Responding to Mental Health Challenges

    This year is the 20th anniversary of the Creating Futures (CF) collaboration. It has evolved from a conference to a movement that seeks to harness experience, expertise, innovation, and goodwill to build the capacities necessary to improve the mental health status of disadvantaged populations in Australasia and the Western Pacific. CF exists as an independent, task-focused collaboration of individuals and institutions built upon a foundation of relationships of trust across time, terrain, sectors, and special interests.

    The Cairns Institute Adjunct 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 of America before returning to Australia in the mid-1980s. For most of the last three decades, he has worked in remote Indigenous populations and for the last twenty years in Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands.

    Building on the success of CF21 virtual conference, the 10th Creating Futures Conference was held online during October 16-18. Themes for Creating Futures 2023 (CF23) centered around ‘Responding to Mental Health Challenges in Uncertain Times’ and opened with a virtual collaboration (through a half-day overlap in real time) with the inaugural national mental health conference in the Maldives – OEVARU – enabling participants to share understandings of commonality and difference across the Pacific and Indian Ocean Island societies.  As well as individual attendees, a number of viewing/attendee locations were set up including at:

    Australian High Commission, Honiara, Solomon Islands Papua New Guinea’s Angau Hospital in Lae (Family Support Team)
    Buala Hospital, Solomon Islands St Giles Hospital, Suva
    Cook Islands Samoan Ministry of Health
    Hong Kong The Cairns Institute
    Maldives, National Center for Mental Health Tonga
    Micronesia

    As well as participants from the Pacific, we also had attendees from the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Philippines, Japan, Eswatini, Nigeria, Kenya, Argentina, Poland, India, Hawaii, and Malaysia. In total, attendees represented 24 countries. 

    The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrist (RANZCP) continued their support of Creating Futures as did James Cook University, The Cairns Institute, Fiji National University, The Tropical Brain & Mind Foundation, St Vincents Hospital, University of Queensland and The Pacific Community (SPC).

    This year with the support from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, the Australian High Commission in Honiara opened their doors and provided a viewing room for around 15 health workers to attend. Jennifer McHugh from the Development in the Tropics team provided much of the coordination and the logistics of CF23 and since 2012.

    Further information about the presenters and program is available at https://creatingfutures.org.au/

    Images (above): Online delegates and panellists. Credit: Jennifer McHugh.

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