The Politics of Mental Health


The Politics of Mental Health

Why isn’t providing adequate mental health services a no brainer?

Half of all Australians will experience mental ill-health in their lifetime. The prevalence of mental illness in young people is on the rise. The World Health Organization confirms that depression will overtake heart disease as the number one cause of disease burden worldwide by 2030. Yet mental health receives only 2% of the global health care budget, and even in countries like Australia, awareness and rhetoric outstrip funding by miles. Providing appropriate mental health services for people who need them should be the #1 priority in health care, so why is it so hard for people with mental illness to get a fair deal?

With unique insight into the workings of government, and lived experience of mental illness, British journalist and political aide Alastair Campbell has become a leading advocate for action on mental health in the UK. He will be joined by a panel of experts and politicians to share ideas on what can be done to improve mental health service provision and the mental health outcomes of all Australians.

Event details


Monday, 22 July 2019
6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

City Recital Hall
Angel Place, Sydney

The City Recital Hall is accessible by wheelchair and assisted listening devices may be used in the venue. Please visit the venue website for more information.


Tuesday 23 July
6:30 pm – 7:45 pm

Melbourne Town Hall
Swanston St, Melbourne

The Main Hall at Melbourne Town Hall is accessible by wheelchair and assisted listening devices are able to be used. Please visit the venue website for more information.


    Alastair Campbell picture

    Alastair Campbell

    Alastair Campbell is a writer, communicator and strategist best known for his role as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman, press secretary and director of communications and strategy. Still active in politics and campaigns in Britain and overseas, he now splits his time between writing, speaking, charities and consultancy.

    He has written 14 books in the past ten years including a personal memoir on depression and the pursuit of happiness.

    Campbell is an ambassador for the Time to Change campaign to raise awareness about mental illness, ambassador for Alcohol Concern, patron of Maytree, the country’s only charity for the suicidal, and of Kidstime, which supports the children of mentally ill parents. He co-founded the all-party campaign, Equality4MentalHealth which secured an extra £600 million for mental health services.

    In 2008, Alastair featured in an award-winning one-hour documentary, Cracking Up on BBC2 about his own breakdown in 1986. Both the film and his first novel, All In The Mind, won considerable praise from mental health charities and campaign groups, which lead to his appointment as Mind Champion of the Year in 2009.

    Professor Patrick McGorry picture

    Professor Patrick McGorry

    Professor Patrick McGorry is the Executive Director of Orygen, Professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, and a Founding Director of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation (headspace). He is a world-leading researcher in the area of early psychosis and youth mental health, and has been directly involved in research and clinical care for homeless people, refugees and asylum seekers.

    His work has played a critical role in the development of safe, effective treatments for and innovative research into the needs of young people with emerging mental disorders, notably psychotic and severe mood disorders. He has also played a major part in the transformational reform of mental health services to better serve the needs of young people with mental ill-health.

    Professor McGorry was a key architect of the headspace model and has been successful in advocating with colleagues for its national expansion. He has successfully advocated for the establishment of a national early psychosis programme based on the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre model. He is frequently asked to advise on early intervention and youth mental health policy both nationally and internationally.

    Christopher Pyne picture

    Christopher Pyne

    Christopher Pyne was elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of Sturt in 1993. He retired from the Parliament in 2019.  In 2006 he founded headspace: the Youth Mental Health Initiative.

    He was the Australian Minister for Defence responsible for delivering the $200 billion build-up of Australia’s military capability, the largest in Australia’s peacetime history. Christopher has also been a Minister in the Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison Governments serving as Minister for Ageing; Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Industry Innovation and Science and Minister for Defence Industry.

    In his time as a Minister he has delivered the National Innovation and Science Agenda, reformed the National Curriculum, introduced compulsory literacy and numeracy testing for Australian teaching graduates and expanded phonics teaching in remote schools in northern Australia.

    Christopher is the author of “A Letter to my Children”, published in 2015. Before entering Parliament, Christopher practised as a solicitor.

    Dee Madigan picture

    Dee Madigan

    Appearing in Melbourne only

    Dee Madigan is a social marketing and political campaigning expert. She runs her own ad agency Campaign Edge with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Darwin. She has worked on 11 election campaigns including the 2015 and 2017 Qld State elections as well the the 2016 ACT and NT elections and the 2018 Longman by-election. Last year she was a finalist in the Mumbrella Australian Ad of the Year for her campaign No-one Deserves A Serve to stop the abuse of retail staff. Her younger sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia aged 19 and her older sister is a social worker who specialises in mental health.

    Helen Christensen picture

    Helen Christensen

    Appearing in Sydney only

    Scientia Professor Helen Christensen is a health and medical researcher specialising in suicide prevention, e-mental health and mental health epidemiology. Since 2012, Professor Christensen has been the Director and Chief Scientist of the Black Dog Institute and Professor of Mental Health, Faculty of Medicine at UNSW Sydney. The Black Dog Institute is Australia’s only independent medical research institute which focuses on mental health across the lifespan. Black Dog translates the latest globally recognised research into evidence-based clinical services, education, training and e-mental health tools for people, workplaces and schools across Australia.

    Sarah Dingle picture

    Sarah Dingle

    MC - Sydney only

    Sarah Dingle is a dual Walkley Award-winning investigative reporter and presenter with the ABC, working across radio and TV current affairs. She’s investigated everything from indigenous affairs and human rights to defence and sport. Her work has also won the Walkley Foundation’s Our Watch award for reporting on violence against women and children, the UN Media Peace Prizes, the Amnesty Media Prizes, the Voiceless Media Prize, and the Australian College of Educators Media prize. Her radio documentaries for the ABC’s Background Briefing have been recognised by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Sports Commission Awards and the National Press Club. In 2010 she was the ABC's Andrew Olle Scholar.

    Beverley O'Connor picture

    Beverley O'Connor

    MC - Melbourne only

    Beverley O'Connor presents The World on ABC News 24. Beverley has been a journalist and presenter with the ABC for more than twenty years. Her passion for international news has had her based with Australia Network for the past few years, broadcasting into Asia and the Pacific. In 2013, Beverley was an inaugural Asia Pacific Journalism Fellow and travelled and reported from China. Beverley has also worked in radio, spending five years as a presenter on 774 ABC Radio. Prior to the ABC, Beverley worked as a breakfast presenter on commercial radio and had a stint at Channel 7.