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The Tandem Exceptional Service to Families & Carers in Mental Health Awards

On 10 November 2016, 70+ carers and partners, agencies and representatives attended the Tandem AGM and inaugural Awards for Exceptional Service to Families & Carers in Mental Health.

These Awards were inspired by a presentation by Dr Robin Youngson, founder of Hearts in Healthcare, at the TheMHS conference held earlier this year. In his book, Time to Care, he defines compassion as empathy combined with a motivation to relieve suffering in others. He states that health workers come to the profession with a deep desire to care for patients, and that we have a ‘sickness’ system rather than a health system because instead of focussing on strengths, resilience and adaptability of patients we look for defects and risks, sometimes neglecting the potential contribution of families.

Nominations came from Mental Health Carers and Award winners were selected by a group of judges with representatives from the Mental Health Complaints Commission (MHCC), the Mental Health Branch, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Tandem Board, Carer Consultants Network of Victoria (CCNV), and the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum.

Nominations for Awards were assessed on the evidence provided that addressed the criteria listed below.

Individual Award (clinical, community or private sector). A person who has worked for a minimum of two years and has demonstrated a family inclusive focus and compassionate work practices.

Service Award (clinical, community or private sector). A mental health service, program or project that has demonstrated outstanding family inclusive care.

Tandem would like to thank all the judges. Without their expertise and generosity, such an event would not have been possible.


The judges agreed that the successful nominees they selected exhibited a truly outstanding commitment to Mental Health Carers. The calibre of nominations received in each category was outstanding overall, resulting in the judges awarding commendations to the following recipients, who each received a certificate and an orchid:

Award recipients

A total of seven awards were presented by Dr Margaret Grigg, Director, Mental Health Branch, DHHS and Tandem Chair, Colin Fryer.

Service Awards

North West Area Mental Health Service (Clinical Service)

This service has a long history of working to support families and carers and was one of the first to employ carer consultants in 2003. Professor Carol Harvey has provided clinical leadership through her dual roles at both North West Area Mental Health Service and at Melbourne University in the Psychosocial Research Centre. Her focus on recovery has strengthened staff awareness of the role families play and the importance of working collaboratively with them.

MIND Australia Carer Helpline (Community Sector)

This helpline is a state-wide service that provides support, counselling, advice, information and referral to carers and families. It is open to all mental health carers and is a free and confidential service staffed by trained volunteers, many of which are carers themselves. Some of these volunteers are students of psychology, social work and community services and will go on to be the front line staff of mental health services in the future. The helpline has been operating since the late 1980’s and is now part of a national network of mental health carer helplines. The volunteers past, present and future are worthy of this recognition.

Each service received a framed certificate and Tandem will host a morning or afternoon tea at an agreed time for service staff.

Individual Awards

Three individual awards were made to people who have made an outstanding contribution to families & Mental Health Carers over many years. Award recipients received a framed certificate, two nights accommodation at Mooltan Guest House in Hepburn Springs and a $100 voucher for the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa.

Cate Bourke, Eastern Health

Cate has been working as an OT in the public mental health system for many years. In 1999 she was a key contributor to developing the Carers Offering Peers Early Support (COPES) model and programs at Eastern Health which she still coordinates, supports and supervises workers to assist carers. She has a unique way of helping the workers find a balance between their own wellness and helping other carers. In recent years she has worked in the child and youth program and has embedded the MI Recovery program delivered by young peer workers to help young people realise their recovery and opportunities.

Jan Mcintire, Crisis And Treatment Team Alfred Psychiatry

Jan’s nominator first met her 20 years ago when she was working in the inpatient unit at The Alfred. “She was a breath of fresh air. She had the capacity to relate well with consumers and their families and to put them all at ease. She was genuinely interested in people, and was able to see and appreciate the individual masked by this illness. Unfailingly cheerful, she gave families the confidence that things would improve, and always saw the value in building bridges between clients and their families. Jan now works in the CATT Team where she handles difficult situations with a calm confidence. She encourages hope – something all too often overlooked.”

