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.
Chief General Manager, Corporate Governance and Conduct, Allianz Australia Insurance Ltd
Chief General Manager, Corporate Governance and Conduct, Allianz Australia Insurance Ltd
If we are to get people to seek help early, we need to reduce the stigma associated with asking for that help. As leaders we have a role in that. If leaders open up about mental health, the quicker it will become a part of our everyday and overall health conversations.
Helen Silver is Allianz Australia’s Chief General Manager, Corporate Governance and Conduct.
Prior to joining Allianz Australia, Helen had spent more than 25 years in executive roles in the Victoria and Commonwealth public sectors, culminating in the position of Secretary of the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Helen also currently serves on a number of boards including the Victorian Arts Centre Trust, the Judicial Commission and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
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 is 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.
If we can make a difference to the wellbeing of workers, then we can make a difference to the wellbeing of families. And if we do that, we’ve made a real difference to the whole community.
Deborah has significant experience in leading culture change, large acquisitions from deal negotiation through to full business integration, change management, restructuring and crisis management. Deb is a respected coach and mentor to senior leaders and senior leadership teams.
Since joining KPMG in January 2018 Deb has led the people strategy with particular focus on creating a mentally healthy culture with leaders confident and competent in leading the charge in an inclusive and diverse culture. She also leads the Corporate Affairs strategy which includes the Corporate Citizenship mental health pillar with a focus on partnering with NFPs and peak bodies dedicated to supporting people with mental illness externally in the community. Deborah also sits on the board of The Sanctuary – The Hills Women’s Shelter.
Deborah is married to Michael who together are parents to two teenage boys, and she loves to run, cook and entertain at her home in Sydney after many years of living abroad.
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.
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.