Creating Futures Conference

    The Creating Futures (CF) Conference was first held in 2003 and CF17 will  be the seventh and the second to be held offshore. Creating Futures has had as its focus the intersections of mental health, public health, community development and creativity. The populations of primary interest have been Indigenous peoples from Australia and elsewhere, residents of island nations of the western Pacific and people living with and recovering from mental and/or physical illnesses or disabilities. Creating Futures has foregrounded innovation and evidence in addressing the social determinants of health and wellbeing.

    Professor Ernest Hunter has been the convener for all of the CF conferences.  Ernest is an Australian medical graduate who trained in adult, child and cross-cultural psychiatry, and public health in the United States before returning to Australia in the mid-1980s. He has worked most of the last three decades in remote Indigenous populations and for the last twenty years in Cape York and the Torres Strait. He is currently and adjunct professor with James Cook University and the University of Queensland.


    The Cairns Institute at James Cook University (JCU) first became involved in the series in 2012 when the conference was convened Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Held in partnership with Queensland Health, PNG Department of Health, University of Papua New Guinea, JCU and the Institute, 330 remote and community workers attended the conference in which twenty workshops were enabled by the voluntary participation of some fifty experts in relevant fields from across Australia, with the meeting framed around Global Mental Health by Professor Vikram Patel.


    Creating Futures 2015 was held in Cairns, attracting over 350 delegates and was the first to be held in conjunction with a Leadership in Mental Health Course designed for workers from island nations (see below). Professor Vikram Patel was also present at this meeting and his presentation can be viewed at

    Next CF17

    In 2017 Creating Futures will be held in Suva, Fiji with the support of the Fijian Department of Health. Volunteers from Australia and the Pacific will travel to Suva to conduct workshops in collaboration with colleagues from the Pacific. CF17 is scheduled for 18-21 September 2017—REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN.

    Leadership in Mental Health Course

    The inaugural Leadership in Mental Health: Island Nations Course was held in conjunction with The Cairns Institute and Sangath (a Goa-based Indian NGO) in Cairns, Australia from 11-17 May 2015. The Cairns Leadership in Mental Health Course was based on the successful Sangath course run in Goa, India that is facilitated by Sangath and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

    The Cairns Course program was designed for mental health workers from settings in which resources are scarce and who are committed to improving care for people experiencing mental health disorders at a population level. The Course began with participants participating in relevant sessions at the Creating Futures Conference before moving out to The Cairns Institute for more participatory workshops about leadership in mental health. Participants came from Fiji, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Laos, Vanuatu, Maldives, West Papua, India, Micronesia and Papua New Guinea.

    Mentors facilitating the course were from London, India and Australia including JCU, Queensland Health and the University of Queensland.

    “I am back in Goa after trekking across half the world! Ernest, thanks to you and your wonderful team for making this conference and course happen. When we first discussed conducting the course in Australia, way back in November 2013 I had never imagined that it would turn out to be such an amazing experience. Personally, I must say that it has been a wonderful learning experience for me. I came to Cairns as a tutor on the LMH course but in terms of learning I left there taking more than I could possibly have given.”   
    Abhijit Nadkarni, Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and coordinator of the Sangath course


    Special Supplements of Australasian Psychiatry have been produced after each of the Creating Futures conferences. In December 2015 Australasian Psychiatry published four articles relevant to the Pacific, two from Solomon Islands, and one each from Fiji, and New Zealand (Volume 23, No. 6, December 2015). In that month Australasian Psychiatry also released a Special Supplement with papers from the Leadership in Mental Health: Island Nations course—see

    The supplement is open access and available to the general public. This publication brings together seventeen articles from around the region which constitutes a significant contribution to the mental health literature relevant to island nations. Hopefully it will be part of a growing evidence base into which we continue to contribute.

    For more information please contact Jennifer McHugh

    Banner image: Ben 'Jimmy' Angel | Beach Comber Island, Fiji |

    We thank the following sponsors for their generous support

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