Change Champions Say Better Mental Health Support Needed For Migrants

Change Champions Forum: Mental Health
October 28, 2016
Improving outcomes for people from CALD backgrounds in aged care policy and service delivery
November 17, 2016
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Change champions round table forum finds that migrant mental health care services are needed to support CALD communities. Adrian Gurgone at the Change Champions Forum

Today, Australia is home to one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations on earth. People from all over the world continue to settle here whether migrating or as refugees. Many of them find it very difficult to navigate the healthcare and Medicare system in Australia once they arrive, and those with mental health challenges can find it overwhelming.


Many issues need to be considered around mental health of immigrants, refugees and those from ethnic minority groups.  Our current health system complexity adds to the challenges.  It can be bewildering not only due to communication barriers and limited access to interpreters but also because of the range of different health care providers and agencies make it difficult to know where to go for what.


Cultural background impacts attitudes and actions taken in response to mental health challenges.  Different belief systems and spirituality considerations held by migrants and refugees that are quite different to those in western societies need to be understood to provide the patient with the respect, support and diagnosis they need.  Bridging understandings between patient and provider requires awareness, respect and processes that support communication and understanding.

Adrian Gurgone, Fortis Consulting; Dr Aesen Thambiran, Humanitarian Entrant Health Service; Mary Gurgone, Fortis Consulting; Alex Maine, Fortis Consulting; Jennifer Byrant, Business Women Australia

Adrian Gurgone, Fortis Consulting; Dr Aesen Thambiran, Humanitarian Entrant Health Service; Mary Gurgone, Fortis Consulting; Alex Maine, Fortis Consulting; Jennifer Byrant, Business Women Australia

At a recent round table forum including the Minister for Mental Health the Hon. Andrea Mitchell and

Mr Barry McKinnon, the Chair of the Mental Health Commission Advisory Council, an expert panel shared their insights on both Australian and international best practices in addressing the complexity of diversity and mental health in institutions, families and in the wider community. Together with the round table attendees, it was agreed that the way to influence future innovation to support culturally diverse people with mental health challenges is through four key areas;

  1. Building a more integrated health system to make it easier to navigate that is welcoming and flexible for non-English and culturally diverse patients;
  2. Connecting providers across police, health, education, business and community groups to be more integrated and collaborative in providing support;
  3. Improving communication between patient and provider with more transcultural awareness training for medical and support staff, plus access to interpretation and cultural mediation services;
  4. Increasing awareness and empathy in the community through storytelling and connection;


With an increasing population in Australia born overseas, many who arrive due to traumatic circumstances,  it is critical to enable mental health that recognises and values diversity and provides services that enable the right support be delivered to those who need it, no matter what cultural or language differences they have.



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Professor Alex Main

Professor Main has worked in the area of mental health, training and development for 50 years, including a period as Educational Adviser to the Metropolitan Police in London, and as Coordinator of the Training of University Teachers throughout the UK. Since coming to Western Australia, he has focussed on cultural training, including the improvement of services to migrants and refugees.   As a professional psychologist, he has a strong commitment towards re-evaluating mental health provision for all sectors of society.


Dr Aesen Thambiran

Dr Thambiran is the Medical Director of the Humanitarian Entrant Health Service (HEHS), and has witnessed discrimination in apartheid era South Africa as a young man of Indian background. It has inflected his work ever since.  “I’m aware from my own experience that it’s inevitable we, as both doctors and patients, view medicine through a prism of culture. The paradigm of Western medicine isn’t necessarily one some people from CaLD backgrounds fully understand. Yet culture affects concepts of health and well-being and, most importantly, how an individual interacts with a health service.” Aesen, graduated from UNSW before moving to WA work in general practice, has had a long-standing commitment to this area of the health sector.


Aldo Gurgone

Aldo Gurgone is a Clinical Psychologist established the William Street Family Therapy Centre in 1987 as a Centre of Excellence in Family and Relationship Therapy and Professional Training. He has been practising family therapy since 1972. His experience and background in family therapy and mental health spans work in Australia, the UK, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore and Peru. Aldo continues to provide individual, couple and family therapy as well as Clinical Training and Supervision of Mental Health Professionals and Agencies, and has developed and delivered highly sought-after post-graduate training to mental health professionals for over 25 years, both in Australia and overseas.


Lorena Cavalieri

Lorena Cavalieri is a Clinical Psychologist specialising in couple and family therapy. For many years she has been interested in immigration and developed a model of transcultural psychotherapy, applied in Psychotherapy Service for Immigrant Families of the Silvano Andolfi Foundation in Italy.  As a Director of the Foundation she developed numerous projects, interventions and research studies in the field of cultural mediation and clinical and social intervention for immigrant families. Lorena recently moved to Australia to continue to practice in Perth.


Mary Gurgone, National Director of Fortis Consulting and Panel MC, said:


“Fortis Consulting understands the importance of cultural diversity and how this impacts service delivery requirements. The Australian Government has selected Fortis as the Partners In Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC) partner in WA to improve the capacity of community service providers to respond to the needs of people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.  We are keen to explore new and proven strategies in delivering consumer directed care so that those with mental health challenges gain better quality of life.  The ideas shared today has started a new conversation for the revolution required.”



Change Champion Forum Attendees included:

The Hon. Andrea Mitchell – Minister for Mental Health

Mr Barry McKinnon – Chair of the Mental Health Commission Advisory Committee

Mr Adrian Gurgone – Executive Chairman, Fortis Consulting

Ms Jennifer Rose Bryant – Managing Director, Business Women Australia

Ms Karyn Lisignoli – CEO Noongar, Wellbeing and Sports


About the Change Champions Forum


The Change Champions concept was developed as a collaboration between Business Women Australia and Fortis Consulting to bring together invited business women and corporate and government leaders to engage in conversation and address areas that require innovative pathways to facilitate change. The agenda, which will be held over a series of roundtable forums, covers topics including gender concerns, women on boards, cultural diversity, aged care and leadership.


MEDIA CONTACTS – for Interviews, further information and photos.

Business Women Australia

Lyn Hawkins, Director

M> 0437 197 914      



Fortis Consulting

Mary Gurgone, National Director

P> +61 8 9467 2490  



More about Business Women Australia


Business Women Australia is a membership based community of business women focused on improving opportunities for women, business knowledge and personal and professional growth.    Business Women Australia is proud to be collaborating with Fortis Consulting  and tackling the broader issues that are important in our wider community.


More about Fortis Consulting



Fortis Consulting is a boutique national consultancy with a track record of harnessing diversity, enhancing capability and developing cultures to drive productivity. Fortis is a recognised leader in providing expertise in diversity, cross cultural issues, gender, Aboriginal issues and aged care.  With a national footprint across Australia and Perth-headquartered, Fortis Consulting provides key services to clients in a range of industries and government sectors.


Fortis Consulting is the new Western Australian PICAC (Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care) provider funded by the Australian Government Fortis will be driving improvements to the capacity of aged care services to respond to the differing needs of older people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.


Fortis Consulting recently received the 2016 Private Sector Award for Outstanding Contribution to Multiculturalism by the WA Department of Local Government and Communities – Office of Multicultural Interests, which recognises their work in cultural diversity training and their consultative work with groups across the CALD sector to build and deliver cultural training.