Meet the team

Get to know the members of the mental health consumer peak project steering committee

The Queensland Government is committed to ensuring the voices of people with a lived experience of mental ill-health are heard at all levels of the mental health system.

To support this, a new Queensland Mental Health Consumer Representative Peak is being established, to be operational in the first half of 2021.

The work will be led by people with lived experience – through project management, governance, and broader engagement processes.

Meet the members of the steering committee who will help implement the peak.

Ivan Frkovic

(Co-chair and Commissioner, Queensland Mental Health Commission)

I came to Australia from Croatia and grew up in Ipswich – I now live in Forestdale. I have about 28 years’ experience in the mental health sector, in government and non-government sectors, and mainly in service delivery, funding and policy.

I choose to be a part of the committee because I truly believe that it is vitally important to ensure that people with a lived experience have genuine and meaningful input into all aspects of mental health, including service delivery, funding, policy, etc.

As co-chair my aim is to ensure that the steering committee takes into consideration lived experience from the outset in the establishment of the consumer peak.

My secret talent: I love singing, enjoy all music and Croatian dancing – not sure about it being linked to talent?

Rebecca Johnson

(Co-chair and lived experience representative)

I'm from Bundaberg, Queensland and currently live in Brisbane. I have been an active part of national and state conversations in mental health and suicide prevention for more than 10 years. I'm a proud Aboriginal and Australian South Sea Islander woman; my passion for being an advocate for changes within diverse mental health systems flows from not only my own lived experience, but also from listening to the stories of many people from some of the most vulnerable populations and communities. I am committed to ensuring that these voices remain at the forefront of any conversation, co-design or collaboration that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of our Queensland communities. I am also an award recipient of the national Out for Australia award for my leadership and role modelling in LGBTIQ advocacy and inclusion.

I chose to join the committee to promote a broader community understanding of consumer and/or lived experience inclusion in policy and organisational development. As co-chair, I hope we achieve a natural cascade of co-designing the Queensland mental health consumer representation peak: a deeper community understanding that consumers and/or people with a lived experience want other Queenslanders to know their perspectives are heard, valued and validated, in a way that improves self-care and safer service accessibility.

My secret talent is that I’m a keen guitar technician and lyric writer.

Bretine Curtis

(Interim Executive Director, Queensland Mental Health Commission)

My 25 years of experience in mental health, alcohol and other drugs and suicide prevention are underscored by my passion for systems and service improvement. Before joining the Commission in early 2019, I held senior leadership positions in the West Moreton Hospital and Health Service. I’ve led mental health education across Queensland, including work to support forensic mental health service clinical risk assessment and information packages.  

Dr Erin Evans

(Representative from Health Consumers Queensland)

I’m from West End, Brisbane. I’m the Chair of Health Consumers Queensland, and chair the Queensland Genomics Community Group. I was a member of the steering committee that oversaw the scoping project for the mental health consumer organisation in 2019 that led to this current work. I’m delighted to continue involvement in this important organisation’s establishment. On a personal note, I also have been a carer for family members.

I have a PhD in biotech novel drug design and an MBA and works internationally as an executive in the biotech sector and NGOs. I specialise in working with leaders and organisations around the world to navigate uncertainty and deliver complex projects.

I am passionate about the role of consumers in all aspects of health and also in organisational governance and development. This role on the committee brings these two together.

In this role, I hope to support the development of a sustainable, resilient organisation that serves and adapts to the needs of consumers with mental health care needs for decades to come. It needs to be an organisation that the consumers own and feel represents their needs and voice.

My secret talent: I love Latin dancing and up to a few years ago enjoyed performing as a samba girl. Maybe post-COVID isolation, who knows???

Irene Clelland

(Representing Arafmi)

I live in West End, Brisbane but am originally from Glasgow in Scotland. I have nine years’ experience in mental health in Queensland working in mental health and disability orgs (all NGOs), and am currently CEO of a medium-sized NGO that supports carers. I have another 14 years’ experience in Scotland in NGO and policy advocacy roles in local government. I have also been a consumer, receiving mental health services – mostly in Scotland but also proactive supports in Queensland. In my spare time have been involved in multiple committees and projects, with the most recent being a Queensland committee member of the Pinnacle Foundation who provide educational and vocational support to young adults across Australia where their gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual characteristics have prevented or hindered achievement of their career aspirations or personal development. I also provide mental health awareness training to various different organisations. Personally, I am a retired international hockey umpire (over 100 international caps), pug lover, and have a lived experienced of recovery from mental illness.

I choose to join the committee because it’s an exciting and important opportunity to try and shift the mental health landscape in Queensland.

I’m not sure yet what I hope to achieve in this role – achievement is a team decision and focus – I’m happy to contribute to what ‘achievement’ might look like.

My secret talent: I always correctly guess the ‘baddie’ within 10 minutes of watching a crime thriller or murder mystery (it’s annoying).

Dr Dave Scott

(Lived experience representative)

I’m from Cleveland, on the Redlands Coast. I have living experience of mental ill-health, and bring to the steering committee my experiences in community development roles in First Nations communities in Canada and community networks on the Redlands Coast.

I chose to be a part of this committee because I have a passion for participatory design programs that empower those with lived experience to influence decisions that affect them. As a person with lived experience this is my opportunity to advocate based on my experiences with the sector.

