Council members include consumers, families, carers and support people as well as public mental health service staff.

The MHCC’s Advisory Council ensures all the MHCC’s work is driven by people with lived experience. Members include consumers, families, carers, support people and people who work in public mental health services. They are people of different ages, cultural backgrounds and gender and sexual identities. Each is strongly committed to improving the mental health system for all.

Being in this Advisory Council has been my best experience of advisory councils/groups. There is genuine collaboration and power differentials are minimal. I feel very safe in the group. (Advisory Council member)

Members use their expertise and experiences to give us strategic advice and collaborate on our projects and day to day work. They offer their unique insights into areas such as lived experience of mental health services and co-design and co-production. They also make recommendations for cultural and practice change within services and the MHCC.

The MHCC’s Advisory Council began operating in 2016 following a large consultation process. Members have continued to meet regularly and work closely with staff. The MHCC's Senior Adviser, Lived Experience and Education, provides secretariat and other support to the Advisory Council to ensure it informs all our work. Members also sit on all interview panels to recruit new MHCC staff.

Goals of the Advisory Council

The MHCC has had a clear commitment to the experiences and voices of people with a lived experience. (Advisory Council member)

Advisory Council members were key to creating the MHCC’s Driven by Lived Experience: framework and strategy. As it states, our aim is for everyone who engages with the MHCC to have the following experiences:

  • you feel safe
  • you have a voice and choice
  • you feel heard and valued
  • your individual needs are recognised and respected
  • you influence positive change

Our commitment to being driven by lived experience is also shown in the following statements from the document:

  • We ensure that our work is influenced, informed and driven by the diversity of people’s lived experiences and backgrounds. We ensure that participation creates value for everyone involved.
  • We recognise that every person is unique and will have different ideas, experiences, backgrounds and cultures. We adapt our approaches to reflect people’s strengths and their individual and changing needs.
  • We acknowledge that safety is not the same for everyone, and includes physical, emotional, relational and cultural elements. We believe and acknowledge experiences of trauma and do all we can to ensure each person feels safe when engaging with the MHCC.
  • We are clear in our role, we do what we say we will do, our process is transparent and we communicate regularly with all individuals involved.
  • We acknowledge the experiences and insight of people who engage with our office and are led by the voice of people with lived experience in all aspects and stages of our work.
  • We share with the sector any positive changes to our practice and processes from collaboration with people with lived experience.


My experience with the MHCC Advisory Council has been very positive! I know that my and others’ lived experience is valued and it is genuinely lived experience driven from the beginning to now. Well done! (Advisory Council member)

Chair - Dean Duncan

Dean Duncan is a proud Kamilaroi man from Moree, NSW with many academic qualifications and business and leadership skills. Dean has dedicated his life to creating positive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and in 2019 was awarded NAIDOC's National Person of the Year. Dean is currently First Nations Director for YLab at the Foundation for Young Australians. His knowledge helps ensure the MHCC is culturally responsive and accessible to all.

Watch Dean Duncan, a proud Kamilaroi man from Moree, NSW, talk about his role as the chair of of MHCC"s Advisory Council.

Robyn Callaghan

Robyn has seen and experienced some disturbing environments and behaviour in mental health services. She uses her lived experience as a consumer and in peer-led recovery to work with others committed to upholding human rights and dignity. She aims to help reform mental health services and systems to be more humane, less discriminatory and wiser in practice.

Katrina Clarke

Katrina has worked as a senior family/carer consultant since 2007. She is passionate about engaging people with lived experience and progressing the mental health workforce. Katrina is across current advocacy issues through her membership of many national, state local and regional groups. She is a Community Member for the Mental Health Tribunal, on the Executive of the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum and on the Board of Tandem. She also supports the Carer Lived Experience Workforce in Victoria.

Julie Dempsey

Julie has had many admissions to acute in-patient wards as an involuntary patient. She is currently employed as a Senior Consumer Consultant at Forensicare, and has contributed extensively to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. Julie has a long background in advocating for consumer rights. She has served as Chairperson of the Women’s Mental Health Network Victoria, on the VMIAC Committee of Management and has received multiple awards. These include winning the Victorian Public Healthcare Awards 'Outstanding Achievement by an individual or team in Mental Health Care Award' (2014), the VMIAC Best in State Consumer Advisory Group Award (2018), and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Meritorious Award (2019). In 2021, Julie was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her service to community mental health, as announced in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Elizbeth Hooper

Elizabeth has lived experience and has worked in peer support and community development roles with mental health consumers. Rather than focusing on the incremental improvements that occur when working with individual consumers, she has joined the MHCC’s Advisory Council in order to drive larger improvements in the mental health system. Elizabeth feels passionately that lived experience knowledge can be used to improve the mental health sector sector and service provision.

Elvis Martin

Elvis Martin is a youth leader who has managed to overcome very difficult circumstances and inspire many with his advocacy for social justice, receiving awards such as Young Community Achiever of the Year 2021. Elvis has worked, volunteered and spoken publicly in many roles, addressing mental health, homelessness, family violence and LGBTIQA+ community issues. Currently Elvis is working for the City of Melbourne, Principal Ambassador of Youth Development Australia and on the Board of VMIAC. He uses his platform, including a large social media following, to promote inclusion, diversity and equality for all.

Annette Mercuri

Annette has seen the negative impact that excluding family and carers from treatment and support can have on recovery over two generations of mental ill-health in her family. She is a Carer Consultant and a strong advocate for consumers, clinicians and family and carers working together to create better outcomes for all.

Gloria Sleaby

Gloria has worked in complaints resolution. She also has family members with lived experience of mental ill-health. Currently a finance professional in the healthcare industry, Gloria is motivated to help influence positive change for consumers and carers alike.

Mary Tsiros

Mary has experienced mental illness from many perspectives, including personally and within her close family She is currently working as a carer consultant and joined the Advisory Council to be part of a proactive movement taking action to improve the mental health sector. Mary is particularly interested in increasing collaboration between consumers, families and clinicians.

Tom Wood

Tom is a project peer worker at Peninsula Health Mental Health and on the Committee of Management at VMIAC. He draws on his lived experience as a mental health consumer to advocate for high quality, accessible, respectful and innovative mental health services. Tom believes lived experience voices are integral to effective reform in mental health.

Reviewed 12 May 2022

Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC)

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