Department of Health


People with mental illness and their families and carers can get help to advocate for their rights from a range of organisations and individuals.

Independent Mental Health Advocacy

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)External Link supports consumers to understand and exercise their rights.

IMHA advocates are 'on the side' of people receiving compulsory treatment. They are independent from hospitals and mental health services. Their service is free and confidential.

Advocates are based in Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo and Dandenong and support people across Victoria.

Independent Mental Health Advocacy goals

The IMHA approach to advocacy is guided by the principles of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022 (the Act).

The Act promotes voluntary treatment wherever possible and focuses on recovery.

In particular, IMHA aligns with these principles for the provision of mental health services:

  • they are to be delivered in the least restrictive way possible
  • they will promote recovery and full participation in community life
  • people who are subject to compulsory treatment have the right to take part in decisions about their own assessment, treatment and recovery
  • respect for the rights, dignity and autonomy of people with a mental illness.

Getting help

IMHA will be notified at key points when a person is receiving compulsory treatment. IMHA will contact the person unless rthey have advised IMHA that they do not wish to be contacted. When an IMHA advocate contacts a person, they will explain what they do, and the person can decide if they want their services.

IMHA advocates can:

  • listen to what a person wants and talk to them about their options
  • give the person information and support to act on the person’s rights
  • work with the person so they can have their say
  • refer the person to other services as requested

IMHA advocates do not provide legal representation or specific advice about how the law applies in a particular situation. If a person requires legal help, they can ask an advocate to refer them to Victoria Legal Aid.

IMHA can be contacted directly on 1300 947 820 between 9.30 am and 4.30 pm seven days a week or email .

Community visitors

Community visitors are volunteers who monitor the adequacy and appropriateness of mental health services, and they help people with a mental illness who receive these services to resolve issues, seek support and make complaints.

The Office of the Public Advocate administers the Community Visitors program.

Community visitors can visit and inspect bed-based facilities without notice, including designated mental health services, residential services that provide 24-hour nursing care, and other types of residential services.

Any person receiving services in one of these mental health services, their family or carer can ask to be visited by a community visitor.

The person in charge of the mental health service must notify the Office of the Public Advocate within two days of the request.

Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council

The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC)External Link provides advocacy, education and research services to ensure people’s rights are upheld and their opinions and wishes are heard in matters that affect their lives.

It is the peak Victorian non-government organisation for people with a mental illness.

VMIAC provides information, mutual support and self-help, advocacy, research and evaluation, and education and training.

The organisation employs community advocates who work with individuals, groups and the mental health system as a whole to uphold rights and represent people’s opinions, wishes and needs.

Tandem - promoting family and carer involvement

TandemExternal Link is Victoria's peak body for families and carers of people experiencing mental illness and emotional distress.

Tandem promotes family and carer involvement in the treatment, planning and decision making of people with a mental illness, as well as advocating for the needs of families and carers.

Tandem conducts:

  • research and evaluation to improve the quality of the mental health system
  • advocacy work to promote better policy outcomes for families and carers
  • training and education for mental health professionals
  • a carer support fund to help carers in their role.

Reviewed 21 March 2024


Was this page helpful?