Innovation Forum

innovators in semicircle

By Grant J Everett

Held across two huge days on the 24th and 25th of November, the first ever RichmondPRA Innovation Forum was held in the SP Jain School of Global Management, Olympic Park, literally just around the corner from Head Office. The generous hall we were provided was full of RichmondPRA representatives from all over New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland, and many of our staff members had jumped on planes in order to fly here for this very purpose. We appreciate your dedication, guys, and honestly hope that you got a lot out of the Forum.

On the day I attended, Scott Carpenter, the Senior Mental Health Worker from Ulladulla, presented a report on behalf of the Recovery Action Plan Committee, who have put en epic amount of effort into propelling our organisation into future leadership in the sector. Scott explained how we need to go further in implementing standardised recovery-based practices across all of our services, but he also dealt with a lot of other stuff while he was up on stage, such as how we need to avoid taking on an inappropriately clinical edge (we’ll leave that to qualified medical people, thanks). Furthermore, as an organisation we will continue to use strengths-based language, positive reinforcement, and will remain centered on people rather than conditions. Another one of our ongoing goals is to educate the people who access our services, their families and their support people in using the correct terms in order to avoid any reductive behaviour.


In one of his final official acts before a well-deserved retirement, Phil Nadin greeted us all and officially opened the proceedings

The Future: eRecovery

A major topic of the Forum was our public presence as an organisation, something that everybody seemed to be passionate about. It’s become clear that we need to become more visible, more involved and we must especially become easier to find online. We can’t help somebody if they don’t even know we exist! Some of the suggestions about how to increase our electronic presence included being active on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and through dedicated blogging. A great suggestion from a participant was to load up CHIRP (our company-wide intranet) with plenty of recovery stories and relevant educational articles.

Hmmm…that sounds like a job for the publications department!

Linked in

We already grafted our organisational branches together with fiber-optic cables years ago, but now we also want to link together the people who access our services. We’ll be encouraging the guys and girls we work with to use technology such as computers, smart phones and the Internet, and a great way to start this off is by teaching basic IT skills to anyone who wants to join the 21st Century. Due to the fact many of the people who access our services don’t have a personal internet connection, we can also provide suggestions on how to stay connected cheaply (or even for free), such as by using computers at libraries, taking advantage of free WiFi hotspots as at places like cafes and McDonalds, and so on.

Who am I?

One of the core essentials for our organisation to be able to function effectively is that anybody who walks through our doors should be able to know who we are, what we have to offer, and what we can do personally for them. On the subject of inclusion, we have also engaged in a lot of research and training in order to effectively welcome people who can run the risk of exclusion, such as people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, members of the LGBTI community and people with a disability (PWD). We don’t accept that people can just “fall through the cracks”, and so we’re doing everything we can to create success stories.

Speaking of educational…

We believe that early intervention can be a critical turning point in the life of somebody who has a developing mental health issue. It’s well known that providing early intervention before something like schizophrenia or bipolar reaches breaking point can make a huge difference in a person’s life in the long-term. Education and timely care may be just what a struggling schoolkid needs to prevent them from dropping out, using mind-damaging psychotropic substances and becoming hospitalised. The true hope behind early intervention is to greatly mitigate any long-term damage.

Education about mental health can be compared to the campaign against tobacco use. Although they obviously haven’t entirely fixed the problem, decades of anti-smoking commercials have definitely been a part of the solution in encouraging people to quit or not pick up cigarettes in the first place, and it’s logical that this could also work in relation to our own goals.

There were many opinions on the subject of effective early intervention, but one of the more novel ideas involved a tour bus! To be more specific, if we could visit schools with our own version of the Heart Foundation’s “Healthy Harold” to inform kids of the early warning signs of psychosis and encourage them to be aware of their own risk factors, we may have a way to help guide our children into futures that don’t require hospitalisation, medication and ECT. And even if the onset of a mental health issue is inevitable, just buying enough time for an adolescent to finish high school and go through those essential developmental milestones will have a profound impact on their future mental health, and may make all the difference in the long run.

panuruangjanComing to a school near you: Pecky the psychosis prevention parrot!


We’d like to thank everyone that attended. Your collective involvement will be a major factor in allowing our organisation to fulfill its purpose of being there for people in need.

Image courtesy of panuruangjan at

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