ACT Mental Health Advisory Council

The ACT Mental Health Advisory Council has seven members appointed for a period of up to three years. The Council provides considered advice to the Minister for Mental Health and the Coordinator-General, Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The ACT Mental Health Advisory Council is established under the Mental Health Act 2015 to provide advice about:

  • emerging or urgent mental health issues; and
  • mental health service reforms; and
  • mental health policy; and
  • mental health legislative change; and
  • anything else in relation to mental health and social and emotional wellbeing as requested by the Minister.


Members are appointed by the Minister for Mental Health on the basis of their individual expertise and to reflect the diversity of the ACT community. The Council brings together knowledge, skills and experience in promotion of mental health, mental health care services and addressing mental illness.

Ms Sue-Ann Polden, Chair

Ms Polden is a registered psychologist who has been working in the mental health field for over 15 years. She is currently working with CatholicCare Canberra & Goulburn in a leadership role, overseeing the delivery of psychological services and business development projects. She has experience in strategic development, coordinating existing services and supporting the provision of high quality mental health promotion and service provision in the ACT. Ms Polden holds membership with the Australian Psychological Society, professional registration with AHPRA and sits as a member on the boards of the Mental Health Community Coalition (MHCC) and Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs Association (ATODA).

Ms Polden has worked extensively with at risk individuals, families and young people, as well as with CALD and Aboriginal communities across Queensland and the ACT, and is passionate about ensuring the Mental Health sector is responding to the needs of the most vulnerable in our community with a particular interest in enhancing the wellbeing of families, children and young people within the ACT.

In 2019 Ms Polden was formally appointment Chair of the Council following a period of being nominated by the Council as Vice Chair.

Ms Judy Bentley

Ms Bentley extensive experience as an advocate and carer representative at both national and local level. She is a passionate advocate for improved services and conditions for carers, families, and consumers. 

Ms Bentley was an active proponent in the development of ACT Mental Health Community Coalition and deputy Chair for the first four years. She was the ACT carer representative on the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum for eight years, with the last four as Deputy Chair and has now returned representing the Private Mental Health Consumer Carer Network, of which she is ACT coordinator.  She is also a member of the National Register of Mental Health Consumers and Carers.  

For many years, Ms Bentley has been an independent carer representative on the Collaborative Engagement Forum working with the Adult Mental Health Unit and a current Board member of the Richmond Fellowship.

Ms Matilda Emberson

Ms Emberson’s diverse experience across work and life, including lived experience of mental health, informs her contribution to the Ministerial Advisory Council on Mental Health in the ACT. Born in England, Matilda migrated to Australia from Fiji in her mid-teens. She has also lived in PNG and New Zealand during her former career as an Australian diplomat. Matilda established her own business in consulting, coaching and facilitation fifteen years ago and works across the public, private, community and NGO sectors within Australia and internationally.

Matilda is driven to find better ways for the mental health and drug and alcohol sectors to collaborate to offer more integrated support for those with co-existing problems and break down stigmas.  She is actively involved in supporting her immediate family in managing co-existing mental health and drugs and alcohol issues, including as kinship carer for her young grand-daughter. This brings its own challenges for maintaining mental health and professional contribution.

Mr David Lovegrove

Mr Lovegrove has over 16 years experience in the ACT as a health, and mental health and well-being advocate and consumer representative both in the public and community mental health sectors.  He has national and international experience in evidence based best practice and lived experience research and service provision.

He has also previously worked in the Australian Public Service for over 8 years in Canberra, and has lived and studied overseas for over 6 years.  He has also been a Stretch Teacher and Stretch Therapist for many years.

Mr Lovegrove has an academic background in philosophy, ethics, language and literature and has strong experience in research, evidence-based research methods, and in critical thinking and analysis.

He has actively participated on a wide range of Australian and ACT government committees as well as in the community sector with the ACT Mental Health Consumer Network, the Mental Health  Community Coalition ACT, the Health Care Consumers Association, the ACT Consumer and Carer Mental Health Research Unit (ACACIA) in the Centre for Mental Health Research at the ANU.  He is also a Consumer member of ACT Health’s Human Research Ethics Committee.

Ms Samia Goudie 

Ms Goudie is a proud Bundjalung woman who was born in Canberra. She has a Master’s degree in Applied Science and a medical and sexual health counselling degree and is a Fulbright Alumni. She is currently working as an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Design leading the Indigenous programs.

Samia has previously held academic and research positions in Population Health, Public Health and lectured within the ANU medical school. Samia has taught in Universities and worked with communities both in Australia as well as in the USA. She has extensive experience working with community organisations including starting her career as an Aboriginal health worker and counsellor. She has worked in partnership in many roles to develop programs addressing community wellness and healing projects. These include working trans-generationally with communities and individuals focussing on healing from Trauma, substance abuse, and addressing mental health and suicide.

She has experience of mental illness both personally and as a carer. These experiences have led to a strong interest in understanding trans-generational trauma, complex grief and loss and models of healing and wellbeing from an Indigenous perspective. 

Associate Professor Jeffery Looi

Professor Looi is a Clinical Academic Psychiatrist who works across public, private and the University sector. He is currently working in Canberra Health Services, at the Australian National University Medical School and private practice. Professor Looi has more than 20 years of experience across mental health in clinical practice, policy, research, teaching, administration and advocacy at state and federal levels.  He has international clinical research experience, including as a Fulbright Scholar at UCLA and Karolinska Institute, and works two days a week in clinical practice.

As a long-term resident of the ACT, Professor Looi has a deep commitment to education, health, culture and welfare of the ACT, advocating through service with the Canberra Health Services, ANU Medical School, Australian Medical Association (AMA), Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation (ASMOF) and Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP).

Ms Jenni Shoring

Jenni Shoring is a proud transgender woman and a Canberra local having lived and grown up in the ACT. Jenni is currently working as the Operations Manager for A Gender Agenda (AGA), a not-for-profit organisation that works with the transgender, gender diverse and intersex community in the ACT. Jenni has links to the LGBTIQ+ community and is a strong advocate for the trans and gender diverse community. Jenni was a part of the Gender Affirming Guidance Working Group to develop the Guidance to support gender affirming care for mental health (the Guidance) representing AGA and someone who has lived experience of being a trans woman. Jenni is also one of the key stakeholders who sits on the Gender Affirming Guidance Implementation Advisory Group. Jenni is currently coordinating the targeted training to health and mental health care providers in the ACT to outline the key messages of the Guidance. Jenni has significant experience in management roles, having worked in retail in the ACT for over 20 years. Jenni’s management roles have seen her work with a team that have also experienced mental illness, and she has completed various management training through organisations such as the National Australia Bank, Optus and Rebel Sport on identifying and supporting team with mental illness.

Meetings and communiques

The Council meets bimonthly and each meeting has a specific topic for consideration. Following the meeting the Council prepares a Public Communique.

Public Communique:

Contact the Council

The Council can be contacted through the Council Secretariat at:

Council Secretariat
Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing
GPO Box 825
Canberra City, 2601


Page last updated on: 11 Nov 2022