Frances Sanders, General Manager of Business Development, NDIS at MIND Australia

Frances has held executive roles in the mental health sector since 1995. She was the former Executive Director of ARAFEMI Victoria, and the Eating Disorder Foundation. Frances’ nominator describes her as having demonstrated, at the highest level, an ability to consider families and carers in all aspects of her practice. She has been the driving force in the development of best practice family and carer resources in pursuit of directly benefitting mental health carers. She has the exceptional ability to maintain a grassroots connection to mental health carers and incorporates that in her organisation’s policies and procedures with genuine commitment. She is a true pioneer and voice for mental health carers.

Chair’s Award

A Chair’s Award was presented to Chris Wynn from Thomas Lloyd Guitars, Monsalvat, whose guitar-making workshop has been life-changing to participants. Chris was nominated “because he has made an overwhelming difference to the life of my son and of myself as his carer.”

“…for more than two decades my son has struggled with very basic support from mental health services. Without mental health training or experience, Chris welcomed my son into his program, providing support and encouragement without judgement or stigma. This experience has enabled him to begin to reconstruct an identity and life he can feel proud of. In the words of my son “This has been a miracle”. As a carer I had become despairing of any future for my son or myself. This person has given us both hope.

In recognition Chris received a framed certificate, two nights accommodation at Mooltan Guest House in Hepburn Springs and a $100 voucher for the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa.

Lifetime Contribution Award

A Lifetime Contribution Award was presented to Kali Paxinos who has tirelessly supported families and Mental Health Carers in both community and clinical mental health settings for several decades. Kali has worked tirelessly with family and carers from diverse backgrounds for decades, always maintaining a calm, compassionate, supportive and empowering approach. She has been a fearless advocate for the rights of culturally and linguistically diverse people (CALD) carers, and has mentored both carers and consumers from a CALD background. She has spoken at many conferences in Australia and overseas, and delivered a range of educational programs, both in partnership with consumers and mental health staff, and to them. Author and psychologist Dr Jill Parris has written Shedding the Black Coat, a story about how Kali and family have devoted their lives to making it possible for their son to live well with his illness. At almost 90 years of age Kali continues to inspire us all!

Kali’s bi-line is Yes we can. There is a path to recovery for carers.

Kali received a glass plaque from Wathaurong Glass & Arts.


Tandem congratulates all nominees and award recipients.

Sincere thanks go to:

Wurundjeri Uncle Colin Hunter for his Welcome to Country.

Dr Margaret Grigg, Director, Mental Health Branch, DHHS, who provided an update on the current initiatives of the Mental Health Branch outside of the NDIS, particularly all the work being done to implement the 10 Year Strategic Plan.

Kali Paxinos, who provided reflections and stories from her years as a Mental Health Carer.

The Tandem members and volunteers who helped on the day, without you this event would not have been such a success.

A special mention also goes to:

Mooltan Guest House for generously contributing to the individual award packages.

Wathaurong Glass & Arts for producing the beautiful glass plaque for the Lifetime Contribution Award.

ASRC Catering, a not-for-profit social enterprise of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, who offer global food experiences with a cause.

PrintTogether who specialise in environmentally responsible printing. Tandem’s 2016 Annual Report is printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper using vegetable-based inks.

MIND Australia's Ian Brooks and Anna McNaughton with Dr Margaret Grigg; Kali Paxinos.

Jan Macintire; Frances Sanders and Dr Margaret Grigg; Cate Bourke.

Anthony & Sandy from BBQ Boys; Chris Wynn and Chair, Colin Fryer; Tandem Board member
Matthew Jackman and Violeta Peterson.

Liz Ward and Kathy Collet; Board members Rachael Lovelock and Cathy Spencer;
Wurundjeri Uncle Colin Hunter.

Deb Carlon, Jenny Burger and Annette Mercuri; Tandem CEO, Marie Piu.