We as business leaders could, and should, come together to help normalise this conversation so that we talk about mental health just as regularly and normally as we talk about physical health.
A number of Australian business leaders had felt for some time that more could be done by corporate Australia to support mental health in the workplace, and decided to act on that view. They had heard of the great work of CMHA UK led by Poppy Jaman OBE, and were particularly interested in the organisation’s business-led, expert-guided approach to addressing this growing challenge.
The group reached out to other business leaders to determine their interest in forming a similar alliance in Australia. Some of the country’s largest employers were immediately drawn to the idea, and in early 2020 the Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia was formally established with seed funding provided by its 15 founding members and participants.
Many of the organisations involved in the Alliance are direct competitors, yet on their commitment to workplace mental health, they are as one. They recognise that the mental wellbeing of their employees transcends market dynamics, and that working together collaboratively will give them the best chance of delivering real impact for their people.
We are governed by a Board comprised of leaders from within our founding member organisations. The Board is supported at an operational level through a working group comprising representatives from each member organisation.
We want to help reduce the stigma that comes with talking about it in the workplace. People should be able to go to work and feel safe and comfortable to be their authentic selves, including being able to open up about their mental health.
Good mental health is about maintaining perspective and maintaining a strong outlook. No matter how resilient we are, all of us have hills to climb and obstacles to overcome. What matters is how one approaches challenges and how one is equipped to manage those approaches.
Bruce’s career in law spans 30 years in Australia and overseas as a project, infrastructure and finance lawyer. He has been a partner at two firms and is admitted to practice in Australia, England and Hong Kong.
Returning to Australia in 2010, he was elected to the Clayton Utz Board in 2012 and made Deputy Chief Executive Partner in 2014. He was appointed the Chief Executive Partner on May 15, 2020.
Outside law, Bruce is the Deputy Chair of the Australian String Quartet, skis, collects vintage land rovers and WW1 militaria (both mostly while his wife, Bronwyn, is not looking) and acts as a hired hand in her cattle business.
By being open about my own challenges, I hope to help destigmatise mental health and wellness in the workplace. I want people to appreciate that you can have your own mental health struggles, be vulnerable and have a successful and fulfilling career.
Berkeley Cox is the Chief Executive Partner of the Australian operations of King & Wood Mallesons, a global law firm headquartered in Asia. He leads the strategic direction of the Australian firm (comprising approximately 1,000 lawyers and 600 shared services and support personnel) and drives execution against firm priorities and on its client, people, international, innovation and community agenda.
King & Wood Mallesons is seeking to challenge traditional ‘big law’ notions by creating a workplace where all individuals and teams can maximise their performance and wellbeing in a sustainable way by focussing on both systemic and proximate change and on improving the everyday experience for all.
He currently serves as a Director on the Boards of Workplace Giving Australia (WGA) and Act for Kids.
Berkeley enjoys spending time with his family and with the rich and diverse natural environment that we are fortunate to share in this country.
When you genuinely care about mental wellbeing, you have a responsibility to expose yourself to new ideas, new ways of thinking and working. You also have a responsibility to make an impact.
Andrew is responsible for creating a better day at work for employees at the Commonwealth Bank, guided by the Bank’s purpose – to improve the financial wellbeing of its customers and communities.
Andrew believes that, as one of Australia’s largest organisations, CBA has an opportunity and obligation to enhance the lives of millions each year by supporting their financial wellbeing. To do the best for the customers and communities that rely on CBA, its people need to be at their best themselves. This is what makes finding new ways to preserve, protect and care for people’s physical and mental health, no matter where they are currently on the health continuum, one of Andrew’s most important priorities.
Andrew lives in Sydney with his wife and four children.
I love the power of a significant number of Australian business leaders stating that mental health is critically important and that in a way we're not doing enough, so together we’re going to do more, and we’re going to be better in our organisations and together.
Ellen is responsible for driving market growth and brand eminence across public sector accounts and industry sectors and defining and executing the Firm’s public policy strategy. She is also the Advisory Partner for the Australian Federal Government, NSW, Victorian and Western Australian Government accounts.
She has significant experience working within health and human services, social policy and regulatory agencies to embrace digital transformation, improve service delivery outcomes, and enhance operational efficiency.
Ellen plays an active role in local and national charitable foundations, including Cystic Fibrosis Australia, and is a mentor for the Centre for Economic Development of Australia and the Institute of Public Administration Australia.
