Day 1 - Thursday 7 November 2019

Catherine McGregor AM - Keynote

Freelance Writer. Broadcaster. Author.
Catherine McGregor is a freelance writer, broadcaster and author. Catherine served as an officer, in operational and strategic roles, in the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force for over three decades. She was a strategic adviser and speech writer to every Chief of Army from 1999 to 2014. She subsequently served as Director of Research and Analysis for the Chief of Air Force.  Her ability to communicate complexity with simplicity and style has inspired collective action and change. 

Catherine has written widely on politics, global security issues and cricket for Fairfax and News Limited. She has appeared as a regular guest on The Drum, 7.30 and Lateline. She serves on the Boards of Grassroots Cricket and Stand Tall4 PTSD.

Catherine received the Order of Australia (Military Division) in 2012.

The 2018 Sydney Theatre Company stage production, Still Point Turning: The Catherine McGregor Story, canvasses her story of courage and authenticity.


Andrew Dempster - Keynote

Economic Analyst. Mental Health Advisory Consultant. Advocate.
Andrew leads KPMG Australia’s Mental Health Advisory business. He works with private businesses, not for profit organisations and industries to realise their role in promoting the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians.

Andrew led the development of the seminal ‘Investing to Save’ report commissioned by Mental Health Australia. The report provides compelling and evidence-based recommendations to improve mental health and wellbeing and create a positive economic return on investment.

Andrew is passionate about improving health and wellbeing and is dedicated to realising an Australian community that is at the forefront of providing innovative, high quality, world leading mental health services.

Andrew has a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Bachelor of Commerce (Management), Graduate Certificate in Psychiatric Nursing, and Bachelor of Nursing.  


Mary Burgess - Keynote

Public advocate.
Mary Burgess is the Public Advocate for Queensland.

Mary is a former lawyer with a career in government and public policy. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1985 and in her early career, practised as a lawyer in generalist legal practices.

She has worked for the Prisoners’ Legal Service Inc., a community legal centre, providing legal support and advocacy for prisoners and their families about issues related to their incarceration. For eight years Mary also worked in the Research and Prevention Division of the Criminal Justice Commission (as it then was), undertaking legal and criminological research.

From 1997 to 1999 Mary was a part-time commissioner with the Queensland Corrective Services Commission. She also spent six years in Law and Justice Policy in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, first as a policy officer and later as a director.

More recently, Mary worked with Legal Aid Queensland. She was the Executive Services Director, part of the executive management team and was responsible for leading the agency’s strategic policy, communication and community legal education activities.


Cherie McGregor - Panelist

Change advocate. Lived experience practitioner
Chérie McGregor has over three decades of experience in community services. A lived experience practitioner and a strong advocate for evidence-based, person centred systems and services, Chérie is able to combine her personal experiences with her professional skills in sector and community development.

Chérie has worked within Queensland Health, PHN and academia in a variety of roles across regional Queensland. Her work reflects a commitment to Intentional Peer Support; values-based practice; developmental approaches; and facilitating experiential learning and community engagement processes.

Chérie is currently leading consultations to develop the Queensland Lived Experience Workforce Network (Q-LEWN) which will support and advocate for lived experience workforce.

Brooke Starr - Panelist

Lived experience practitioner. Psychotherapist.
Brooke Starr is a lived experience worker, supervisor and psychotherapist. She leads the re.imagine today project for the Queensland Alliance for Mental Health.

Brooke has special interest in extreme and altered states of consciousness, psychosis, varying adaptions to trauma and the dehumanising effects that diagnosis and systems can have on people and culture. As a private psychotherapy practitioner, Brooke helps her clients move beyond the space of recovery. She firmly believes in creating opportunities for more integrated transformative experiences.

Brooke’s very own lived experience means she believes in a mental health culture, where responses to trauma are not viewed negatively, but rather seen as an opportunity for transformation, wisdom, and healing.

Brooke has worked as a Peer Worker, Senior Practice leader, Peer Coach, Group Facilitator, and Project Lead. She is proud to say that her own lived experience informs her work and psychotherapy practice.


