How Did TheMHS Conference Begin?

In 1990, a group of psychiatrists decided that it would be good to organise a conference/forum on mental health issues which would be broadly-based and multi-disciplinary. After a couple of years, it became The Mental Health Services Conference Inc. of Australia and New Zealand (known widely as TheMHS Conference).

TheMHS Conference was one of the first multi-disciplinary mental health conferences in Australia and New Zealand.

This first multidisciplinary mental health conference was held “back to back” with the 1991 Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) conference in Adelaide, South Australia.

This first TheMHS Conference attracted 170 delegates and featured Simon Champ as a consumer keynote speaker. The organising committee was: Viv Miller, Alan Rosen, Andy Campbell, John Hoult, Margaret Hoult, Roger Gurr and Eli Rafalowicz.

Over the years, the original committee have increasingly reflected the multidisciplinary nature of the organisation, with organising committee members coming from a variety of mental health fields.  These include consumers, carers/families, nurses, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers, educators, researchers and administrators.

So much enthusiasm was generated that a second conference was held in Sydney, New South Wales, in 1992 that attracted 300 delegates.  Conferences have been held annually since 1991 across Australia and New Zealand.

A Broad Coalition

TheMHS Conference attracts a broad cross-section of people involved in mental health services.


First Consumers Day

The first Consumers Day was successfully held in Melbourne with 200 consumers attending. TheMHS Consumers Forum was organised by consumers for consumers.


First Indigenous Forum

The first Indigenous Forum was organised in 1995 in Auckland, New Zealand.


First Carers Forum

The first Carer (families of people with a mental illness) Forum was organised in Brisbane, Queensland in 1996.


First Summer Forum

Each Summer Forum focus on a ‘hot’ topic in mental health services. It is held each February in Sydney and is a two day Forum capped at 200 delegates.

Why Are We Now Called TheMHS Learning Network?

Originally, TheMHS was the acronym for The Mental Health Services Conference Inc. of Australia and New Zealand. In 2014, TheMHS changed its name to TheMHS Learning Network Incorporated and developed a new logo in order to better address our current and future directions in bringing people together and providing quality educational experiences. Our strapline became “A learning network for improving mental health services in Australia and New Zealand”.

Our Governance

TheMHS is an international learning network for improving mental health services in Australia and New Zealand.

TheMHS Learning Network is an independent, incorporated, not-for-profit organisation funded by delegate registrations, government grants and sponsors. It is run by a volunteer Board.

TheMHS Learning Network’s Board has delivered conferences by working closely with local organising committees since 1994. This has added diversity, innovation and ensured local input to the conference planning process.

The Achievement Awards

The first Australia and New Zealand Achievement Awards were presented by the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health, the Hon Brian Howe, at the 1992 TheMHS Conference. These Awards are given to mental health services, programs and individuals in Australia and New Zealand who provide high quality services for people who have mental illnesses and their families.

The Awards have continued each year and are now funded by both the Australian and New Zealand Governments. TheMHS Awards are currently given out under the categories of: Exceptional Contribution, Services to Mental Health, Media Reporting and most recently, Research. For more information on current Awards and prizes, go to Awards section.

TheMHS Anniversary History Book

25 Years: The Journey of TheMHS

Download PDF

As Relevant As Ever, 29 years on

TheMHS Learning Network celebrates its 29th annual conference in Brisbane, Australia, from 27-30 August 2019. Over 1,000 delegates will attend, making it the largest and most inclusive mental health conference in Australasia.

The 20th TheMHS Summer Forum was held at The Mercure Hotel in Sydney on 22-23 February 2018.

These events continue to enable people in the Australasian mental health sector to broaden their connections, hear the latest developments from around the world, and participate together to keep improving mental health services.

In 2015, TheMHS Conference marked it’s 25th Anniversary with a booklet jam-packed with TheMHS history.

TheMHS Learning Network acknowledges all contributors to this booklet – for their willingness to be interviewed and their thoughts recorded and published. We appreciate their honest reflections and loyal support.