Vic cases fall but economic impact deepens


While Victoria’s progress raises hope that the coronavirus health crisis is abating, the pandemic’s economic impact is proving to be deep and long-lasting.

While there were seven more deaths in the state, pushing the national toll to 844 on Saturday, new infections reached an almost three-month low of 21.

The southern state’s average of new daily cases over 14 days is now 39.3, below the figure of 50 which health authorities say is one pre-requisite for lifting lockdown restrictions in Melbourne.

Businesses in regional Victoria have been reopening following the easing of restrictions and Melbourne is on track for a slight loosening of lockdowns by the end of the month.

While daily life may become easier, Australians’ key life decisions are changing as a result of the economic recession, illustrated by a recent federal government report.

Research by the Centre for Population predicts that fewer Australian babies will be born over the next two years, as families delay their plans because of the economic climate.

“Our population growth will be the lowest since World War I as a result of COVID,” Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said.

The research forecasts the fertility rate to drop to 1.59 babies per woman in 2021 compared to 1.7 in 2018.

For the nation’s elders, the pandemic means those on pensions will not receive an indexation on Sunday as would normally occur.

“All of the measures by which we make the determination about indexation have gone backwards as a result of the pandemic,” Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said on Saturday.

“Therefore, the indexation that would have occurred tomorrow is actually at a zero rate.”

Pensioners will instead be provided for in the federal budget next month, she said.

Meanwhile, stranded Australians have higher hopes of flying home after the states agreed to lift caps on international arrivals.

But Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman wants caps to be lifted completely.

“What I’d actually like to see is the states considering returning to what happened before the Victorian outbreak – which was effectively allowing people coming back home without a cap,” he told ABC News.

After the lessons of failed hotel quarantine in Victoria which led to a second wave, it was clear that a police and defence force presence was crucial to hotel quarantine, he said.

Given that presence was in place, Mr Zimmerman said he could not see why the states would not accept more people.

Mr Zimmerman also said that when JobSeeker payments end for unemployed Australians next year, he would prefer the replacement Newstart allowance to be higher than it was before the pandemic.

His colleague Ms Ruston was asked what the JobSeeker rate would be but remained vague, saying such decisions could not be made until “we know what a post-pandemic Australia looks like”.

More anti-lockdown protests are expected in Melbourne on Sunday after police made arrests and handed out fines on Saturday in protests which have become weekly skirmishes.

The state’s inquiry into the hotel quarantine scheme that led to its second wave will be in the spotlight this week as Premier Daniel Andrews and three of his ministers are due to appear on Wednesday.

NSW reported three new cases on Saturday, two in returned travellers and one acquired locally.



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WA, SA recovering fastest, VIC continues decline


The Australian job market is gradually returning to pre-COVID levels, however the race to recovery is not equal among all states and territories.

According to SEEK’s August Employment Report, there are three distinct rates in which states and territories are recovering. Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory have either fully rebounded or were at levels comparable with August 2019, with the job market in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory also remaining steady.

However, the Victorian job market showed a more dire result.

Impacted by the strict lockdown which has been in effect since July 7, the state reported a stark 17.6 per cent drop in job ads from July 2020 to August 2020 and a year-on-year dip of 56.1 per cent. This was also on top of a 12.8 per cent fall between June 2020 and July 2020.

“Victoria experienced a further decline in job ads in August, as we continue to see the impact of the lockdown on businesses,” said SEEK’s Managing Director Kendra Banks in a statement to news.com.au. “However, this is less than the drop Victoria had throughout the country’s first wave of COVID-19, which indicates businesses are finding new ways to operate and adapt to the situation.”

Nationally, although August was the first month since the beginning of the pandemic which saw job ads decline by 2 per cent, this was mainly driven by Victorian numbers. Excluding Victoria, the total amount of job ads actually rose by 1.8 per cent.

