Back to top

A thousand flowers blooming

1 Nov 2013


Grow was established more than 50 years ago by people living with mental illness. Queensland's Mental Health Commissioner spoke at their Queensland AGM.

Grow is a truly consumer led organisation and one which I got to know in Western Australia.

Some of the key elements of the Grow program are very relevant to the broader mental health agenda.

The principle of reasonableness – what is a reasonable expectation of someone with a mental illness or drug and alcohol problem, what is a reasonable expectation of their families and friends to provide support, what should we reasonably expect from service providers?

Problems are so often, in the first instance, problems of understanding.  If we understand other perspectives, if we understand what is causing people to act in certain ways, we will have gone a long way to solving a problem.

Then there is the idea of mutual help – helping yourself by helping others.  Companions and peer workers can contribute so much to mutual help

The principle of 'ordinariness' is something Growers strive for.  It’s not so bad being ordinary doing whatever ordinary good people do, and avoiding whatever ordinary good people avoid.

So what can the Mental Health Commission do?

We are working through our consultation processes developing principles that underpin how we work.

A vision is emerging through our consultations. It is a vision of a thousand flowers blooming.

Rather than thinking of a single uniform system, we would be better to think of letting a thousand flowers bloom; of just getting the culture and framework right, giving organisations bit of help, snapping the leash and letting them go.

Innovation and responsiveness to local need are more likely to flourish and so long as broad guidelines are observed, so long as each organisation is not reinventing the wheel, so long as there is cross-fertilisation and learning by one from the other, we should encourage a future that suits local conditions, not one that simply provides options, for example, of different coloured petunias.

We want a garden with tall trees, with azaleas and Sturt peas and Cooktown orchids – with a 1000 DIFFERENT flowers blooming. May your gardens flourish.