Virginia Briggs is recognised within MinterEllison and beyond as a values driven leader. Virginia has held numerous leadership positions within the firm including being a member of the Executive Leadership Team since 2017; a member of the Board Diversity & Inclusion Committee since 2015 and as a Champion of PRiME the firm’s LGBT+ inclusion network. Virginia is also the Managing Partner of MinterEllison’s Infrastructure, Construction and Property group. She is a market-leading practitioner in the property, development and infrastructure markets acting for both government and private clients. Virginia deals in complex large-scale real estate transactions spanning the development, sale, purchase and leasing of commercial, industrial, residential and retail developments and infrastructure assets.
In each of the leadership roles Virginia holds she is committed to creating an inclusive, psychologically safe workplace for all members of the firm. As Acting CEO & Managing Partner Virginia leads a team that recognises that a workplace environment characterised by psychological safety and wellbeing is as fundamentally important as a physically safe workplace, and this focus is critical to sustainable high performance for individuals and the organisation.
Throughout Virginia’s career she has been a visible champion of the legal profession’s resilience@law initiative and over the last two years an executive sponsor of MinterEllison’s involvement in the CMHAA. Virginia has also personally supported a number of colleagues within the firm, and in the broader profession, through mental health challenges and looks forward to learning more alongside her CEO peers at the CMHAA and playing a leadership role as an advocate for better mental health for all Australians.
I learnt the importance of being vulnerable and getting support. I reflected on myself and my work. I created space to live the genuine life I wanted to live. I added things outside of work that gave me joy and fulfilment. Mental health is now a crucial element in my whole being.
Brian joined the Woolworth’s Group as the General Manager, Safety, Health and Wellbeing, with mental health and wellbeing identified as one of Brian’s key priorities.
Throughout his career, Brian has played a pivotal role in engendering a culture of care.
As a globally influential Safety, Resilience, Wellbeing and Sustainability Leader, with a proven track record in delivering tangible business outcomes, whilst maintaining an unflinching commitment to improving the lives of the people he interacts with.
Legal Director - Consumer Health, Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies
It’s a chance for businesses to come together as a united voice to pursue a vision of improving workplace mental health, where everyone feels safe to talk about their mental health without fear of stigma or discrimination.
Felicity McDowell is the Legal Director of the Consumer Health business of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies in Australia and New Zealand and has held this role for many years.
She is passionate about people and mental wellbeing and openly shares her lived experience. Felicity co-leads the companies’ Mental Health Diplomats Employee Resource Group and is an Accredited Mental Health First Aider.
Felicity loves being in and around the water and is learning synchronised swimming with her daughter.
As a leader, improving mental health starts with a willingness to make yourself vulnerable. If you can accept your own short-comings and open some of those up to others, people feel less alone. That’s all a lot of people in the world want - to feel less alone.
Michael Schneider was appointed Managing Director Bunnings Australia and New Zealand in March 2016.
He is committed to developing diverse teams that challenge the status quo and embrace innovation to drive high performance which is critical in today’s competitive retail environment. As a leader, he is known for his collaborative, genuine and honest style and for having a real passion and energy for the Bunnings business.
Michael believes that team members’ ability to connect with customers and the local community is key to the business’ success and that this requires an ongoing investment in building the best team as well as creating a culture that builds trust, inspires action, develops people and drives performance.
Julie Mitchell is the Chief General Manager Personal Injury and is responsible for personal injury lines CTP, Life and Workers Compensation for Allianz Australia.
Across a 20 year career at Allianz, Julie has held a number of key leadership roles including Chief General Manager Workers Compensation, General Manager of Victoria and the NSW Treasury Managed Fund (TMF) businesses.
Julie has over 24 years of insurance industry experience across workplace injury, claims and operational management. Prior to joining Allianz Julie held roles at WorkCover NSW and has also spent a number of years within the occupational rehabilitation industry.
Julie holds a Bachelor of Health Science (Rehabilitation Counselling) degree from the University of Sydney and a Graduate Diploma of Safety Science through the University of New South Wales.
By showing our vulnerability as leaders, we teach to our people that it’s okay to not be okay. We start to erode the barriers that have kept people silent for so long.