AUGUST JOB AD VOLUMES BY EACH STATE

– Western Australia, up 7.9 per cent month-on-month, up 4.2 per cent year-on-year

– South Australia, up 8.5 per cent month-on-month, up 3 per cent year-on-year

– Tasmania, up 7.8 per cent month-on-month, up 2.7 per cent year-on-year

– Northern Territory, up 9.2 per cent month-on-month, down .07 per cent year-on-year

– Queensland, down 1.2 per cent month-on-month, down 14.2 per cent year-on-year

– Australian Capital Territory, down 3.9 per cent month-on-month, down 22.1 per cent year-on-year

– New South Wales, up 1.7 per cent month-on-month, down 30.6 per cent year-on-year

– Victoria, down 17.6 per cent month-on-month, down 56.1 per cent year-on-year

– Australia, down 2 per cent month-on-month, down 29.1 per cent year-on-year

When it came to which industries were looking for new hires, healthcare and medical, information and communication technology and manufacturing, transport and logistics topped the list.

Human resources and recruitment, and banking and financial services also rose by 12 and 7 per cent. Some of the in-demand positions listed in these sectors include compliance and risk officers, retail and branch members and financial planners.

However, it was the advertising arts and media industry which showed the largest month-on-month growth of 16 per cent. This news comes after the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed in April 2020 that the arts and recreation sector was the worst hit by shutdowns. At the time, research from the Grattan Institute estimated the unemployment rate for those employed in the creative and performing arts sector could rise to 75 per cent. This figure nearly tripled the national estimate that 26 per cent of the Australian workforce would lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Currently, Australia is in recession for the first time since 1974 with the Reserve Bank of Australia estimating unemployment to peak at 10 per cent.

This article was created in partnership with SEEK.



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AFL: Michael Voss has no sympathy for Vic teams having to win the Grand Final interstate


Michael Voss has no sympathy for any Victorian team finally given the task of winning the Grand Final interstate.

But the Port Adelaide assistant coach has no eyes on such a distant happening knowing any deviation from his team’s path could come with an unwanted “correction”.

Voss, who as Brisbane captain had to go on the road three times to win premierships, said the decision on where this year’s Grand Final would be played was “significant” in many ways.

That extends to the prospect of it being in Adelaide, with Port well-placed to secure top spot, home finals, and maybe even an “advantageous” Grand Final should the Power go all the way.

But it’s creating that launching pad, and momentum when it matters that is front of mind for Voss and Port who only have to look back 12 months to see how things can quickly unravel.

An 86-point loss to this week’s opponent North Melbourne, in the penultimate round of 2019, proved a dagger blow to POrt’s finals chances, and Voss said no-one wants a slip up like that ever again.

“We had a game around this time last year where we played North and they came off a bad loss and they gave us a good correction. That gives us a really good reason not to take our eye of the ball,” Voss said on Monday.

“We’ve been in position in previous seasons where we might have just thought ahead a little bit too much and it has caught us out. We can’t afford to do that.

“The expectation don’t change from the start of the season. We’re still in the business of qualifying as best as we possibly can. That should be a really nice carrot for the players.”

Port has finals hopefuls Essendon and Collingwood to come after the Kangaroos, and Voss said winning form was the best form to take in to the finals, which meant maintaining focus.

“It’s all about getting momentum. We’ve even recently spoken about that … we’ve wanted to see progressive improvement, build momentum … so we’re ready to go by the end of the year.

“I’d rather be winning than losing (going in to finals). Winning form is good form.”

Voss knows they could have to take that form on the road to win a Grand Final, but said that was not an “insurmountable challenge”.

“Interstate teams have consistently gone to Victoria to try andwin GFs. I’ve been part of that, Port Adelaide have been part of that,” he said.

“It will be a different challenge for say a Victorian team to have to go somewhere else, to have to win it from a completely different state. It’s a big challenge, it’s not an insurmountable challenge.

“But it’s exciting with the notion we are going to go somewhere else. “



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Hope in VIC, tragedy in NSW, South Korea faces lockdown


Victoria’s numbers continue their downward trend, border restrictions lead to tragedy, South Korea faces lockdown and storms headed for America’s Gulf region threaten COVID-19 spread.

South Korean soldiers spray disinfectant in Seoul (Image: EPA/JEON HEON-KYUN)

Light at the end of tunnel

Despite protests against Victorian restrictions, evidence is mounting that the lockdown is finally starting to work. Victoria today recorded 113 new infections as it approaches what is hoped to be the final fortnight of its strict stage four restrictions.

