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Our Trainers

Alison Bell

Alison Bell

Allison Bell has a background in nursing and psychology, and has worked in the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) field since 1987. Alison has been involved in the development of motivational interviewing since 1989, when she became involved in researching the clinical application of the model in collaboration with Dr Stephen Rollnick at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

Alison has published several papers on the application of motivational interviewing in broader health and welfare settings, and works as a consultant to a number of organisations including the Mental Health Coordinating Council, Department of Education and Communities, Department of Corrective Services, NSW Institute of Psychiatry, Juvenile Justice, Community Services, Centre for Community Welfare Training and the College of Nursing.

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Allison Kokany

Allison Kokany is an independent mental health consumer consultant with extensive experience in systemic advocacy at a state and national level, as well as individual support and advocacy as a consumer consultant in psychiatric hospitals.  Allison was chairperson of the NSW Consumer Advisory Group (NSW CAG) for 6 years.

She currently holds the following positions:

  • Official Visitor
  • Deputy Chair of Health Consumers NSW
  • Member of the National Register for Mental Health Consumers and Carers
  • NSW Consumer representative on the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (NMHCCF).
  • Consumer representative on the National Standards for Mental Health Services Implementation Steering Committee.
  • Consumer representative on the Forensic Mental Health Information Development Expert Advisory Panel (FMHIDEAP)
  • Consumer representative on the National Scoping Study on the Implementation of National Standards for Mental Health Services Project Advisory Group
  • Consumer representative proxy on the Safety Quality Partnerships' Standing Committee

Consumer representative on The Mental Health Services (TheMHS) Conference Organising Committee

Arana Pearson

Arana Pearson

Arana Pearson is director and principal trainer for Keepwell Ltd in Australia and New Zealand, an organisation that specialises in delivering experiential learning and recovery-based training to the mental health sector.

Arana is an educator, musician and writer who became involved in the mental health service sector some years after his own experience of using mental health services in New Zealand. He was the first chairman for the New Zealand National Consumer Advisory Group's project to counter stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness: Like Minds Like Mine.

Arana is the director of Mad Pride™ concerts throughout Australasia. In 2005 he was an invited performer at the Yale University International Conference on Mental Health in the United States of America.

In 2008 he featured on the Australian television program "Enough Rope" hosted by Andrew Denton about the experience of hearing voices, recovery and mental illness. As a voice hearer himself, Arana has advocated for better understanding, acceptance and support for people who hear voices in Australia and New Zealand over the past 14 years.

Arana is co-chair of the NZ Hearing Voices National Network and represented them at the First World Congress on Voice Hearing in Maastricht, Netherlands in 2009.

Bradley Foxlewin

Bradley Foxlewin

Bradley Foxlewin currently holds the role of Deputy Commissioner of the Mental Health Commission of NSW. He is an independent mental health consumer consultant, member and past chair of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Mental Health Consumer Network. Bradley works as a trainer, group-worker, consultant and researcher, all from a consumer-first position.

Bradley has previously worked, over a period of 20 years, as a manager in community services, a counsellor for young men who have survived sexual abuse as children and he has had significant input into the development of men's services in the ACT.

Bradley's extensive qualifications include MAppSc (Social Ecology- Major: Organisational Change), Cert. IV in TAE, Dip: Community Studies (Welfare) with Honours, Dip: Community Services (Mental Health).

Cate Steere

Cate Steere

Cate Steere utilises her lived experience as a carer to inform the delivery of training in mental health peer work. She has more than ten years’ experience as a trainer and facilitator for MHCC, TAFE NSW, and delivering Mental Health First Aid.

Cate is able to draw on a wealth of experience working in the community sector including Coordinating the Compeer Friends (St Vincent de Paul) and Carer Support (ARAFMI) programs. She was also Community Participation Coordinator for Wingecarribee Health Service and carer representative on a number of committees in NSW.

Cate was also a carer representative on the Mental Health Connect project reference group for MHCC. She holds a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, a Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work and a Diploma of Community Services.

Chris Keyes

Chris Keyes

Chris has worked in the mental health sector in Australia and the UK since 2000, in front line support, Occupational Therapy, project management and leadership roles across various recovery programs.


Chris holds qualifications in Occupational Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Advanced Diploma in Community Sector management, Diplomas in Community Services and Project Management and Cert IV Training and Assessment, Cert IV in Mental Health. She has been developing and facilitating training for the community sector workforce since 2010.


Chris has a commitment to workforce development and coordinated the NSW Aboriginal Careers in Mental Health (ACIMH) program and the National Mental Health Peer Work Qualification Development Project.

Deborah Green

Deborah Green

BA (Comms), Grad Cert in Adult Ed, Cert IV TAE

Deborah trains Mental Health Connect from the perspective of someone who has personal experience of mental distress and recovery. As well as training Mental Health Connect, Deborah has experience delivering training in stress management, software systems and office procedures and has worked in event management and communications roles in the higher education and not-for-profit sectors. Her work is also informed by her experience of growing up in rural NSW and her experience of caring for her mother who had dementia.

