Tandem began in an informal way around 1994. Its focus was the organization of the first conference for carers of people with a mental illness, held in November 1995. Four main organizations were involved – Carers Victoria, the then Schizophrenia Fellowship (now Mental Illness Fellowship), SANE Australia and ARAFEMI.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) was impressed by the force of numbers attending the first conference (400+) and the degree of hostility expressed to public mental health services. The then director of Mental Health Branch and manager of service planning asked if they could have regular meetings with Tandem to inform and be kept informed of carer issues. Currently, a senior project officer with the carer portfolio attends Tandemmeetings on a quarterly basis.
From an early stage, but particularly following the first conference, Tandem also included representatives from two carer support groups – the Westgate support group (a geographically based group, not affiliated with any other organization but centred upon a particular hospital and its community clinic) and from the Waiora Parents and Friends group (Waiora is a community mental health clinic).
Following the fourth conference, in the year 2000, there was a review of the role and structure of Tandem. Tandem formalised its role in advocating for carer issues over and above organising state-wide carer conferences. The terms of reference and strategic objectives were determined over a period of about 8 months. This resulted in a widening of the membership of Tandem to include different types of organisations working with carers, as well as expanding the number of carer representatives, in order to ensure that carers’ voices were still heard.
In line with Tandem’s strategic directions and annual priorities, a number of working groups were established to enable the resources of network members to be most effectively utilised (see Working Group Reports page). Past working groups have focussed on a number of issues including the carers’ conference, how privacy legislation affects carers, articulating the differences and similarities between mental health carers and other carers, and working on the revision of the Information for Families and Carers Booklet. Each working group meets between Tandem meetings and has a convenor who reports back to the whole Tandem for final decision and actioning.
By 2003 Tandem’s activities and aims had increased, and working group projects were proving difficult to sustain solely on the basis of members’ voluntary time. With funding from the DHS, Tandem has recently been able to employ a project worker on a part-time basis to support the activities of the working groups.
Tandem became incorporated in 2009 and now employs 9 staff and supports regular social work student placements for 3rd and 4th year students.
To read Tandem history in full, click here
To see a list of our current working groups and the type of work they are doing, please click on the following link: working groups.