Community Advisory Council and Co-Design

by Warren Heggarty

CAC codesign.jpgABOVE: From left to right, Mark Orr (CEO) Mozzy Wilkinson (Chair, Parkes) Shane Bentley (Nowra), Dean Linley (Young), Graham Seaman (Emeritus mbr Armidale) , Caroline Dunlop (Emeritus mbr Bourke), Scott Gourlay (Taree, Deputy Chair) Matt Stonier (Emeritus mbr, Figtree), Phil O’Laughlin, Heidi Chan (Harris Park), David Sharp (Flowerdale, LIverpool), Simon Swinton (Hunter, back), Kim Donaldson (Bega, front), Debra Knight (Embark at Blacktown), Aaron Stevenson (Broken Hill), Matt Franks (Tamworth), Karen Prestwidge (Emeritus mbr, now peer worker), Kim Jones (Project Officer, Inclusion) Donna (Mozzy’s wife) and Fay Jackson (General Manager Inclusion). Not pictured: Deonny Zaroual (Figtree) PHOTO BY WARREN HEGGARTY

The Community Advisory Council (CAC) met for two days on November 13th and 14th 2018.

Two new members of the committee were introduced; Debra Knight of Embark Cottage replaces Karen Prestwidge who is now a peer worker, and Normal Field from Marrickville. 

The main theme of this session was ‘co-design.’ In a nutshell ‘co-design’ is a method of living up to the old slogan ‘nothing about us without us.’ It’s the opposite of ‘tokenism.’ In the past, services for people with mental health issues have largely been devised and run by people who do not have lived experience of their own. Over time, people have begun to see that services work better if the people they are meant to benefit are actually involved in ALL stages of creating them. From the initial idea to the ongoing execution. Co-design was the topic of one of the presentations that Flourish Australia made to the 2018 TheMHS Conference. 

Another thing that was discussed was terms of reference for a working group to set up ‘local champion committees.’ 

There was a session for feedback on the culture of Flourish Australia and the quality of its services. Statements of quality and culture were evaluated: ‘We strive for excellence,’ ‘we communicate honestly,’ ‘we care,’ ‘we lead and innovate in mental health’ and ‘we are one team.’ 

As well as Mark Orr, several other members of Flourish Australia’s Senior Leadership Team also made presentations to the council. They included Andrew O’Brien (General Manager, Operations) Peter Neilson (Chief Commercial Officer) and James Herbertson (General Manager, Employment Services). 


A number of long-standing members of the council were required by the constitution to retire on rotation after this meeting to enable new members to join in. The CEO Mark Orr presented these Emeritus members of the council with certificates of appreciation after at the end of proceedings. 

Here are some of the things that were said at that presentation. 

Caroline thanked Mark and the other members of the Flourish Australia senior leadership who initiated the CAC three years ago. ‘Thank you Mark, we have come to trust you as a friend.’ 

Dean observed that from day one ‘we were treated with more respect than I had expected… we were working on policies from the second meeting… I’ve never known any service to do something like that.’ He was grateful for ‘the confidence that the board and the senior leadership team has in us. I think that in future this council will have even MORE impact on how Flourish Australia grows. 

Mozzy (Chair) said that the way Flourish Australia has given the opportunity for people who access the services to have a say in how the services operate is a precedent that should be followed by other organisations and businesses. 

‘It’s getting treated as equals,’ said Phil. 

Karen Prestwidge (an emeritus CAC member who is now a peer worker) told everyone at the gathering ‘you guys have so much to give…I feel honoured to have met such a “pot of gold.”’ 

Kim said I can already see a change among the new members after two meetings! 

In March 2019 there will be elections to replace the next group of retiring, long-standing CAC representatives. 

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