Annette Kimmitt AM, MinterEllison

Published Thu, Sep 10, 2020

Mental health, for me, is all about psychological fitness. Feeling well, enjoying the challenges of life and work, and feeling equipped to deal with what’s in front of you in the workplace. That headspace allows you to support family, friends and colleagues as well.

But there was one point in my life where I didn’t feel psychologically fit. It was 26 years ago when my second child was born and I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. I was in a very black place.

With support, I came through it. But to this day that continues to count as a strike against me by insurance providers. I still can’t get income insurance or life insurance without exclusions for stress-related or mental illness. It’s disappointing the world hasn’t evolved beyond this and is a sign that there continues to be a level of stigma attached to mental illness.

But ultimately for me, good mental health and wellbeing is the cornerstone of sustainable high performance.

A true high-performance culture

When I joined MinterEllison as CEO two years ago from EY, I was surprised to learn that many in the legal profession still believed a high-performance culture was all about driving people to work long hours and deliver high billables.

There was still some way to go to convince everyone that sustainable ways of working that support peoples' health and wellbeing are key to long-term high performance.

Two years on and we now have at MinterEllison a two-pronged approach to supporting a sustainable, high-performance culture.

Firstly, we know that clarity about what you stand for as an organisation – in other words, being clear about your purpose – is fundamental to ensuring people have a strong sense of meaning in their work, which delivers deep satisfaction.

Two years ago, we started a journey to explore our firm’s history and to better understand who we are and what we stand for as a firm. What became clear through that process of discovery is that our purpose – our why – is to create lasting impacts with our clients, our people and the communities we are part of. That clarity of purpose has seen levels of engagement amongst our people rise, enabling them to draw greater meaning from their everyday work and actions.

Secondly, we now have an integrated talent strategy grounded in supporting and enabling the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our people. That dual approach has come to the fore as we navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our purpose combined with our deliberate focus on prioritising the health and wellbeing of our people gave us the framework for important decision making and allowed the firm and all of our people to pivot quickly and successfully. The agility and resilience of our people throughout the pandemic have been mind-blowing.

A no-brainer

There’s still so much to do when it comes to supporting good mental health in the corporate environment and the legal profession.

So, when Steven Worrall reached out to me to talk about Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia, it was a no-brainer. We just didn’t hesitate to get involved.

We’re really delighted to be included amongst the founding members of the Alliance because we see how critical this is to the long-term sustainability of our people, and therefore of our business.

Annette Kimmitt AM, Chief Executive Officer & Managing Partner of the Firm, MinterEllison

Board Member, Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia

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