There were 12 more deaths recorded.

Tragedy in NSW

A Ballina woman has lost one of her unborn twins after she flew to Sydney for treatment instead of going through the onerous application process to cross the border into Queensland.



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Flood Warning – Western Port (VIC)


IDV36330

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria

Final Flood Warning for the Bunyip River

Issued at 11:08 am EST on Wednesday 26 August 2020

by the Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria Regional Office on behalf of Melbourne Water

Flood Warning Number: 7

Bunyip Catchment:

The Bunyip River catchment has received rainfall averaging about 1 mm since 09:00 AM Tuesday 25 August 2020. The Western Port catchment has received rainfall averaging about 0 mm for the same period. Insignificant rainfall totals have been forecast for the catchment Wednesday 26 August 2020.

Bunyip River to Iona:

The level of the Bunyip River at Iona is currently at 1.68 metres, below the Minor Flood Level (2.10 metres), and falling.

Bunyip River downstream of Iona:

The level of the Bunyip River at Cora Lynn is currently at 3.03 metres, below the Minor Flood Level (3.10 metres), and falling.

The river heights at 10:48 AM Wednesday 26 August 2020 were:

Sites in Tarago River catchment

Tarago Reservoir: 157.47 metres, steady

Tarago River at Neerim South: 0.97 metres, steady

Tarago River at Drouin West: 0.64 metres, steady

Sites in Bunyip River catchment

Bunyip River at Headworks: 0.26 metres, steady

Bunyip River at Tonimbuk: 1.68 metres, falling

Bunyip River at Longwarry North: 1.94 metres, steady

Bunyip River at Iona: 1.68 metres, falling

Bunyip River at Cora Lynn: 3.03 metres, falling

Yallock Outfall Drain at Cora Lynn: 0.81 metres, steady

Bunyip River at Koo Wee Rup: 2.37 metres, steady

Other sites in Western Port catchment

Gumscrub Creek at Pakenham: 0.49 metres, steady

Toomuc Creek at Pakenham: 0.51 metres, steady

Deep Creek at Pakenham: 0.55 metres, falling

Kennedy Creek at Pakenham: 0.45 metres, steady

Cardinia Creek at Officer: 1.58 metres, falling

Cardinia Creek at Cardinia: 0.71 metres, falling

This is the final warning for this event.

Flood Safety Advice:

SES advises that all community members should:

  • Never walk, ride or drive through floodwater,
  • Never allow children to play in floodwater,
  • Stay away from waterways and stormwater drains during and after heavy rain,
  • Keep well clear of fallen power lines,
  • Be aware that in fire affected areas, rainfall run-off into waterways may contain debris such as ash, soil, trees and rocks, and heavy rainfall increases the potential for landslides and debris across roads.

Current Emergency Information is available at http://emergency.vic.gov.au

For emergency assistance contact the SES on 132 500.

Current Road and Traffic Information is available at the VicRoads website: http://traffic.vicroads.vic.gov.au/

This advice is also available by dialling 1300 659 210. Warning, rainfall and river information are available at www.bom.gov.au/vic/flood. The latest weather forecast is available at www.bom.gov.au/vic/forecasts.



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SA reinstates Vic border “buffer”, changes gathering and travel restrictions



South Australia will reinstate a 40-kilometre “buffer zone” for Victorians living near the border, home gathering caps will be lifted to 50 people and travellers will be allowed to transit into SA from Canberra and Sydney Airports under new changes to restrictions agreed upon by the state’s transition committee this morning.

The “good news” announced by Premier Steven Marshall this morning comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in Victoria this week plummeted to a seven-week low and New South Wales today recorded just three new cases.

Marshall said the falling case numbers had prompted authorities to lift a “hugely disruptive” restriction on communities straddling the South Australian and Victorian border that banned locals from travelling into SA unless they were attending or dropping students at year 11 or 12 classes, or working in primary industries.

The restriction was imposed on Friday night and has been widely criticised by impacted locals, who say they have been forced out of work and school.

