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New Mental Health Commissioners Welcomed

20 May 2008

New Mental Health Commissioners Welcomed

The Mental Health Commission welcomes the announcement of its three Commissioners.

The Minister of Health, David Cunliffe, announced today that Peter McGeorge, Ray Watson and Bice Awan have been appointed as Commissioners, with Dr McGeorge confirmed as Chair. Each appointment is for three years.

The Commissioners set the Commission’s strategic direction, confirm its annual work priorities, monitor its compliance and manage its finances and any business risks that may arise.

Peter McGeorge has been working part-time as the Chair Commissioner since January 1 2008, replacing Ruth Harrison who finished in the role at the end of December 2007. His position is expected to become fulltime later this year.

Dr McGeorge is a child, adolescent and general psychiatrist who has extensive experience in the development and delivery of mental health services in New Zealand and Australia.

During the past 20 years he has been involved in national policy development, reviews of mental health services, and the establishment of systems of integrated community and hospital-based mental health care. He has previously held positions as Director of Mental Health Services in Auckland and Wellington, and has worked extensively as a consultant to various health boards, government departments and non-government organisations. He currently combines his work at the Mental Health Commission with his role as the Director of Mental Health Services at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.

Dr McGeorge is a co-patron of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, and he has been a board member and advisor to a number of other organisations, including the Youth Horizons Trust (NZ) for young people with Severe Conduct Disorders. He is a Life member of the World Federation for Mental Health, and in 2004 he was made a Companion of the Queens Service Order for contributions to public service in New Zealand.

He says he’s looking forward to the challenges of his new role at the Mental Health Commission.

“While many in New Zealand may not realise it, New Zealand has shown it’s a world leader in the development and delivery of recovery-oriented mental health services,” he says.

“The challenges are to continue pushing for improvements so we can give people with serious mental illnesses the best possible care, to make sure that mental health and addiction services are properly integrated across hospital and community services, and to support mental health promotion and prevention for the benefit of future generations.”

“Over the next seven years the Mental Health Commission will actively contribute to the implementation of the National Mental Health Plan and facilitate innovation and social inclusion by mental health consumers by helping to connect the various agencies that deliver mental health care and by promoting the concept of recovery.

“It is possible for people with mental health problems to live quality lives and to participate fully in their communities.”

The other Commissioners also bring a wealth of operational and strategic experience to their new roles.

Ray Watson brings extensive clinical, leadership and governance experience within the health sector, particularly mental health. His iwi affiliations are Kai Tahu and Te Atiawa. Previously chief executive of the Ngai Tahu Development Corporation and chief executive of Lakeland Health in Rotorua and Taupo, Mr Watson has also held a number of senior management roles at Lakeland Health, Canterbury’s Healthlink South Mental Health Services, Otago’s Mental Health Services, and at Cherry Farm Hospital.

Bice Awan also brings extensive leadership and governance experience. She is currently the chief executive of the Skylight Trust, an organisation that provides support for children facing all kinds of change, loss and grief, and she has more than 30 years of involvement in the public, private and consulting sectors in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. She has worked extensively in the health and disability sector, including time as the Director of Rehabilitation for a 2500-bed teaching hospital in Canada.

Meanwhile, the Mental Health Commission’s General Manager, Selwyn Katene, welcomes the appointments.

“These appointments will give the Commission the strategic direction it needs to carry out its responsibilities with vigour and vision,” he says.



The Mental Health Commission was established as a ministerial committee in response to the recommendations of the 1996 Mason Inquiry into Mental Health Services. In April 1998 it became a Crown entity. Its term has been extended three times, the most recent in August 2007, when its term was extended to 2015. At that time, the Commission’s functions were reframed to align with the future direction of the mental health and addiction sector.

The Mental Health Commission’s functions as defined by the Mental Health Commission Amendment Act 2007 are to:
 advocate for the interests of people with mental illness and their families generally (rather than for individuals or groups), while taking into account the interests of other stakeholders;
 promote and facilitate collaboration and communication about mental health issues;

- work independently and with others to promote better understanding of mental illness by the community, reduce the stigma and prejudice associated with mental illness, and to eliminate inappropriate discrimination on the grounds of mental illness;
- monitor, and to report to and advise the Minister on the implementation of the national mental health strategy;
- stimulate and support the development of integrated and effective methods or systems of providing care;
- stimulate and to do research into any matter relevant to mental illness.


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