 

Gabrielle Le Bon

Gabrielle Le Bon

Gabrielle Le Bon is a highly experienced trainer delivering both nationally recognised qualifications and professional development workshops for MHCC, TAFE and in adult education colleges in NSW. She has also developed and delivered training in smoking cessation for mental health workers and utilising lived experience in mental health work.

Gabrielle has over 20 years' experience in social work and mental health, working across youth, homelessness and AOD services. She co-authored articles on children and families in both the Journal of Social Inclusion and Communities Children and Families Australia and won the Mental Health Association of NSW Community Champion Award in 2013.

Gabrielle is also passionate about the connection between healing and the arts, which led to working with a group of people with lived experience to create the 'Healing Voices Choir'.

Heather Nowak

Heather Nowak

Heather has a passion for using her lived experience for the improvement of planning, design and delivery of services for people living with mental health conditions. She has had first-hand experience of the challenges faced by consumers accessing services in regional and metropolitan areas. Her extensive work as a trainer serves to ensure that current and future consumers have a smoother journey and experience optimal recovery outcomes, supported by well-equipped service providers.

Heather has gained considerable experience in the sector through her peer work with the Carer Wellness Centre, Mental Illness Fellowship of SA, as a Beyond Blue Ambassador and Consumer Representative for the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration. She was also a member of the National Reference Group for the development of the Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work.

Heather holds a Diploma of Community Services, Certificate IV TAE and Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work. She was also received the Dr Margaret Tobin Outstanding Contribution Award in 2011.

Irene Gallagher

Irene Gallagher

Irene Gallagher has played an active role in the consumer and carer movement for more than 20 years. She is passionate about using her voice as a consumer and supporting others on their recovery journey to find hope and lead purposeful and meaningful lives.

Irene has acted as a Consumer and Carer representative on a number of local and state committees including the Board of Trustees of NSW CAG, Deputy Chair of the Consumer Worker Committee (NSW CAG), and subcommittee member with MHDAO.

Irene is a qualified psychotherapist and certified mindfulness practitioner. She has worked as a program manager and counsellor in both community managed mental health services and private practice. Irene is also an experienced trainer, currently working as a trainer of the Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Work for MHCC, Education Coordinator for the Recovery College and Consumer Partnerships Coordinator for South East Sydney LHD.

Judy Atkinson

Judy Atkinson

Professor Judy Atkinson identifies as a Jiman / Bundjalung (Aboriginal Australian) woman who also has Anglo-Celtic, and German heritage.  

With a PhD from QUT, Judy's primary academic and research focus is in the area of violence and relational trauma, and healing for Indigenous, and indeed all peoples. She developed the We Al-li program which was used as a foundation stone for the Masters in Indigenous Studies (wellbeing); the undergraduate degree Trauma and Healing, and the Diploma of Community Recovery.

Judy's book: Trauma Trails - Recreating Songlines: The transgenerational effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia, provides context to the life stories of people who have moved/been moved from their country in a process that has created trauma trails, and the changes that can occur in the lives of people who make connections with each other and share their stories of healing. 

Judy retired at the end of 2010 so she can focus on writing and working with communities in Australia, Timor Leste, and Papua New Guinea in educational - healing work, what she calls educaring.

 

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Lisa Thorpy

Lisa holds a Bachelor of Arts (Humanities), Master of Social Work, an Advanced Diploma Community Management, and a Certificate 4 in Training and Assessment.

In addition to training with MHCC, Lisa currently works as a Case Manager in Community Mental Health Services in a rural town in NSW. Prior to this she has worked across a range of non-government sectors including in the mental health sector with adults and children, with Aboriginal communities across a range of programs, with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, in the housing sector, the women’s health and sexual assault sectors, the disability sector and in sexuality education. She has also held a number of leadership positions on committees and boards of management in the community sector. Lisa is committed to cultural change within the mental health sector and to supporting mainstream’s understanding of mental distress.

Lorna Downes

Lorna Downes

Lorna Downes has worked supporting carers in the community mental health and disability sectors since 2002. She is an experienced and passionate trainer of Cert IV Mental Health Peer Work and of a range of short courses in recovery-oriented practice, trauma informed care and advocacy. Lorna holds Cert IV Mental Health Peer Work, Cert IV Training and Assessment and Diploma of Counselling and Communication. Her work is informed by lived experience of growing up in a family affected by mental health problems and substance use.

Mary OHagan

Mary OHagan

Mary O'Hagan has extensive experience as a trainer, delivering workshops and talks on making sense of madness, social inclusion, human rights, recovery-based services, recovery planning and wellbeing.

Mary used mental health services in New Zealand for eight years as a young woman. Her lived experience informs her perspectives on how services should be provided by mental health and community sector organisations.

Mary was the first chair of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry and an advisor to the United Nations and World Health Organization.

Formerly a Mental Health Commissioner for New Zealand, Mary now runs an international social enterprise that has developed PeerZone: peer led workshops in mental health and addiction as well as Swell: the online recovery toolkit for people with lived experience and the people who support them. Mary was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2015.

