Diamond House Clubhouse

Legislative Council
Wednesday 19 2016





Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.A. Franks:

That this council—

1. Congratulates Diamond House Clubhouse for celebrating its 20 th birthday in May 2016;

2. Recognises the significant work of Diamond House Clubhouse in supporting people who have lived experience of mental illness; and

3. Recognises the important role of Diamond House Clubhouse as a safe place to belong, work and return, and the important work it has achieved in providing programs and services in our community for the past 20 years.

(Continued from 8 June 2016)

The Hon. S.G. WADE (20:25:22): I rise to support the motion to recognise Diamond House Clubhouse on behalf of the Liberal team. I thank the Hon. Tammy Franks for bringing on this motion and as I understand it she has chosen to bring forward a cluster of motions all recognising services and people in relation to mental health, particularly in the light of the fact that last week was Mental Health Week.

Diamond Clubhouse is an Adelaide-based service that provides support and training to people with mental health issues. The Adelaide Clubhouse is part of the Clubhouse International movement, which began in New York in 1948. It is now active in 27 countries worldwide, with over 300 sites. Right across that worldwide movement, Clubhouse programs are governed by 37 standards, which are based on empowering members. At the core of these standards are four principles: a right to a place to come, a right to meaningful work, a right to meaningful relationships and a right to a place to return.

Membership is free and voluntary, and members are responsible for choosing the way they utilise the Clubhouse. Clubhouses always work in an individual space, creating an environment isolated from other mental health services or institutions. In South Australia, in 1996 Ishbel Diamond founded Diamond House in Adelaide to provide a place for people with mental health issues to meet and develop new skills to improve their standard of living. Its foundation funding was provided by the Brown Liberal government.

Over the 20 years since, Diamond House Clubhouse has provided a valuable non-government service for people with mental health issues. Over 740 people have become members, and I understand that there are currently 260 active members of Clubhouse. Diamond House Clubhouse offers psychiatric rehabilitation, also commonly referred to as psychosocial rehabilitation. It provides education on vocational opportunities and support to people experiencing mental health issues.

The Clubhouse provides training in many areas, including safe food handling and preparation, basic computer training, office administration, gardening, barista coffee training and independent living skills. Access to these services supports members in their recovery from mental ill health and enables them to develop skills to lead productive and fulfilling lives. Diamond House creates a safe and welcoming environment, which is very important to many people with mental health issues who often experience isolation.

As the Hon. Kelly Vincent pointed out, in many cases people with disability, including psychiatric disability, are just as much experiencing the social reaction to their situation as the limitations inherent in whichever impairment they are experiencing. Being a part of the Diamond House community, and being involved in recreational and social activities, creates an opportunity for members to develop their social skills and to engage and build an important relationship with others in a comfortable environment.

On 27 May, it was my privilege to visit Diamond Clubhouse as they were celebrating their 20th anniversary. I acknowledge that the Hon. Tammy Franks; the member for Croydon in the other place, the honourable the Speaker; and also the federal member for Port Adelaide were also present to be part of that same celebration. Last week, I was fortunate to again enjoy the hospitality of the Clubhouse team—this time, at the Festival of Now in Light Square—and enjoy the beautiful blueberry tart.

Diamond House has a strong history and a proud present, but unfortunately its future is less secure. The rollout of NDIS is a cloud on the horizon. There is a concern that the state government will step back from funding psychosocial services on the presumption that the NDIS will cover the field. In fact, there are few Clubhouse clients who are likely to qualify for the NDIS, so if Clubhouse funding is withdrawn they may well miss out. My understanding from talking to people involved in Clubhouse is that their estimate is that possibly as few as 20 per cent of current members of Clubhouse might actually qualify for support through the NDIS.

Psychosocial rehabilitation programs such as Diamond Clubhouse play a very important role in our state's mental health services. I am delighted that we have this opportunity to recognise the valuable work of Diamond House and to remind ourselves of the challenges that it faces in the not too distant future. With that, I commend the motion to the house.

The Hon. J.M. GAZZOLA ( 20:31 :04 ): Diamond House (Clubhouse SA Inc.) is one of South Australia's government funded community based day and group psychosocial rehabilitation programs which has been in operation since 1996, providing recovery oriented mental health services on a daily basis from Monday to Friday to people with mental health issues and psychiatric disabilities.

Over the past 20 years, Diamond House has provided programs and services which have helped its members to live successfully in the community, from 30 members in 1997 to 740 members in 2016. The opportunities provided include employment, prevocational courses, health and wellbeing, education, skills-based training, recreational activities and personal development courses, which are provided in a safe and supportive club environment.