From midnight Thursday, cross-border communities will once again be allowed to travel 40 kilometres either side of the border as part of a “buffer zone” exemption – provided western Victoria does not record any new COVID-19 cases from community transmission between now and Friday.

“When we first announced that there was going to be this border arrangement put in place, what we had seen then was a massive escalation in the active cases in Victoria and the seeding of those active cases and community transmission within regional Victoria,” Marshall said.

“Since that time, the Government there has put stage four lockdowns in place, they have been able to significantly reduce the number of new infections in Victoria… but most importantly, we’re not seeing a continuing escalation.

“That’s given the transition committee the confidence to put that buffer arrangement back in place, provided there are no additional cases of community transmission reported between now and midnight on Thursday night.”

South Australia’s chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said she had been provided with “detailed information” about a coronavirus cluster in the cross-border council of Glenelg Shire, which abuts the South Australian border, and she was confident that the cluster would not spread into the state.

“The reason we’re saying Thursday is it will be 14 days, which is a full incubation period since the last case was diagnosed in the Glenelg Shire,” she said.

“The other more northern local government areas are not of such a concern.

“I think we really need to have a look at the impact on the people who live in those areas and I think it has been extremely disruptive and I don’t think anyone could say that’s not been the case.

“Now that I have further information from Victoria and it’s very detailed I think we can confidently move back from that situation.”

Spurrier denied that the Government had imposed the hard border restrictions with Victoria prematurely, saying authorities wanted to make sure communities had adequate time to prepare.

She said the Government was trying to base its decisions on “science and evidence” and now was the time to revert back to the 40-kilometre buffer zone.

It comes as almost 30 groups signed a joint letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders this morning warning the piecemeal border closures were impacting families, destroying jobs and crippling the economic recovery.

State and federal MPs representing electorates on either side of the border also last week penned a letter to SA Police Commissioner and state emergency co-ordinator Grant Stevens urging a more collaborative approach to border closures.

Other restrictions changes announced today include a lifting of the home gathering cap from 10 to 50 people, which will come into force from Friday.

People travelling into South Australia from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Queensland will also be allowed to make a transit stop at Canberra or Sydney Airports without having to self-isolate for 14 days.

Marshall said the State Government was “continuing to look very closely” at lifting its border restriction with New South Wales and the ACT and it was “quite possible” that an announcement would be made within the next two weeks.

Currently, people travelling from NSW or the ACT into South Australia must self-isolate for 14 days.

Earlier today, Health Minister Stephen Wade announced a state taxpayer-funded paid pandemic leave scheme of up to $1500 for eligible workers who are forced to quarantine, or care for someone required to quarantine, for up to 14 days.

Under the scheme, a separate upfront ‘testing’ payment of $300 will be available for eligible workers in an identified COVID-19 cluster, who are required to self-isolate while awaiting a coronavirus test result or as a result of a public health directive.

The $300 payment will also be available for someone who is caring for a person who meets the above-mentioned eligibility criteria.

The scheme will be backdated to yesterday and will provide financial incentive for casual, full-time or part-time workers over the age of 17 who can demonstrate the would have otherwise been at work and had no or insufficient paid leave entitlements, to follow health advice.

It is not available to people who are required to quarantine for 14 days or more due to returning from overseas or interstate.

“Lack of leave entitlements for workers, particularly casual workers, is considered a significant risk factor in not complying with isolation requirements,” Wade said.

“It’s expected this scheme will further protect those in our community most vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly those in residential aged care or supported disability accommodation, who are often supported by a highly-casualised workforce.”

The State Government attempted to receive federal support to fund the scheme, but that request was turned down because South Australia has not declared a state of disaster like Victoria.

SA Unions welcomed the State Government’s investment, saying it would ensure casual workers would not lose wages or their job if they needed to isolate or get tested.

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Backlash over Vic Govt plan to extend state of emergency for a year



A political stoush is brewing over a proposed 12-month extension to Victoria’s state of emergency to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As virus cases hit their lowest point in seven weeks on Monday, Premier Daniel Andrews flagged plans to re-write the Public Health and Wellbeing Act to allow a state of emergency to last for up to 18 months.

