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- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
Michael Burge is an accredited Master Mental Health First Aid Instructor and has conducted more than 96 courses throughout rural and remote Australia. He has been overwhelmed by the number of heart felt moments shared with course participants who shared personal experiences and strategies.
He is teaching the MHFA course in order to help reduce stigma, to enable people to easily recognise mental health disorders and to better access help and information. He is very passionate about his work and is committed to improving the quality of life for both consumers and carers.
On 12 July 2008 the Minister for Health and Aging, the Hon. Nicola Roxon MP announced that Michael was selected to be a member of the newly formed Federal Governments National Advisory Council on Mental Health (NACMH). Michael was one of ten individuals appointed for a term of 3 years.
Michael has been advocating for consumers and carers for approx 20 years - thirteen years with Queensland Mental Health. He has represented consumers and carers on numerous local, state, national and international forums and written many articles for Mental Health Magazines.
As an advocate I have balanced self-advocacy for individuals with a passionate commitment to systems advocacy, working at the big picture level to strategically invest in initiatives that will bring real change. I have focused on pushing for increased participation and voices for consumers and recognition of new programs and approaches that will strengthen peer work and promote recovery oriented practices. While I value working at the micro-level with individuals supporting their recovery journey, I saw the importance of acting strategically to influence and bring change nationally.
He said he has been privileged in being able to work in many key roles that have resulted in real outcomes and progress. Committees have included: National Advisory Council on Mental Health (NACMH), Consumer Chair National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum (NMHCCF), National Mental Health Workforce Advisory Council, Queensland COAG, Queensland Mental Health Reform Committee, National Recovery Working Group, Fourth National Mental Health Plan Steering Committee (Social Inclusion), Expert Reference Group for development of Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Support, Consumer Chair National Industries Reference Group for the development of the Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Support Resources and Training Materials, former Chair of the Australian Mental Health Consumer Network (AMHCN) and full time Advocate for the Toowoomba Mental Health 2002 to present.
A major highlight of his career was providing a keynote address on Consumer and Participation in mental health systems change at the International Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) Conference in Ottawa, Canada 2007. Michael has also participated in the IIMHL exchange to Ireland in May 2010 where he had a placement at the Dublin Mental Health Commission. His passion has seen him visit over 50 mental health organisations in Canada, the UK and the United States visiting organisations like Recovery Innovations Phoenix Arizona, Fountain House New York, Scottish Recovery Network Glasgow, and many more.
One of his proudest achievements is being the Founder and Coordinator of the Annual Toowoomba Mental Health Concert “Breaking Free” – 2003 to present. “Breaking Free” is an evening of entertainment, inspiration and collaboration for consumers, carers, families, friends, representatives of mental health services and the community. The theme for the concert is a celebration of who we are and has provided a forum for many inspirational speakers, and entertainers.
Another achievement that he is very proud to be a part of is Co-Chair for the development of the National Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Support Work (CHC42912) Learning & Assessment Resources. This resource will assist in increasing the credibility and profile of peer workers while equipping the peer workforce to work in recovery oriented ways that will result in better outcomes for consumers and carers across Australia. It guides them in walking beside people to support their recovery journeys.
The project is a watershed project and feedback from a recent reference group meeting suggests it is one of the most exciting and ground breaking advancements for peer work in decades. The national reference group included people from as far away as Halls Creek and major centres from around Australia. It was a tripartite project with consumers, carers and employers (community, private and government) working together in an extremely collaborative way to develop a resource that will meet all stakeholders’ needs.
The project demonstrated that diverse interests and individuals can achieve great things and will be a platform and catalyst for significant change. The resources are founded on developing recovery oriented practices, skills and principles in both consumer and carer peer workers. It includes emerging and developing practices internationally and locally and encompasses a diversity of opinions and approaches across Australia.
It is not only be an extensive training resource for peer workers but value adds and extends learning to create a handbook and reference for peer services and other organisations.
It is a strengths based resource that helps workers to build capacity, encourage recovery in others and operate in ways that facilitate their own recovery. The resource is designed to support workers to both implement and promote recovery oriented practices in the teams and organisations they engage with. As such it will be another key strategy in fostering and embedding recovery oriented practice across Australia.
In addition to drawing on local, national and international resources the group had to develop new materials and resources to address current gaps and variations in peer practice and philosophy. For example, collaborative work to clarify and standardise understandings in relation to ethics, principles and boundary issues.
Michael recognises there is still much to be achieved if we are to overcome the challenges of stigma and discrimination that continue to be barriers for consumers in flourishing with full citizenship while attaining the recovery they seek and deserve.
I have had the privilege to met some truly inspirational people from all over the world and intend to continue to work with my extensive networks and links to find ways of using our combined voices and passions to identify ways forward and capitalise on our varied strengths to make our dreams for the sector and peer workforce a reality. I enjoy working with others, sharing my learning’s as well as my mistakes to mentor and encourage leadership in others.