19 October 2021

CORRECTED: ACT Recovery College wins service award for mental health recovery services

| Max O'Driscoll
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ACT Recovery College staff

From left: ACT Recovery College staff Kylie Brewer, Shweta Balaji, Dianna Smith, Kim ‘Twisty’ Schmid, John Neasey and Mel Thornberry. Photo: Supplied.

Despite not being funded beyond a trial that ended in June 2021 and being subsequently closed down, ACT Recovery College has won a service and program award in the psychological and support category at the 2021 Mental Health Services (MHS) Learning Network Awards.

The category comprises services from across Australia and New Zealand that go beyond diagnosis of a mental illness and aim to develop the skills required to be autonomous over one’s own mental health.

When in operation, the ACT Recovery College offered free courses on mental health recovery and wellbeing improvement to people aged 18 and above. Working under the four core values of learning, connection, opportunity and hope, all courses were co-designed through an equal partnership between people with lived experience and professional expertise.

The service was funded for a two-and-a-half year trial, which ended in June after ACT Health took on advice from an external evaluator who determined it would not be a viable use of resources moving forward.

For former ACT Recovery College manager Dianne Smith, the award is validation for what she already believed wholeheartedly about the program, and adds to the hope that it may return one day.

“We’re really proud of the fact we helped people and we’re proud of the work we did in the college,” she says.

READ ALSO Who cares for the Canberra carer? ACT carers report wellbeing scores well below the national average

“We continually hope that Recovery College will get funding in the ACT. We’ve got a lot of backing from the politicians so hopefully we will go ahead and another college will be funded.”

Above all else, Dianne is most pleased with her team’s ability to provide a safe and non-judgemental space for people to learn about mental health, wellbeing and useful skills.

Mental Health Community Coalition ACT CEO Bec Cody is hopeful in regards to the programs.

“We are enormously proud of the achievements of the ACT Recovery College and the positive impact it had on the Canberra community,” she says.

“Receiving this award reflects the importance of a program such as this, and is something we will continue to advocate for in the ACT.

“If you do a simple online search you’ll find a series of glowing reviews of the former ACT Recovery College staff. Hopefully, this community recognition may see the service return sooner rather than later.”

UPDATED 19 October, 10:20 am: ACT Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson described the Recovery College as a “fantastic trial”, which remains under review moving forward.

“The pilot program focused on building resilience in the community, empowering people to strengthen their own skills to respond to their mental health and wellbeing needs,” Ms Davidson said.

“The ACT Government is reviewing how we can best fit this model into our mental health system, how we can make this or a similar service sustainable in the long term for Canberra and how to best support the individual needs of people with mental health conditions.”

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that funding for the Recovery College was withdrawn. This is incorrect. Region Media has been informed that funding for the Recovery College was only available for the two-and-a-half year trial.

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