Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership

Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership

MHV AGM 2022 address by Board Chair Damian Ferrie

Nov, 2022

This speech was presented to the Mental Health Victoria Annual General Meeting 2022 by Board Chair, Damian Ferrie.

I would like to say a few words as the Chair of Mental Health Victoria, but I will be brief. I think Allan has very successfully positioned what our role is, and I’m really delighted to be speaking to you today.

There are a range of things that are in the DNA of our organisation. As you know, our organisation, and its precursor organisation VicServ, was started to respond to changing needs within the broader mental health system – in the case of VicServ at the very beginning of deinstitutionalisation.

Mental Health Victoria was founded to address the fundamental need for a peak organisation in the state to provide a voice – a voice which is effective, which not contribute to the partitioning and the lack of collaboration within the sector. Thus Mental Health Victoria was born.

It was in that context that we learned, and we gained a voice that, as Allan has generously acknowledged, was able to lead the Government in in recognising that we had a system that was fragmented.

It needed a new approach.

And it was in that context that we have operated over the last five years as a Board. We recognise that we are kind of coming into a new era, and I wanted to acknowledge the contribution of Gus Clelland, who, of course, after five years has left.

It's with great joy that I can introduce to her very first AGM, Marcelle Mogg, who probably needs no introduction to any members, because I know she has been very active in meeting you and listening to you. So a very warm welcome, Marcelle, to your very first AGM, and may this be the first of many.

We recognise as a Board that we are going into a phase of implementation. Yes, we do want to stand with Government and support Government, but we are not Government.

I was so pleased that we were able to, with our terrific staff,  consult with members over the last two or three months, produce that document that was distributed recently: The First 100 Days, a mental health sector brief to an incoming Victorian Government. If you didn't have a chance to read this document, we have tried very ethically and with great integrity to reflect the views that our members spoke to.

I wanted to draw attention to the six key themes in this document that you spoke to us about. These will continue to influence the strategy of the Board and the organisation, and form the basis of the conversation that we will have as a key advocate for you to Government.

These are the concerns that you raised:

There's concerns about the fundamental strategy underpinning the reform process to date.

Many of you have spoken to us about the need for Government to have a plan. The Royal Commission gave us, you know, 14,000 pages of evidence of recommendations.

We are committed to building a new and integrated plan. We call on the State Government to work with us to work with our sector in the development of a strategy. We need to be clear about what we're doing, why we're doing it, how we're going to do it and to be really clear in that process.

The second theme you raise is partially related to COVID-19. The system disruption and the widespread structural uncertainty about funding continues to cause many of our members great anxiety, particularly smaller services. You are vulnerable.

The third: structural workforce limitations have worsened throughout the last 12 months.

This fourth one is an important one, and you know it. It relates to the pressure on mainstream services. While the demand for many services has increased, we recognise that we are almost in a permanent state of crisis, and that's what you made very clear to us.

There are concerns about structural gaps in child and youth mental health services, and the ongoing uncertainty about the status of community manage mental health reminds a key concern for our sector.

And of course, finally: unsustainable demand on emergency services. Anyone that is closely associated with the acute sector knows the very significant demand, but also the human cost that is involved, and I know that Pat Mcgorry was very disappointed he wasn't able to speak here today as he was very anxious to speak with me this morning, and to make it clear that we are in great crisis. He is seeing that face to face, not only in his work on a day to day basis, but as a key advocate for our sector as well.

Allan has already mentioned the number of key themes that are important in the rebuilding of the system and the importance of understanding that as a sector we have the maturity to be able to collaborate in a sophisticated manner that means we are not pitted against one another.

We call on Government again, and we will work with Government, particularly the incoming government to really work with us in formalising that process.

I really commend this document to you. It will be the document that we will be taking to the new Minister for Mental Health and the new Premier and Treasurer. Your input into that has really been very valuable indeed.

The organisation continues to operate great expectation that it delivers. Our treasurer will speak to you shortly about the financials.

We are a very modest organisation. We would call on Government to continue to invest in us, as we judiciously and carefully respond to the needs that Government has to ensure that we can have a sophisticated, respectful conversation between all parts of our sector.

So if you'd allow me just to conclude with an indulgent moment, I did want to say something about some thinking that we've been doing as an organisation. We understand the reforms that you have all gone through in your own organisations to ensure that you remain relevant and professional in the delivery of your services, and we to understand that as a peak organisation we not only want to give good example, we want to show that we're capable of adapting as well

When we transferred from VicServ some five years ago, we recognised the importance and the big change that was happening, coming from an association into a company limited by guarantee. We wanted to do that in a sensible way that meant that members felt very supported.

I will come back to you early in the New Year as we think about the calling of a Special General Meeting to change our constitution, so that we can move to a skills-based Board. Ultimately most charities have done this. Certainly any charity that I'm associated with as has, or is in the process of doing this. We want diversity across our board. We recognise that the notion of representative elections sometimes present perverse outcomes and ensure that we can't get the diversity and the voices that we need round the table.

That's a conversation we'll have with you early in the New Year, and I'll talk more about that next year. But I did want to flag that we are thinking about that, and we look forward to your input into that process of continuing to remain accountable to you in a way that serves our organisation, and ensures that we can faithfully represent all voices in our governance.

Thank you.

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