Melinda Upton in her previous role was a leading intellectual property lawyer and Global Co-Chair of Intellectual Property and Technology (IPT) at global law firm DLA Piper. The firm’s IPT practice group comprises over 500 lawyers across 25 countries.
Melinda is a passionate advocate for workplace health and wellbeing in the legal profession. She established DLA Piper’s first bespoke mental health and wellbeing program called SPEAK, is a founding member of DLA Piper’s International Health & Wellbeing Steering Committee and works tirelessly to raise awareness about mental ill-health and help drive positive change across our industry.
When Melinda isn’t working, you’ll find her enjoying backyard cricket with her family and friends, on the tennis court or doing “the bay” with one of her running friends or gorgeous collie, Watson.
None of us think we have all the answers, but we're all doing lots of things and in many cases lots of really good things [to support mental health]. The idea is to get together and share what's working with each other.
As Managing Director, Steven Worrall is responsible for Microsoft’s overall business in Australia. He ensures the company meets the needs of its customers and the more than 11,000 partners and independent software vendors that sell or build on the Microsoft platform.
Steven joined Microsoft in March 2014 as Director, Enterprise and Partner Group, responsible for driving business growth and building strong customer and partner relationships in the Australian Commercial and Public Sector markets.
Steven holds an Honours degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and lives in Sydney with his wife and three children.
Sarah is the National Managing Partner of KPMG’s Innovation, Solutions & Ventures portfolio. This team helps shape the future of KPMG by exploring and embedding new forms of growth. Sarah’s passion for technology was driven at a young age by her father who worked in signals intelligence for the British Government. Her father’s influence led her to study computing and management before joining Accenture in the UK where she spent 12 years of her career working on large scale business and technology transformation programs across utilities, telco and financial services.
After arriving in Australia in 2008, Sarah spent a decade in executive leadership roles developing and executing joint business and IT strategies in complex environments. Sarah joined KPMG in 2018 in a return to professional services and chose KPMG for three key reasons: the trusted brand, the smart and very human people, and the ambitious growth and development aspirations.
Sarah has managed just about every work/life integration challenge: emigrating around the world, maternity leave (twice), working part-time, working flex-time, working full-time in two jobs (one at home and one at the office), juggling kids, work, friends, family. Sarah is an outspoken advocate of women in leadership and women in IT.
Outside of KPMG, she has a passion for understanding how human beings work physically and mentally with a specific interest in longevity and the science of health and fitness. Sarah is a parent to four children and her passions include weightlifting, skiing, road biking and reading sci-fi and fantasy.
Along with the stigma around talking about mental health in the workplace is the inherent fear people have of ‘saying the wrong thing’, giving people the building blocks for a conversation can be powerful.
Leading people & culture for AIA Australia, Skye is responsible for creating an employee experience that embodies the AIA promise of healthier, longer, better lives.
With a career focused on driving change in complex organisations, and in particular through large scale transactions, Skye has a passion for building sustainable businesses where people can thrive. Skye also has a strong commitment to coaching other leaders and executives so that they in turn positively impact the people and organisations they lead.
Skye holds an Executive MBA from Melbourne Business School, a Bachelor of Business (QUT) and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
In my experience, the wellbeing of people is essential to teams and businesses performing at their best. 45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime costing Australian workplaces $10.9 billion a year. As business leaders, I believe we must be part of the solution in prioritizing the mental health and wellbeing of our people.
Galderma is the leading dermatology company in the world, dedicated to skin health.
Born in Turkey, Ercument has travelled the world in commercial roles that have seen him work in markets like Australia, Canada, UK, Turkey and the US. He brings a global perspective on leadership and a style that values people and culture to deliver exceptional levels of business performance.
One of the things that Ercument has noted in his life and career is the role mental health can play in limiting people’s potential with a flow-on effect on other areas of life. Yet in the right workplace environment, Ercument has seen people overcome mental health challenges and go on to thrive in business and life.
Apart from being a workplace mental health advocate, Ercument is a husband and father to 3 daughters plus a keen soccer player when his knees aren’t playing up!
We are privileged to have leading thinkers in mental health advising us. These experts are recognised for their contribution to the alliance at an individual level rather than through their affiliation with any one organisation.
Place people first
We recognise mental health as essential to our people’s ability to thrive in the workplace and beyond.
Walk our talk
We practice what we preach within the organisations that we lead, and we share our learnings along the way.
We acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers, and we take our time to do things well.