At our Changing Minds Board meeting last night I announced that I’m moving on from my role here as Manager. For me this is a really exciting time, but it certainly does come with some sadness, particularly when I think about how I will miss my friends and colleagues in and around the sector, and most of all my wonderful fellow team members – Campbell and Joey.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working in this role and working in community development overall over the last six years.
However, I’ve decided late June is the time to cross the ditch and give it a fair dinkum go over in Aussie. I’m intending to live my life long dreams of being a country-bumpkin, a hippy who lives sustainably, a baking queen with my own commercial kitchen and patronage, and to work alongside my beloved partner Alex to start a not for profit record label aimed at celebrating and recording local culture.
All of these things are really exciting and a little bit scary, but we’re gonna go over there and give it our best shot. We’ve been planning on embarking on this new life for sometime, however, with a change in my partner’s employment situation we have had to make the move a lot sooner than expected and we will be departing in late June.
I took on the role of Manager of Changing Minds just over a year ago now, and I feel really proud of the things that the team and I have achieved in such a short space of time. So I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved and also some of our future plans that are in the pipeline.
When I took on the role of Manager, there was a lot to be done to say the least, and I tackled the role head-on. So how did it start? I started simply by cleaning out the working space, implementing a filing system that was workable and easy, and buying some cheap second-hand furniture that assisted in making the space more comfortable and a more fun place to hang out all day. To me, having a nice environment to work in is really important. We spend a lot of our lives at work and if it isn’t a nice environment this can certainly have an adverse effect on our attitudes to our work. I can safely report that these days the Changing Minds office is a really lovely space to be in. We love our little house. And with recent work on employing someone to run our information centre, the public will soon have increased access to our space, and we hope that others will enjoy having increased opportunities to come in and be creative in our small library and info centre once it officially reopens for business in the coming months.
Not long into my taking on the role I moved from a predominantly printed newsletter to an online version. This move served a couple of functions, including cost-saving, but also to be able to provide people with more up to the minute information, and to be able to link more effectively to other organisations and things that were happening. You might be excited to know that we are currently developing a new and snazzy printed quarterly magazine called ‘Diverse City’ which is being released at the end of June. We’re working on creating something that stands out and invites all people in Auckland to think about mental health, diversity, people, creativity, and environments and how these things all interact with one another.
Re-branding was a huge task which could have been extremely costly and taken a lot more time than it did. But I am an avid bargain hunter and I like things to get done quickly. And we knew we had to move quickly, because we were without a functional website for quite a length of time, which certainly wasn’t helpful for our work or for our members. I’m still so excited about what came out of that re-branding process. We have a beautiful name, voted in by the people themselves, a fabulous by-line, and the most gorgeous logo design ever, thanks to illustrator Lucinda McConnon. Once this was in place we started our design and structure for our new website working alongside the team at Curative. They churned out a new website for us in just 6 weeks! And we’re so pleased with the result – a good-looking, easy to use, WordPress site with all of the functionality that we could possibly need, and more.
While this was in the making we were also working on a couple of other things. I worked alongside photographer Jenna Todd to produce the beautiful images you see on our website homepage. I’m so honoured and humbled by the wonderful people that allowed us to photograph their beautiful faces and took time to write their personalised messages: Rangi Mclean, Chris Rakete, Jade Tang, Shannon Anahera White, Ofeina Langi, Matt Sunderland, Marie Hull-Brown, and Philip Patston. We released the images during Mental Health Awareness Week and we had such a great response, while also gaining loads more Changing Minds supporters and friends from our wonderful community.
Speaking of Mental Health Awareness Week, we also ran a week-long free Film Festival, thanks to the support of Auckland Council, as well as all of the film-makers who allowed us to show their films for free. Hundreds of people came through the festival, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Our aim had been to widen the sometimes narrow view of mental health and ideas of where mental health issues can stem from, looking at issues like: poverty, colonisation, trauma, abuse, and capitalism. We even had a panel discussion that we filmed and released to the world early this year. The discussions were extraordinarily thought provoking and I look forward to hearing more from Changing Minds in future in addressing some of the issues that were raised, such as: forced treatment, informed consent, electro-convulsive therapy, seclusion, and restraint.
During this time we continued our monthly forums with some brilliant speakers. Highlights for me included: Philip Patston – a diversity guru; Julie Watson from the Human Rights Commission; music therapist Ajay Castelino; and Adrienne Giacon from the Hearing Voices Network. This year we’ve had a strong focus on gaining feedback from forum-goers on how they feel services could better meet the needs of people accessing services. The report on Partnership released mid April is something all of us can be proud of and having the opportunity to send that to the Auckland District Health Board as well the Mental Health Commissioner is really something special and I will look forward to hearing news of positive innovations in this area, with authentic partnership between tangata whai ora and service providers becoming a reality.
We’ve also worked on setting up a steering group for the establishment of a national association of peer supervisors. We recognise the growing peer workforce, and want to ensure that that workforce is adequately supported. This is a priority for our organisation and for many others working in the sector and it is exciting to see some of this work taking shape. I hope that the group maintains its momentum and that by the end of the year we have a functional peer supervisors database for those working in the sector to access, as well as some other areas of development that have been identified by the group.
I’m also very happy to report that the Changing Minds Board is in a very healthy position, recently welcoming four new experts, who all bring relevant skills, knowledge and experience to the table to strategise and plan for the coming years. And this weekend we’re working with the Board to develop a new strategic plan to see Changing Minds into the next 3-5 years.
These are just some of the things that we have achieved. And looking back at all of this makes me feel a little giddy, but also extremely proud!
I for one am really excited to move aside and welcome the next leader and to observe how they will grow and develop the organisation and the sector even further. There is still so much work to be done when we think about attitudes toward people who experience mental health issues; the frameworks that the sector employs to discuss and treat these issues; the self-determination of those people that are accessing services; and the development of ideas that look at the intersection between mental health, diversity disability, economics, and environments. I for one feel really positive about the future and the change and difference that we can all make and I wish each of you the best in your work in the movement toward equitable outcomes and social inclusiveness for all peoples.
If you are interested in applying for this amazing, dynamic, and busy role, please see more details here.