided psychotherapist. DBT is a treatment with an overarching recovery focus. She is a fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. Pauline trained as a doctor in the UK and migrated to Australia in 1989. Her career includes rural and remote general practice for 12 years, followed by psychiatry training. Since completion of psychiatry training Pauline has worked for 7 years as a community psychiatrist in the public sector and for 10 years in a specialist service for people with Borderline Personality Disorder. Pauline's personal journey has been impacted by intergenerational trauma and mental health problems, witnessing the impact of suicide upon her family and a lived experience of mental illness.

Pauline’s personal and professional experience has afforded multiple perspectives on the difficulties within the mental health system, both within the private and public sectors. She recognises the major structural gaps in prevention and community services that need to be urgently filled. Pauline has a passion for advocating for much greater dissemination of evidence-based treatments, early interventions and prevention strategies.

Pauline believes that much can be achieved via research-based practice and genuine compassion, noting that compassion may be defined as ‘acknowledging pain and responding with kindness’ (Harris, 2021).

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