At present, the declaration can only run for six months and is due to expire on September 13, along with Melbourne’s stage four lockdown and regional Victoria’s stage three rules.

Andrews said his government would no longer be able to dictate guidelines on mandatory mask use, isolation rules and business density limits without an extension.

“We’ve got to protect public health, there can be no economic rebuilding until we fix this problem,” he told reporters.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the state coalition would vehemently oppose a long-term extension which would allow the premier to unilaterally keep Victoria locked down.

It means the Labor government will have to win the support of four upper-house crossbenchers to pass it into law if and when parliament next sits.

Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Liberal Democrats MPs David Limbrick and Tim Quilty have all indicated they’ll block the current proposal.

“An extra 12 months in a state of emergency is an overreach,” Patten told AAP in a statement.

“These powers should not go unchecked. The government should re-work their proposal and come back to the crossbench with a three or six-month extension.”

The backlash prompted Andrews to take to Twitter overnight to tell Victorians the proposal was about keeping people safe and does not mean the current lockdown will be extended.

“Extending the State of Emergency is about ensuring that we can legally make the changes our health experts need to keep us safe,” he said.

“This does not change how long our current lockdown will last, or increase the restrictions we face.”

The political debate came as new cases in Victoria plummeted to 116 on Monday – the lowest figure since 74 on July 5.

The premier said the lower daily case numbers and a general decline in coronavirus indicators were great news for the state.

A further 15 deaths, all connected to aged care, took the state toll to 430 and the national figure to 517.

There remain 3701 active cases in Victoria, with 1568 of those linked to the aged-care sector.

So-called mystery cases were up 108 to 4028 on Monday.

-AAP

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National Register – VIC Representative Profiles


Suzie Adam, Carer Representative

My name is Susan Adam and I am one of the original National Register members, and was honoured to be chosen for a third time to represent the grass roots issues of Mental Health Carers on the Mornington Peninsula. In 2010 I was elected President of the Peninsula Carer Council Inc., one of the largest volunteer Carer Support Groups in Australia with a membership of over 150. 

I was one of the first Family Carer Consultants at Monash Health and set up the Family Engagement programs at Frankston and Dandenong Youth Prevention and Recovery Care Services.

I hold a Master of Social Sciences in Family Therapy after completing a B.A. in Psychology and Humanities whilst caring for three family members living with various physical and mental health conditions, and finding that there was nowhere I could go for support.

I have held many advocacy roles over the years, a recent favourite being Co-Chair of the Mental Health Coordinating Council workgroup for the Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Work.  I am a member of the Expert Reference Group for the Department of Health; evaluating the National Early Psychosis services and the Peer Workforce Development Guideline Project for the National Mental Health Commission.  I have learned so much from my representative roles and am currently enjoying being on the Steering Committee for Primary Mental Health Care Data Reference Group.

In my very limited spare time I thoroughly enjoy my grandkids, yoga, painting, my garden, going to live music concerts and the theatre.

Evan Bichara, Consumer Representative

Evan is a long time MH Consumer Advocate for the diverse Australian populations, including the mainstream.

Evan has extensively studied his field well having attained a Certificate IV in Community Disability Services trained in working closely with people who require special needs. Evan further attained a Diploma in Community Development, a Post Graduate diploma in Case Management.

With encouragements from friends, family and neighbours Evan per sued into Mental Health following a setback & from his scientific studies in obtaining a MH Advocacy role within the Victorian Trans-cultural MH Service within the St Vincent’s Hospital serving all the Multicultural communities at local state and federal levels. In that role Evan ran successfully 2 major Cultural groups for 16 years.

Evan’s passion is bringing healing to people who have been through a rough experience. Evan helps people including their families to find healthy perceptions & strengthen their relationships so that peace, whole & safe mediums can be linked by community. Evan knows that there is no single approach that is right for every individual….so Evan has been in the job trained on numerous modalities of approaches in getting people back on their feet.

