Big thanks to the Board of Directors of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) for inviting me to speak at the 44th International Mental Health Nursing Conference, or #ACMHN2018, which took place in Cairns between 24th-26th October 2018. Never having been to Australia before, and indeed having never before left Europe, this was a big deal and I was grateful for the opportunity.
The theme for the conference was ‘mental health as a human right’, and the three days opened with a memorable welcome to country given by Yidinji tribal elder Henrietta Marrie followed by music and dance. Keynote speakers reflected well the conference theme in their talks, variously focusing on tackling health inequalities (including amongst Aboriginal people), suicide prevention in LGBQTI communities, rural mental health, human rights progress in Ireland (and more). Concurrent presentations were also very high-quality. Worth noting, too, is how the ACMHN used its conference to raise awareness of its campaign, being run in concert with other health care organisations, to demand that children and families seeking asylum and currently being held on the island of Nauru be brought to Australia.
In my keynote I elected to speak about mental health policy, services and nursing in Wales and made the point that the Welsh approach to health care is different from that found elsewhere in the UK, or in other parts of the world. To illustrate this I spoke about the Mental Health (Wales) Measure, the introduction of both future generations and safe staffing legislation and the imminent appearance of a Framework for Mental Health Nursing prepared through the All Wales Senior Nurse Advisory Group for Mental Health.
I realise that in the UK we have nothing quite like the ACMHN: a professional organisation comprised of subscribing members, which represents its field, acts as a credentialing body (nursing education in Australia being a generalist one) and which lobbies for better services and higher standards. The College has a Board and an elected president, the current incumbent being Eimear Muir-Cochrane, and employs a team including Kim Ryan as salaried chief executive officer. The ACMHN performs no trade union function (like the RCN, Unite the Union, and Unison in the UK), and does not register or regulate nurses (as the NMC does). Australia looks to have a number of colleges and associations organised along the same lines as the ACMHN, and I’ve found this site which lists bodies advancing practice and representing members in the fields of critical care, midwifery, children and young people’s nursing, and more.
#ACMHN2018 was an excellent experience, and I was pleased to meet roomfuls of fine and interesting people. For the record, #ACMHN2019 takes place in Sydney between 8th-10th October 2019, with the theme of ‘integrated care’.