Jane Grace has been homeless. A neglected child, she later experienced domestic violence and period poverty.
But as she bounces with excitement and energy, holding her ACT Mental Health Month Award for Leadership Through Lived Experience, it’s hard to imagine anyone more positive and determined.
Jane founded Red Flag Canberra originally as an advocacy group that held monthly town hall meetings on “unpopular topics” around mental health. COVID-19 prompted a reorientation towards people in need who had very little other support and were struggling with their wellbeing.
“I was a mental health official visitor at the time and I had access to mental health wards,” she explained. “I was taking donations from peers, getting to patients on the ward and when they saw me it was like Christmas.
“They’d been locked up for six weeks with no visitors. We tried to accommodate them with art packs, pamper packs, bras, underwear, hair care and makeup.
“That was where I really learned I wanted to be on the ground with people and their needs.”
Jane’s mission is to deliver people what they want where they are.
She meets the “homeless family” at Veterans Park and Kanangra Court, handing out everything from hygiene needs to individually wrapped Christmas biscuits. Her next project is doing art through the Early Morning Centre on Northbourne, helping them to express emotions and reconnect through creativity.
“It’s a gift of love. We need to get a lot more of that out to the vulnerable people in our community and I’m passionate about it”, Jane said.
Jane was among 13 individuals and organisations honoured at the Mental Health Month Awards. The Mental Health Community Coalition ACT and the ACT Mental Health Consumer Network presented awards and scholarships recognising lived experience, leadership, advocacy and research that betters the lives of those living with mental health issues and their community.
An important part of their message is that everyone can be affected by mental health issues, and guest speakers Dr Andrew Leigh, the Member for Fenner, and Dr Sophie Lewis, the ACT’s Commissioner for the Environment, spoke about the wide-ranging impact of social media, the pandemic and the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20.
Other award winners included:
- Mentally Healthy Community Award: Ben Farrinazzo
- Innovative Person-Centred Support Award: Chat to PAT
- Research Evaluation Award: ACACIA, the ACT Consumer and Carer Mental Health Research Unit, headed by Michelle Ban
- Mental Health Carer Award: Mental Health Carers Voice Advocacy and Policy Advisory Group
- Community Connection Through Recovery Award: Jacinta Dubojski
- Leadership Through Lived Experience Award (Consumer): Jane Grace
- Lived Experience Ally Recognition Award (Individual): Neena Mathee
- Lived Experience Ally Recognition Award (Group): Rebus
- Consumer Small Business Grant Program: Liam Adams
- ACT Mental Health Consumer Network Consumer Scholarships: Paul Thomson, John Welsby
- Rufus Scholarship: Jeremy Michael
- David Perrin Award: Felicity Maher