I hope this role helps me to achieve better outcomes for people who have experienced trauma as a child, and for those who are disengaged with the mental health system due to social inhibitors.

My goal is to work as hard as I can to change conditions that hold social problems in place.

Melissa Pietzner

(Lived experience representative)

I’m from Mackay, and have been a consumer of health services in Queensland for 22 years. I worked with the Child Support Agency before moving to London, where I became a consumer of NHS UK health services. My advocacy work started in London when I joined my local NHS Foundation Trust. When I returned to my home town of Mackay, I volunteered with a local Community Health Reference Group. Since then I’ve become involved with a variety of local, state and national steering committees.  

I chose to be a part of this committee because I’m passionate about lived experience-led reform and tailoring services to better serve the unique needs of individual communities, and to support Australia to collaborate with other countries and share knowledge and expertise in health care

In my role, I hope to empower consumers to share stories and work together to build better health services for all, and to contribute to the work being done in integrating both government and non-government services to improve service delivery in rural and regional Queensland. I hope to help the formation of a peak body with a solid foundation it can use to maintain high standards in mental health care and have a positive and lasting influence across Queensland’s mental health services.

Michael Burge AM

(Lived experience representative)

I have been advocating for mental health consumers since 1995 on more than 80 local, state, national and international committees and forums. I’ve participated in exchanges and visited over 100 different consumer driven and operated organisations in over 11 countries.

I am among a unique group of peer advocates that have worked full-time in a public mental health service at the grass roots level for many years (19th year). I have a lived experience of mental health as a consumer, carer, Indigenous person, and a veteran. I am often in a mental health unit speaking with consumers one day and representing their perspectives and voices at a local, state, national and international level the next.

I wanted to be part of this committee because I bring a unique, strong and real time consumer viewpoint and perspective: not watered down, not sanitised, and not skewed through numerous layers of bureaucracy.

I also bring extensive experience in the development of many policies, procedures, and constitutions (including at national levels) for consumer-led organisations over many years and want to use my experience to help make the consumer peak a reality for Queensland. 

I hope to be part of achieving the establishment of a strong, proud, effective and representative peak body that provides genuine and meaningful engagement with a diverse range of consumers across the state.

Since 2017 I have been a consumer representative on the board of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and presented at their congresses in New Delhi (2017), Houston (2018) and Buenos Aires (2019).

My secret talent: I loved speaking Pidgeon English during my time in Bougainville 2000.

Sandra Eyre

(Senior Director, Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch)

I’m the Senior Director, Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch, where my core areas of responsibility encompass strategy, planning and partnerships. In this role, I’ve led development of Connecting Care to Recovery 2016-2021: a plan for Queensland’s mental health alcohol and other drug services and overseen implementation of the government response to the Barrett Adolescent Centre Commission of Inquiry and associated program work including establishment of the new Jacaranda Place adolescent extended treatment centre.

I’ve also led development the Peer Workforce Support and Development Framework, Lived Experience Engagement and Participation Strategy and the project work associated with consulting and scoping a new consumer organisation.

I have previously worked in senior roles in the Social Policy and Intergovernmental Units at the Department of The Premier and Cabinet and the Strategic Policy Branch, Queensland Health. I have policy expertise across a range of health and social policy areas including national health reform, intergovernmental relations, multicultural health, maternity and women’s health, domestic and sexual violence.

I hold a Bachelor of Social Work and a Bachelor of Business – Communication and has held senior social work positions in hospitals and community health services, the Family Law Court and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (NSW).

Natasha Oickle

(Lived experience representative)

Originally from Canada, I am now a proud Queenslander with 20 years’ experience as an executive manager. I spent many years living and working in different countries, and this has enabled me to develop additional language skills as well as a big-picture approach to strategic planning. I have contributed to capacity building and policy development in several sectors including the education and not-for-profit sectors in Australia, Japan, Korea and the Philippines.

I have always been drawn to service providers that assist marginalised and vulnerable people and am passionate about helping others along their journeys. I am honoured to contribute to the important work of the Mental Health Commission. It is my hope that the Commission will embed a systemic approach to decreasing the incidence of poor mental health as well as increases community awareness and easier access for Queenslanders with lived experience.

Abi Cooper

(Lived experience representative)

I'm from Yeppoon, a small town about eight hours north on Darumbal country, but I currently live in Brisbane. As a young person with lived experience I've been interacting with the mental health system on a personal basis since I was in my early teens, as both a young carer and someone who lives with mental-ill health. I've also been engaged with the system on a professional basis, and I currently work with Orygen on their National Youth Advisory Council. I am an advocate for more inclusive, holistic and intersectional mental health care that is led by young people, for young people. 

I chose to be a part of this committee because I believe it is incredibly important to listen to and represent the voices of young people in the mental health sector. We are such a key consumer and a really unique group, and any service or body that hopes to address mental health must also look at young people as a part of that. 

In this role, I really hope that I can be a good advocate and ally for young Queenslanders. I hope that I can use my own experiences to push for a more inclusive and safe system, and to empower other young people to take charge and make change. 

Tanya Kretschmann

(Queensland Consumer Representative, National Mental Health Consumer Carer Forum)

Bio to come.

Learn more about the peak project here.