Our story began in 1984, a time when Bob Hawke was prime minister, Medicare was launched, the first dollar coin was introduced, we didn’t lock our front doors and mental health just wasn’t talked about, let alone the role of unpaid support people and carers.
That year, in Launceston, Ethnee Shields was talking about mental health, those living with mental ill health and their support people. She wanted to help other people living with mental ill health and support people so she rallied together a loyal and committed group of mental health advocates. They met socially to connect, share their experiences and frustrations, share information and feel less alone. From there, ARAFMI Tasmania was born (The Association for the Friends and Relatives of Mentally ill).
In Hobart, Anne Bevan was leading change too, raising awareness and funds to help other support people. She obtained enough funds to run support workshops, and education sessions.
Arafmi Hobart was auspiced (supported and guided) by the Mental Health Council of Tasmania.
And while the topic of mental health is more accepted, we still have a long way to go to reduce stigma – both for the people we support and us as support people.
Growth 2000 – 2007
To meet growing demand, the intention is to hire a part-time employee
Short-term funding is obtained but not enough to maintain quality services
Talk of consolidating northern and southern Arafmi groups to work together, attract essential ongoing government funds
Mental Health Services state that funding could be available for Arafmi in the future. Joint planning meetings are held.
Official amalgamation occurs on August 25 2007 at the annual general meeting
Policies and processes were developed, along with constitutional changes and a streamlined budgeting system. Additional transition funds were obtained from Mental Health Services as well as funding from Mental Health Australia for a Capacity Development Project leading to the development of a Business Plan.
Consolidation 2007 – 2016
Strategy for 2007-2009 is created
Arafmi moves into providing specialist information, support services, and advocacy informed by lived experience
Increased public profile
Improvements in operations and governance
2 regional staff members become 1 full-time employee to assist with administration and project support
In 2012 the management committee becomes the Board of Management and Arafmi changes its name to Mental Health Carers Tasmania
The head office opens in Hobart, and Wendy Groot is appointed Executive Officer.
Volunteers are still invaluable; assisting with Schizophrenia Awareness Week, Wellness and Resilience Workshops, Roads to Recovery, and more
As with all organisations, personnel came in and out of a changing Board of Management. Gary Kelly handed over as President to Kate Shipway at the 2009 AGM, and Kate did likewise in 2016 to Christ Batt.
June 2016 we farewell Wendy Groot and welcomed Maxine Griffiths AM as Chief Executive Officer
In September after extensive consultation Mental Health Carers Tasmania becomes Mental Health Families and Friends Tasmania
A primary driver for the name change comes directly from the feedback that the term “carer” didn’t adequately capture the unique lived experience or the relational relationships between people experiencing mental illness and their supporters. Respondents saw themselves as kin, a friend, family member, partner, friend, work colleague, or neighbour, and stepped into a support role because of the relationship rather than the role
Capacity 2019 - 2023
In 2020, Mental Health Alcohol and Drug Directorate (MHADD) provide funding to employ a full-time project officer to improve digital engagement to address known barriers for families and friends. The funding is provided through Covid 19 Federal funding.
A new program, Safe Spaces Peer Support is born. The program is delivered in Burnie, Launceston, St Helens, and Hobart.
The Australian Government, through the Department of Social Services, provides two-year funding for a Self-Advocacy project. A full-time project officer is employed to develop the self-advocacy toolkit, workshops, and skill-up community champions to deliver workshops state-wide
A part-time project officer is employed for one day a week (2020-2022) to design and implement a framework to support families and friends who care for someone with mental illness and AOD comorbidities. This comes as a response to the reality that many of the families and friends the organisation engages with are supporting someone with co-occurring conditions of mental ill health and substance use
Through funding from Primary Health Tasmania, a twelve-month community well-being and suicide prevention project is developed. Suicide Bereavement workshops are offered to families and friends statewide.
MHFFTas receives funding from the state government to employ a full-time project officer to build the capacity of families and friends with a lived experience of supporting someone who experiences mental ill health and or alcohol and drug use.
A new program called Call2Connect is developed. Families and friends are offered up to 4 support phone calls beyond an initial contact
In 2022, we say goodbye to our CEO Maxine Griffiths AM, and say hello to new CEO, Glen O’Keefe
After more than two decades of esteemed service, we say goodbye to founding members and Family and Friend Representatives, Kate Shipway and Gary Kelly, who both retire