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Event Details

The Politics of Mental Health: Alastair Campbell

22 July 2019
6.00pm – 7.15pm AEST
City Recital Hall
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Alastair Campbell protrait

Why isn’t providing adequate mental health services a no brainer?

Half of all Australians will experience mental ill-health in their lifetime. The prevalence of mental illness in young people is on the rise. The World Health Organization confirms that depression will overtake heart disease as the number one cause of disease burden worldwide by 2030. Yet mental health receives only 2% of the global health care budget, and even in countries like Australia, awareness and rhetoric outstrip funding by miles.

Providing appropriate mental health services for people who need them should be the number one priority in health care, so why is it so hard for people with mental illness to get a fair deal?

With unique insight into the workings of government, and lived experience of mental illness, British journalist and political aide Alastair Campbell has become a leading advocate for action on mental health in the UK.

He will be joined by a panel of experts including Helen Christensen (Black Dog Institute, Director and Chief Scientist), Patrick McGorry (Orygen, Executive Director), Christopher Pyne (ex politician) and chaired by Sarah Dingle (ABC journalist) to share ideas on what can be done to improve mental health service provisions and outcomes for all Australians.

Presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.


General Admission – $35 + booking fees
UNSW Alumni & Staff – $25 + booking fees
UNSW Students & Under 18s – $15 + booking fees

Booking fee per transaction: Online $5.50, Phone/Mail/Email: $6.60. Bookings made over the counter at the City Recital Hall Box Office do not attract a transaction fee. 

UNSW Student tickets are only available to currently enrolled students who are able to produce their UNSW identification (zID). Such identification must be produced at the event.

UNSW Alumni & Staff tickets are only available to individuals who graduated from UNSW or who are currently employed by UNSW. UNSW staff must be able to produce their UNSW identification (zID). Such identification must be produced at the event.

Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

Orygen is the world’s leading research and knowledge translation organisation focusing on mental ill-health in young people. Orygen’s work has created a new, more positive approach to the prevention and treatment of mental ill-health, and has developed new models of care for young people with emerging disorders. This work has been translated into a worldwide shift in services and treatments to include a primary focus on getting well and staying well, and health care models that include partnership with young people and families.

Orygen logo


Wheelchair Accessible

City Recital Hall has two main entrances. The Pitt Street entrance has level access from the street leading into the ground floor foyer. There is also lift access at the Ash Street entrance to the ground floor foyer. Wheelchair accessible seating, toilet facilities and parking are available. Visit the City Recital Hall website for further information.

Hearing Loop Available

Patrons using hearing aids can access the hearing induction loop available in the auditorium. To utilise the loop, please switch your hearing aid to the "T" position. Please note: Seats 51-54 in every row are not serviced by the induction loop. For further information call the Box Office on 02 8256 2222 or email

Companion Card

The Centre for Ideas supports the Companion Card program. For patrons who require assistance of a companion or carer, a second ticket is issued at no cost to the Companion Card holder.


The Centre for Ideas can provide Auslan interpreting services for selected talks upon request. 


To discuss your access requirements and to book selected access services (excluding hearing loop – see above section), please call the Centre for Ideas on 02 9385 1000 or email

The Centre for Ideas is happy to receive phone calls via the National Relay Service. TTY users, phone 133 677, then ask for 02 9385 1000. Speak and Listen users, phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 02 9385 1000. Internet relay users, visit, then ask for 02 9385 1000.

Alastair Campbell portrait

Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell is a writer, communicator and strategist best known for his role as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman, press secretary and director of communications and strategy. Still active in politics and campaigns in Britain and overseas, he now splits his time between writing, speaking, charities and consultancy. He has written 14 books in the past ten years including a personal memoir on depression and the pursuit of happiness. Campbell is an ambassador for the Time to Change campaign to raise awareness about mental illness, ambassador for Alcohol Concern, patron of Maytree, the country’s only charity for the suicidal, and of Kidstime, which supports the children of mentally ill parents. He co-founded the all-party campaign, Equality4MentalHealth which secured an extra £600 million for mental health services. In 2008, Alastair featured in an award-winning one-hour documentary, Cracking Up on BBC2 about his own breakdown in 1986. Both the film and his first novel, All In The Mind, won considerable praise from mental health charities and campaign groups, which lead to his appointment as Mind Champion of the Year in 2009.

Helen Christensen portrait

Helen Christensen

Scientia Professor Helen Christensen is a health and medical researcher specialising in suicide prevention, e-mental health and mental health epidemiology. Since 2012, Prof Christensen has been the Director and Chief Scientist of the Black Dog Institute and Professor of Mental Health, Faculty of Medicine at the UNSW, Sydney. The Black Dog Institute is Australia’s only independent medical research institute which focuses on mental health across the lifespan. Black Dog translates the latest globally recognised research into evidence-based clinical services, education, training and e-mental health tools for people, workplaces and schools across Australia.

Patrick McGorry

Patrick McGorry

Professor Patrick McGorry AO is the Executive Director of Orygen, Professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, and a Founding Director of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation (headspace). He is a world-leading researcher in the area of early psychosis and youth mental health, and has been directly involved in research and clinical care for homeless people, refugees and asylum seekers. His work has played a critical role in the development and research of safe and effective treatments for young people with emerging mental disorders, notably psychotic and severe mood disorders. He has also played a major part in the transformational reform of mental health services to better serve the needs of young people with mental ill-health. He is frequently asked to advise on early intervention and youth mental health policy both nationally and internationally.

Christopher Pyne

Christopher Pyne

Christopher Pyne was elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of Sturt in 1993. He retired from the Parliament in 2019.  In 2006 he founded headspace: the Youth Mental Health Initiative. He was the Australian Minister for Defence responsible for delivering the $200 billion build-up of Australia’s military capability, the largest in Australia’s peacetime history. Christopher has also been a Minister in the Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison Governments serving as Minister for Ageing; Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Industry Innovation and Science and Minister for Defence Industry. In his time as a Minister he has delivered the National Innovation and Science Agenda, reformed the National Curriculum, introduced compulsory literacy and numeracy testing for Australian teaching graduates and expanded phonics teaching in remote schools in northern Australia. Christopher is the author of A Letter to my Children, published in 2015. Before entering Parliament, Christopher practised as a solicitor.

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