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ARAFMI Carer Forum 2021
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National Carers Week and Queensland Mental Health Week was celebrated from 10 – 16 October 2021 and the Arafmi Team was busy all week with stalls at the West Moreton Mental Health Expo, Caring for Carers event at St John QLD, West End and the Brisbane Mental Health ExpoArafmi was also a sponsor of the Carers Queensland, Carer Friendly Business Awards event on Tuesday, 12 October and we would like to congratulate all the winners – well done! 

Arafmi also hosted two events for our mental health carers – one was a collaboration with the Lovewell Foundation/Lovewell Café at Mt Gravatt Outlook and the other was our annual Carer Forum.

Lovewell – Take Time to Connect   

We were very pleased to co-host an event with the team at Lovewell Foundation and the Lovewell Café up at Mt Gravatt Outlook. The event was possible thanks to the 2021 Queensland Mental Health Week Community Events Grant Program.

The Lovewell café provided delicious treats for carers, and wellness activities were available including yoga and aromatherapy. Stallholders from organisations such as the Carer Gateway, Lives Lived Well, Stepping Stones and Carers Queensland were also onsite to help provide information to our carers. Despite the rain we had a very impressive turnout and as you can see from the photos – a good time was had by all!

Carer Forum

As part of National Carer’s Week and the Queensland Mental Health Week we were very proud to present the Arafmi Carer Forum on Wednesday, 12 October at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. It was a very full day with speakers including Ivan Frkovic, Queensland Mental Health Commissioner and Prof John Allan, Executive Director, Queensland Health Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch. We also heard from Melissa Bult who is our Senior Peer Carer Coordinator from Cairns – we’re very grateful that she could travel down and be with us the event.

Our carers were introduced to the Carer Advisory Committee (CAC) and they also got to meet the members of our Carer Support Team.

Carer stories were shared by Cindy Heddle (Queensland Carer Representative for the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum), Melissa Bult, Senior Peer Carer Coordinator from Cairns, Prof David Richards, Abi Cooper, a young carer; and Leah Cotterell. It takes great strength to stand up in front of over 100 people and we are so grateful to them for sharing their stories. We’re also very thankful for the many carers and presenters who travelled to participate in this event. 

During Cindy Heddle’s presentation, she shared a compassion exercise which resonated with many in the room. We have shared it with you here: 

I would like to share a compassion exercise with you today; this works to help you with compassion for others especially if they are challenging to be around. And it also works to support your own self-compassion…. These are the words: 
Just like me this person is seeking some happiness for their life. 
Just like me this person is trying to avoid suffering in their life. 
Just like me this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair. 
Just like me this person is seeking to fulfil their needs. 
Just like me this person is learning about life. 
The moral of the exercise is to become aware that we’re all in this together. By increasing our compassion for others and for ourselves we can hold hope in the toughest of times. 
Carers were also introduced to the Carer Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Carer Support Team. 

The wonderful team from Mobile Healing Hands were also present and their booking sheets got filled up very quickly. We were also very lucky to have Julie from the Aroma Coterie onsite providing aromatherapy hand massage and guided meditation sessions – her booking sheet also filled up quickly! 
We introduced a section called Table Talks where we had six representatives from various organisations within the mental health sector. Carers could pick a table and join in on the discussions with their table host. Tables included Queensland Carer Representative, National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum, Carer Gateway/Wellways, Independent Rights Advisor (IPRA), Queensland Mental Health Commission, National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and Queensland Health Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch. This section was well received and helped carers connect, learn and share.  
Prof Kate Hutchings and Dr Katrina Radford of Griffith University presented their findings and recommendations from the Young Carer Research Project. This was then followed by a presentation by Dr Marianna Wyder and Prof Robert Bland – Moments in a Carer’s Journey: Realities and Possibilities. 
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day for all. We look forward to bringing you another one in 2022! 

Ailsa Whitehead: Lifetime Achievement Award  
Ailsa and Ivan

Most people who have been involved with Arafmi would know Ailsa Whitehead and the significant contribution she has made and continues to make to our organization. Ailsa helped to introduce and build the carer support line to what it is today. Up until January 2021 Ailsa was still hosting a monthly carer support group at our head office. Following a change in her health, Ailsa reluctantly decied to retire from her volunteering role at Arafmi.  

At the Carer Forum on Wednesday Ivan Frkovic, Queensland Mental Health Commissioner presented Ailsa with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to mental health carers. This is a new award and Ailsa is the very first recipient. Congratulations Ailsa – it is very well deserved! 

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