Judith Drake, Consumer Representative

I’m a Melbourne-based, independent consumer advocate passionate about social justice, community inclusion and mental health reform.  I have extensive experience across diverse areas including reference/advisory groups, research and evaluation, support group facilitation, training, events, document/website review, peer support (including with volunteer emergency service workers) and family violence prevention. 

I regularly attend conferences around Australia & have presented on diverse topics: NDIS, consumer participation, trauma-informed practice, dissociation, self-care, disclosure, mental health service improvement, self-harm, Hearing Voices approach. 

I hold qualifications in psychology, business, and training & assessment and have completed additional courses such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills (ASIST), Intentional Peer Support (IPS), Alternatives to Suicide and Consumer Leadership. 

Current interests include NDIS and psychosocial disability, national standards for digital mental health, and how emergency services interact with people experiencing mental health challenges.  Highlights include helping coordinate the consumer-led, multi-disciplinary World Hearing Voices Congress (2013, Voices Vic), receiving a Mind Community Award (2016) for Outstanding Contribution by a Client to Service Improvement, a special commendation for my ePoster at TheMHS (2015), and being on Victorian Mental Health Tribunal Advisory Group (TAG). 

I believe in working collaboratively, respectfully and authentically to bring about real change that improves people’s lives. 

Rachael Lovelock, Carer Representative

Rachael Lovelock is a manager, advocate and family/carer leader who draws on her own lived experience and background in community development to lead, design and implement advocacy strategies, systems and processes at Wellways Australia.  

Rachael advocates for platforms that ensure lived experience is heard, rights are upheld and principles of co-design are at the heart of policy, quality systems and services provision.

Rachael’s previous roles have included working as a family practitioner, service coordinator and consultant for carer participation and leadership. With experience in direct service, group facilitation, program coordination, training and project management her work has contributed to policy development, service design and advocacy.

Rachael is passionate about working with families and carers, her approach is informed by a belief that families and carers need support in their own right. Carer support is essential to assist people to identify with their own journey, reconnect to physical and emotional wellness and return to mutually supportive relationships. When families and carers are connected to their own journey they can better support recovery oriented care.

Marie Piu, Carer Representative

CEO Tandem – Peak body for Victorian Mental Health Carers

Marie is passionate about advocating for a health system which supports consumers, families, carers and service providers working together in partnership to strengthen outcomes for people facing mental health and wellbeing challenges. She is thrilled to be entrusted with the leadership of Tandem as she has been in a caring role for her mother since she was a young child and has firsthand experience of the power of working in partnership.

Marie is a registered psychologist and member of the Australian Psychological Society. Her postgraduate studies in Applied Psychology provided her with the theoretical underpinning and professional skills for her future focus on systemic advocacy. She has been lobbying for service improvement, accountability and family/carer inclusion in care throughout her professional career. She has worked for nearly three decades to ensure that marginalised community members, many impacted by serious mental illness and their families/carers, have access to better care and community services and that there are policies, procedures, professional guidelines, and wherever possible, an authorising environment in place to support this.

Marie has held Senior Management roles, managed multidisciplinary staff and multiple national and state-wide programs and projects in a broad range of contexts including: Community and Mental Health, Trade Union and Policing, with extensive experience and interest in working with Aboriginal and Multicultural Communities.

Lisa Sweeney, Carer Representative

From a young age, I have had personal experience supporting two family members with a lived experience of mental illness. This early insight into public mental health has led me to follow educational and vocational pursuits in public policy and health with the aim of improving mental health services. After working in Government for a decade, I am now working in the mental health sector in a policy and advocacy role. I also trained as a naturopath with a focus on adjunctive mental health.

I am involved in a number of mental health causes including the Board of Tandem – Victoria’s peak body for mental health carers, and Australians for Mental Health – a national grassroots mental health advocacy campaign led by people with a lived experience of interacting with the mental health service sector.

In my (not so spare) time, I really enjoy sharing my journey as a mental health carer through writing and have published blogs pieces in forums such as HuffPost. I do this in the hope it can help me make sense of some of my own experiences, as well as maybe assist other carers navigate their own situation.

My key areas of interest include psychosis, supporting young consumers and carers, and holistic and integrated mental healthcare (including promoting treatment choices).



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