Ailsa Rayner - Panelist

Optimist. Survivor. Lived experience advocate
Ailsa draws on her lived experience of 36 years as a consumer of mental health services to encourage best practice in service delivery and safer, stronger communities.

Ailsa believes upholding human rights and supporting people in distress will help to individuals to live original, thriving lives.

She is member of Mental Health Australia’s National Register, the Consumer Health Forum, Health Consumers Queensland, and other local communities and groups. Ailsa is an avid social media user of numerous organic networks to promote human rights and build capacity throughout Australia and internationally. She lives by the simple motto: Fall seven times, get up eight!

Ailsa has a Bachelor of Psychology. 


James Hill - Panelist

Mental health advocate and educator.
James Hill is a passionate mental health advocate and 2018 LIFE suicide prevention award finalist.

His battle with mental illness highlighted the need for workplaces to acknowledge and address the stigma surrounding mental health.In partnership with his colleague Aaron McCann and backed by the CEO of Energy Queensland, they developed the workplace role of Mental Health Advocate and delivered the ‘Mates in Energy’ pilot program which provided employees with internal support to deal with mental health challenges. The program achieved top three position at the 2018 AHRI Workplace Mental Health awards.

James is a Mental Health First Aid instructor, winner of the ‘Jeff Cheverton Individual Award’ at 2019 Open Minds Mental Health Achievement Awards, and a speaker for Beyond Blue.


Madonna King - Facilitator

Journalist. Broadcaster. Author.
Madonna King is an award-winning journalist, author and commentator. An accomplished investigative reporter, Madonna’s experience and insights mean she can ask the hard questions and elicit meaningful answers. Madonna leads hypotheticals and facilitates conferences on topics as varied as education, health, business, law and politics. She has a weekly social and political column in Fairfax publications and is a regular commentator on ABC’s The Drum and breakfast television. Madonna is the author of 10 books, including two best-sellers Being 14 and Fathers and Daughters. She is the biographer of Australian of the Year, Professor Ian Frazer and former Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

A fellow of the prestigious World Press Institute, Madonna has served as a visiting fellow at the Queensland University of Technology, and on the Walkley Advisory Board for Journalism. In 2018, Madonna chaired the Queensland Government’s Anti-Cyber Bullying Taskforce.

 Her website www.madonnaking.com.au provides further detail.


Day 2 - Friday 8 November 2019

Carmel Tebbutt - Keynote

Leader. Campaigner. Advocate.
Carmel Tebbutt, the first woman Deputy Premier of NSW, is a leading advocate for reform in mental health systems and services. Carmel served her state and her community as the Deputy Premier and Minister for Health (2009 – 2011), Minister for Community Services, Disability Services and Youth (2002-2005), and Minister for Juvenile Justice (1999 – 2002).

Currently, the CEO of the Mental Health Coordinating Council, the peak body for community managed mental health organisations in NSW, Carmel is a successful campaigner who creates a space for service providers and service users to achieve real reform.

Carmel was a Member of the NSW Parliament for 17 years serving in both the Legislative Council and as the Member for Marrickville. She has a Bachelor of Economics.

Professor Patrick McGorry AO - Keynote

Advocate. Researcher. Psychiatrist.
Professor Patrick McGorry is a psychiatrist, researcher, and tireless advocate for innovation and reform in the mental health system. He is Executive Director of Orygen (the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health), Professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and a Founding Director of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation (headspace).

Professor McGorry has published extensively in specialist literature and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science.

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 mental disorders. He has been instrumental in leading transformational reform of youth mental health services. He currently chairs the Expert Advisory Committee to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.  

Professor McGorry was the 2010 Australian of the Year.

Bri Lee - Panellist

Author. Campaigner. Lawyer.
Bri Lee is an author, lawyer, editor and campaigner based in Brisbane. Her first book, Eggshell Skull, explored the entrenched and often legislated sexism that exists in the legal industry and criminal justice system. The memoir prompted a campaign, led by Bri and some fearless letter writers, to change the Queensland Criminal Code.  Despite strong opposition from within the legal establishment, in mid-2019, the Attorney-General announced a review into the legal excuses used by individuals accused of rape.

