North Coast PHN

18 September 2018  Project progress

MHPN networks are an opportunity for mental health practitioners from different disciplines to collaborate.  Research shows that networking develops practitioner relationships, improves referral pathways and outcomes for patients. 

The below networks are active in the North Coast PHN area. 

For more information about active networks in the North Coast area or how to start a network, contact MHPN on 1800 209 031 or

Byron Shire MHPN

This popular network has met four times per year since 2010 at the local RSL.  Network meetings consist of guest speaker presentations for professional development.  The most recent meeting was a group discussion on “Understanding difficult therapeutic interactions”, which was led by a psychiatrist.

Coffs Harbour Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Network

The Coffs Harbour Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Network have a full calendar of 8 meetings for 2018. This network had an average of 57 practitioners from a wide range of clinical, community and supporting professions attended meetings in 2017. Presentations included; Living and dying, loss and grief, service overview from ASPECT (Autism Spectrum Australia), school based program Kindness on Purpose, DBT for Dummies: A Basic Overview of DBT and an Insight into the Coffs Mental Health DBT Skills Group, Trauma Informed Care and the final meeting of the year of networking and members sharing stories of successes, collaborations and partnerships that worked, successful programs, exciting developments for the new year, and individual successful outcomes working with a young person.

In May 2017, 73 professionals attended a Juvenile Justice and mental health meeting. Carolyn Dowling, Manager of ACMENA Juvenile Justice Centre, Grafton and Liz Yazbek, Manager of the Youth on Track program Coffs/Clarence Region presented on the early intervention program and young people and mental health in a custodial setting. The types of issues that affect young people in custody and how they assess and deal with them, as well as some of the innovative programs they have developed to promote better health and wellbeing for young offenders in custody. The meeting was well represented, with attendance from Social workers, GPs, Youth Workers, Teachers, Emergency Services and Psychologists.  

In February 2017, 58 professionals attended a Mental Health Reform and the Mid North Coast presentation from Jennifer Melsness Coordinator Mental Health Reform: Mid North Coast and Program Manager: NewAccess & Healthy Minds North Coast Primary Health Network, Mid North Coast Branch. Jennifer spoke about the Mental Health Reform and what it may look like on the Mid North Coast, including feedback on the health needs assessment survey conducted by the NCPHN in 2016 and also IMHpact/MNC (MNC Mental Health Integrated Collaborative Care model). The aim of which is to create a community where mental health support is responsive, inclusive and accessible, enabling a mentally healthy community.

The meeting was well attended, with representation from professions such as; Aboriginal Health/ Mental Health Worker, Mental Health Program Manager, Community Health Services Worker, Social workers, GPs, Youth Workers, OTs, Teachers, Psychologists and the Consumer/Carer/Mental Health Peer Workforce.

Port Macquarie MHPN

A local social worker coordinates the network’s meetings this year, which are held at the North Coast Primary Health Network.   Eight professionals attended a presentation in July titled ‘Everyone has a role: Identification and treatment of Eating Disorders’ presented by a psychologist.  In February, 15 professionals, including psychologists, social workers, a mental health nurse and program workers attend a PHN presentation by Megan Lawrance on ‘Mental Health Reforms on the North Coast’.  

Kempsey MHPN 

This network is coordinated by a local psychologist and mental health nurse. The network meets quarterly at the Heritage Hotel Gladstone to share a meal and network. Guest speaker and members share presentations on mental health topics such as Complex Domestic Violence Trauma Recovery Utilising Creative Arts Therapy and . PIR Support Facilitator provide a service overview.

Coffs Harbour Collaborative

Coordinated by local psychologist, this network has met regularly since 2012 and attracts about 15 health professionals to each meeting.  Over the last year, the group discussed topics on Neuropsychology: Issues in Assessment, Exercise versus Psychology versus Medicine, The Complexes: a Jungian Perspective and the Association Experiment and Evidence-based Mental Health – a Review of 2016’s Mental Health Month Theme: Learn and Grow.

Lismore Network

The Lismore network heard a presentation on Domestic Violence; what legal supports are available to women, men and children and understanding the impact of domestic violence on children and families by guest speakers Paula Fletcher – Solicitor at Law with extensive Family Law experience and Kristy Wood – Teacher, Community Worker and former Youth Worker. Separation, divorce and domestic violence can have significant impacts on men, women and children. During this time, it can be difficult for families to understand the support that is available to them. Often finding the legal system overwhelming and confusing. Equally parents can be at a loss of how to truly support themselves and their children during these challenging times. As Mental Health Professionals, it can be equally challenging knowing how to support our clients through the legal and systematic challenges they face. Although that it is not the role of a Mental Health Professional to offer legal support or advice, having an increased awareness of what is and isn’t available is important for effective service delivery. 

The meeting explored:

  • Increasing understanding towards the legal avenues available to families separating, divorcing and experiencing family violence. 
  • What families can expect and experience going through the legal system
  • Understanding the legal definition of domestic violence is not just physical and verbal violence
  • Increased understanding towards the challenges experienced by children during separation, divorce and family violence and the impact that exposure to violence can have on them.
  • What families can do to support themselves and their children
  • Working with Communities to increase their understanding towards the impacts of domestic violence


The meeting also featured a presentation by Mental Health Program Officer, North Coast Primary Health Network, Tweed Valley. Vicki updated providers on the Healthy Minds program and the mental health reform work in the Primary Health Network.

Northern Rivers Eating Disorders Network

This is a relatively new network which began in 2015 with the specific focus on eating disorders.  Practitioners from the Bangalow and surrounding areas come together to regularly engage in peer support networking and collaboration, from a range of professions including dieticians, counsellors, teachers, psychologists and GP’s.

 Mid North Coast Complex Trauma Network

This network was established as a result of a series of webinars that MHPN produced in partnership with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  Practitioners in the area recognise the need for GPs and other mental health professionals to be able to recognise and better respond to survivors in a trauma-informed way.  The network is coordinated by a social worker who works in private practice.  Members include psychologists, social workers, counsellors, a GP, as well as professionals from a varied range of disciplines from the not-for-profit sector.  The network meets quarterly.

Bellingen Network

Established in 2011, this network meets quarterly in the Bellingen area. The network provides excellent opportunities for collegial networking, peer support and professional development on a wide range of mental health issues.  Speakers from the NDIS, Partners In Recovery and Department of Education presented to a group of primary mental health practitioners on the NDIS and what is means for clients and practitioners.