As the Hon. Mr Wade said, Diamond House is based on the internationally recognised Clubhouse model. It is one of 13 Clubhouses in Australia and 320 Clubhouses throughout the world modelled on Fountain House, the original Clubhouse in New York, which was established over 60 years ago. Fountain House was established by former patients of a New York psychiatric hospital who met together as a kind of club, a support system for people with mental illness rather than a mental health treatment program.

Diamond House members and staff work together side by side as peers and partners in every function of the Clubhouse operation. Central to Diamond House and Clubhouses in general is the concept of membership and belonging. This is evident in Diamond House's motto: 'a safe place to belong, work and return'. The government is committed to supporting people with lived experience of mental illness in their recovery journey, so that regardless of having a mental illness, members can work productively, have socially satisfying lives and be active members in our community. The board, staff and members of Diamond House are to be commended for their achievements over the past 20 years. I commend the motion.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT (20:33:23): On behalf of Dignity for Disability, I am pleased to say a few words in support of this motion, noting and supporting the work of Diamond Clubhouse, and in particular thank the Hon. Tammy Franks for organising a briefing with some of the people from the Clubhouse to come and speak to members about why its work is so important to them.

Of course, Diamond Clubhouse is important for a number of reasons, not least of which is that there is a growing movement which recognises that the best place for people who are experiencing poor mental health is not always a hospital. It is not always a medical model, it is not always somewhere where they are forced to talk very narrowly and very specifically about their feelings around their mental health state at that time, but is actually a place that will give them a sense of connection to community. That may be with other people who are also experiencing mental illness; it may not. It is the activities that give people a sense of purpose and a sense of identity in our community that so often contribute to mental wellness.

I talk about experiencing poor mental health and mental wellness because, as I am sure I have spoken about in this place before, it greatly frustrates me that for some reason generally in society we still only talk about mental health when it becomes negative, or when we are experiencing mental illness. Conversely, when we speak about physical health we understand that some people have good physical health, some people have poor and most fall somewhere in the middle.

I firmly believe that we need to move the conversation around mental health to that same level of understanding, so that we do not lock people in the shadows when they are experiencing mental health issues and therefore create stigma and misunderstanding, which makes it harder for people to get the help and support they need to remain well. The more we can talk about mental health in all its states the better, because the more people are likely to be open and honest and seek the support they need to maintain positive mental health, just the way we do with physical health. A place like Diamond House Clubhouse has a valuable role to play in creating such a space, where people can be understood and heard, get a sense of connection and gain some skills and a sense of increased purpose in our community. I certainly thank them for that work.

It would be remiss of me not to recognise that there are some challenges which the clubhouse is facing, particularly in terms of its funding in light of the changes on the horizon under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). We know we are moving away from block funding organisations to provide services in the manner of their choosing to people with disabilities, including mental health-related conditions. We are doing so for a very good reason, and that is because people with disabilities and our families have essentially, for so long, directly or indirectly been told to put up or shut up, and have not had the choice or control about when, where and by whom their services and supports are provided.

There are many positives to moving away from block funding of organisations in terms of the individual impact on people with disabilities and our families; however, I also recognise the potential threat it poses to some organisations, particularly those small, grassroots and peer-based organisations like Diamond House Clubhouse. I would certainly like to talk more, both with the National Disability Insurance Agency and with organisations such as this, to make sure that wherever possible, if possible, we can find some sort of middle ground, so that people with mental illness or a psychiatric disability do not find themselves further isolated by a scheme that is supposed to support them if and when the need arises.

Dignity for Disability will be keeping our eyes on the horizon to make sure that wherever possible we can find the most workable way forward for everyone involved. Having said that, I thank everyone involved in the clubhouse for their work thus far. Hopefully it will long continue.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 20:38 :32): I rise to thank those speakers who have made a contribution to this motion, congratulating the Diamond House Clubhouse on celebrating its 20th birthday and wishing it at least another 20 more years, recognising the significant and unique work it does in this state in support of those who have lived experience of mental illness. The Hon. Stephen Wade, the Hon. John Gazzola and the Hon. Kelly Vincent have made contributions tonight, but I know that support for Diamond House Clubhouse is very strong across many members of this place and the other place.

I will say that the Hon. Kelly Vincent is quite right: we all do have mental health, every single one of us has mental health. Some of us, and some of those we love, will experience mental illness, and this is where Diamond House Clubhouse and other organisations are so very important.

I hope the work of Diamond House Clubhouse will be expanded in this state to Whyalla; that is their ambition. I also anticipate that they may face some challenges as the NDIS is rolled out, but they are too valuable to lose. I thank the government for their kind words and I thank the opposition for their kind words and, of course, Dignity for Disability. I look forward to 20 more years for Diamond House Clubhouse.

Motion carried.

Stay Connected

Sign Up to news and updates from Tammy.