Bri has appeared on Radio National, Late Night Live with Phillip Adams, and been published in Griffith Review.  She was the inaugural recipient of the Kat Muscat Fellowship in 2016, and one of the 2017 Griffith Review Fellows. Her second book will be released in November 2019.

Bri has a Bachelor of Law (Hons) and Arts (Mandarin) and is currently completing her Masters in Creative Writing.

Hetty Johnston - Panellist

Leader. Advocate. Campaigner.
Hetty Johnston is Australia’s leading child protection advocate. For 30 years she has campaigned to protect children from the crimes of paedophilia and sexual assault. Her fearless ability to break through the barriers of silence and stigma lead her to establish Bravehearts – an organisation which aims to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child.

Hetty has successfully campaigned for law reform at state and federal levels, authored national awareness campaigns and education materials, and created safe places for families and children to seek counselling and support.  A skilled communicator and successful businesswoman, Hetty is a trusted community advocate and respected campaigner.

Hetty was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2014, for service to the community through a range of organisations promoting the welfare and rights of children. In 2015 she was named the Queensland Australian of the Year.

Georgia Ash - Panellist

Clinical Psychologist
Georgia is a registered Clinical Psychologist and an advocate for Australia’s veteran population. She is currently the National Psychological Services Manager at Mates4Mates, a service supporting current and ex-Australian Defence Force members and their families.

Georgia is no stranger to advocacy. She has appeared on 2GB Sydney, 4BC Brisbane, 3AW Melbourne and 612 ABC, to raise awareness of the impact that the Defence Force Service has on the veteran population, and the benefits of support services provided by organisations such as Mates4Mates.

Utilising both physical and psychological strategies, Georgia helps individuals build resilience, meaningful connections and achieve a balanced lifestyle. Georgia believes that this is key to a successful transition from military life to the community and overcoming mental health issues in the long term.

Georgia holds a BBeh Sc., BPsych (Hons), MClinPysch

Bill Gye OAM - Speaker

CEO, Community Mental Health Australia
Bill Gye leads Community Mental Health Australia, the unified voice for over 800 community-based, non-government organisations that work with mental health consumers and carers across the nation. He has held leadership roles in the not for profit sector, with a major focus on mental health services in his career spanning over 40 years. 

Bill overcame some lived experience challenges which equipped him with the insight and desire to influence positive mental wellness throughout his career.

He believes people are happiest when participating in the life of small communities. In 2014, Bill received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his commitment and service to the local community for more than two decades.

Bill has a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) and a Master in Cognitive Science and is a qualified Body/ Emotional Release Therapist.

Karen Thomas - Speaker

Qld State Manager, NEAMI National
Karen Thomas is the Queensland State Manager of community mental health service, NEAMI National. She has over 20 years’ experience in the community sector in Victoria, Tasmania, and Queensland.

She has designed, developed, coordinated and evaluated mental health, alcohol and other drugs, youth, and homelessness programs.

Karen works to support inclusion and opportunities for consumers, team members, management, partners, and stakeholders to co-design services and gain skills and experience to support future endeavours.

Gillian Yearsley - Speaker

Executive Director, Northern Queensland PHN
Gillian Yearsley is the Executive Director of Clinical Governance and Performance for the Northern Queensland Primary Health Network. She works with the local community across north Queensland to develop a geographically appropriate approach to primary health commissioning, including the mental health services.

Gillian’s passion and expertise in mental health stems from her frontline experience as a Registered Mental Health Nurse. She has over 30 years’ experience in the fields of mental health, primary health and hospital-based services.

Gillian has a Master’s Degree in Advanced Professional Practice in Health Care.

Mark Schmitt - Speaker

Thrive in Work
Mark is the Project Manager for Thrive in Work, which focuses on changing the lives of employees through better workplace mental health.

He conducts psychologically focused workplace health and safety audits, and implements mental health and wellbeing training programs for a diverse range of businesses within the Cairns community.

Mark holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Arts from Murdoch University, and a Diploma of Business from AIT, certificated Workplace Health and Safety advisor,

He is a qualified Mental Health Australia First Aid trainer, and English as Second Language teacher. Mark speaks three languages and is currently studying psychology.


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