Michelle Everett

Michelle Everett

Michelle Everett has trained as a clinical psychologist and has worked in mental health services for more than two decades, including two influential years in Canada. Michelle has worked in mental health education for five years, and is currently writing and teaching courses for mental health workers, consumers and families for the community sector and at a postgraduate level at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry. Michelle works in private practice in western Sydney, as an Official Visitor under the NSW Mental Health Act and is a member of TheMHS Conference Management Committee.

Mim Weber

Mim Weber

Mim Weber is a dedicated trainer and facilitator with nearly 35 years' experience delivering training across subjects including: suicide, trauma-informed care, eating disorders, sexual safety and working with consumers and carers.

With qualifications in psychology and social administration, and a background in working with families and carers, and people impacted by domestic violence, Mim is able to draw on a wealth of experience of interpersonal trauma when delivering Understanding and Responding to Trauma for MHCC.

Mim is currently Mental Health Program Coordinator for Northern NSW Local Health District. She has authored a number of papers on eating disorders and the role of narrative therapy in effective service delivery in rural NSW.

Mirna Tarabay

Mirna Tarabay

Mirna is a psychotherapist and counsellor whose work experience with survivors of trauma spans over a decade. Mirna has worked in a range of capacities primarily with survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Mirna has a practice in Sydney where the focus of her clinical work is with adult survivors of child abuse. Mirna is also an educator and provides training to student counsellors at one of the leading counsellor educator institutions in Sydney. She also conducts training programs in a range of subject areas for a range of government and community based organisations.

Mirna holds a Bachelor of Education, Post Grad Diploma in Counselling and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment; Clinical Member PACFA and CAPA.

Peter Farrugia

Peter Farrugia

Peter is an experienced trainer with a background in facilitation for both TAFE and the mental health sector (including ‘CANSAS Conversation’ for RichmondPRA). Added to this is Peter’s personal lived experience which underpins his understanding and awareness of mental health issues and his work as a trainer of the Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work.

Peter has worked as a representative of the peer sector at local, state and national levels and is currently Peer Workforce Manager at RichmondPRA. His other qualifications include the Certificate IV in Mental Health (non-clinical) and the Advanced Diploma Community Sector Management.

Peter passionately believes in supporting the growth and development of the peer workforce, which will provide opportunities for people with lived experience to support others with mental health conditions, and to engage with them across a broad recovery-based framework.

Sage Saegenschnitter

Sage Saegenschnitter

Sage has more than ten years of experience and passion working for genuine social inclusion and empowerment for those who experience homelessness in Sydney's inner city. She has worked in a range of settings including community development, specialist homeless services, research and government.

Listening to the stories and experiences of people who become homeless and working alongside them to access services, compelled Sage to become an advocate for trauma informed care with a commitment to creating human service systems that support rather than hinder recovery.  This includes facilitating engagement and consultation with people experiencing homelessness in policies and programs that affect them and developing effective partnerships with others to deliver outcomes that meet diverse needs within communities.

Tina Smith

Tina Smith

MHCC Senior Policy Advisor/Sector Development

Tina has 30 years' experience working within human services in Australia and USA, both in the community and public sectors. She has worked in the mental health sector in a variety of direct service, management and policy roles. Her work has focused on people in recovery, psychosocial rehabilitation services and social inclusion issues for people at risk for, living with or recovering from mental health conditions.

Between 2013 and 2016,  Tina worked as a 'Mental Health Analyst' in the NSW NDIS trial site in the Hunter through a partnership with the NSW Mental Health Commission: Tina has an M.A. in Counselling Psychology and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. She has been engaged with national mental health workforce development directions since 2007 including advocacy for community sector and peer workforce development.

Sarah Coconis

Sarah Coconis

Sarah has worked as a mental health nurse in public health settings since 2008, across NSW and Victoria. She has worked in both inpatient and community mental health settings, as well as homeless outreach teams.

Sarah is first and foremost a consumer advocate. She is particularly interested in issues of power, trauma, recovery, and reform of the mental health system. These interests led her to work as a clinical nurse consultant with a particular focus on trauma-informed mental health nursing approaches, seclusion and restraint reduction, staff education in various progressive models, and trauma informed service implementation in public health settings.

Sarah is also a clinical supervisor and is currently undertaking a Masters of Psychotherapy in The Conversational Model. She also completed a Postgraduate Diploma of Community Mental Health in addition to her nursing and mental health nursing qualifications.

Thomas Franks

Thomas Franks

Thomas Franks is a Wonnarua man, from the Hunter valley and currently works as a Peer Support Worker (PSW) and coordinator under New Horizons’ PHaMS program. He has been working in the community sector for 10 years in AOD and mental health.

Thomas holds an Avanced Diploma of Community Sector Management, a Certificate IV Mental Health and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. He currently delivers the Certificate IV in Mental Health for Aboriginal trainees under the Aboriginal Careers in Mental Health Initiative and the Working With Aboriginal People (WWAP) unit for the Certificate IV in Mental Health for MHCC.