The NSW Consumer Advisory Group – Mental Health Inc. (NSWCAG) was originally established as a ministerial committee in 1992 in response to the First National Mental Health Plan . Consumer advisory groups were established in each state and territory in Australia to provide consumer and carer advice and oversight to the implementation of the First National Mental Health Plan at a state level. As such, NSWCAG was a committee of consumers and carers who provided advice to the Minister for Health.
Each state and territory was called to:
Establish or maintain a mental health consumer advisory committee which is representative of the range of mental health consumers and carers. Such an Advisory Committee shall provide advice, including to both the relevant Minister and Chief Executive Officer of the Agency. (First National Mental Health Plan, 2002).
In 1994, NSWCAG was incorporated and became an organisation within its own right. This meant that NSWCAG was no longer a ministerial committee, but was its own separate legal entity. NSWCAG evolved into an advocacy body for mental health consumers and carers, which gave it the ability to provide advice and input in a lot of different ways at the state level, whilst still retaining close links to the Minister.
Today, NSWCAG is the only remaining Consumer Advisory Group from those that were established under the First National Mental Health Plan. In 2008 the functions of NSWCAG as the peak body for both mental health consumer and carers were separated, with NSWCAG now only representing the views of mental health consumers in NSW at the state, and at times, national level. In this respect, NSWCAG is quite a unique organisation in Australia, as its sole purpose is consumer systemic advocacy and representation.
NSWCAG’s vision is for all people with a lived experience of mental illness to participate as valued citizens in the communities they choose.
The current objectives of NSWCAG are:
- To provide independent representation and a strong, informed voice for the diversity of consumers in NSW in all policy and service development, implementation and evaluation
- To articulate and defend the rights of consumers through all sectors of the community
- To work in partnership with all stakeholders in mental health to achieve best practice in mental health care for all.
Our main activities include:
- Providing comprehensive, balanced systemic advocacy for consumers about the delivery of mental health services in NSW that represents the rights and views of consumers
- Conducting relevant consultative work across NSW to obtain representative views, experiences and issues from consumers
- Providing information to stakeholders regarding directions of NSW Health, NSW Government and the Australian Government on mental health policy
- Building the capacity of consumers to participate in mental health policy and service development, implementation and evaluation activities.