Annual Review


Wellways acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we live, work and play and pays respect to their Elders past, present and future.

We are committed to inclusive communities, workplaces, policies and services for people of all backgrounds, genders, sexualities, cultures, bodies and abilities.

Aboriginal Flag Torres Strait Islander Flag LGBTQI Flag

We can arrange interpreter services for most languages, please call 1300 111 400 to arrange an interpreter or translation for this publication.

We’ve achieved so much over the last financial year that we wanted to share some of those achievements. Thank you to the participants, staff and partners who helped create this report.

link button
Read the 2019-20 Wellways Consolidated Financial Statements

Chair and CEO report

Michael Gorton AM
Wellways Board Chair
Laura Collister,
Wellways Chief Executive Officer

Our annual review for 2019-2020 looks back on a period before an Australian summer of devastating bushfires and a period of shutdowns during the global COVID-19 pandemic that has in the second half of this year affected our services, staff and our participants in so many ways. So much has changed, and yet the principles underlying our approach as a services provider and advocacy organisation remain the same. We believe our organisational principles will help us interpret and respond to a new post-COVID environment where old patterns of thinking and behaviour are rightly being challenged.

Wellways has happily risen to the challenges of COVID-19. Our staff throughout our 16 regions, some working remotely and others delivering important face-to-face services, have shown remarkable commitment in often difficult circumstances. Importantly, we have been guided throughout this time by our organisational vision for an inclusive community where everyone can imagine and achieve their hopes and potential.

We have been agile enough to embrace the digital space, while at the same time acknowledge that we have a role as an essential service to continue our frontline supports for some of Australia’s most marginalised people, many with severe and enduring mental health issues or challenging disabilities. We made sure we implemented precautionary training for staff, systems to distribute personal protective equipment around the country and regularly maintaining communications channels with participants, staff, the sectors in which we work and the wider community.

We have always been an organisation available for anyone in need of our support and the services we provide. The last 12 months has proven our ability to expand our reach and grow our programs. The COVID-19 environment has opened opportunities, including expanding our programs and services into the digital space. But our expansion this year began well before any of us considered we were facing a global health crisis.

The Board and the Executive Leadership Team have overseen an exciting period of growth. Last year Wellways announced our successful bid to become a Carer Gateway Service Provider across Queensland and the New South Wales region of South West Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains. In April, this year we launched our Wellways Carer Gateway operations, reaching out to over 700,000 informal, unpaid carers. Our support for carers has not stopped at State or regional boarders, with Wellways now playing a pivotal role to the further development of Carer Gateway services across the rest of the country.

This year Wellways also experienced success in our bids to manage six Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC) services in Melbourne’s north western and eastern suburbs. Our successes strengthen our partnerships with North Western Mental Health and Eastern Health, some of the biggest health service providers in Victoria. Excitingly, the PARC services commenced under Wellways management from midnight 30 June 2020.

We also find ourselves in a fortunate financial position during this review period. With our ongoing focus in strengthening our responses to tender opportunities, we have increased our revenue by $30 million. A key contributor to this revenue increase was our continued ability to attract substantial block funding from Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to deliver transformative services, including BeyondBlue’s NewAccess counselling service and its suicide prevention program, The Way Back Support Service.

Wellways is a truly diversified organisation, providing programs and services across a range of areas and communities. What has particularly struck us as we reflect on the past year is the vital contribution each and every staff member makes towards delivering our organisational strategy.

In December 2019, we undertook our first Best Practice Australia annual employee engagement survey. We were very pleased with the results, especially in learning 62 percent of staff believe Wellways is a truly great place to work and that we have a strong workplace culture of ambition.

In releasing the survey results, we have made commitments to our staff that we believe our workplace culture can be further strengthened and more than ambitious. We look to instituting a culture of success in the coming years. We want to truly listen, hear and act on our staff voice. We have laid down critical foundations across the organisation to ensure our management teams constructively listens and responds to the concerns of their staff. Where training needs have been identified at the organisation and occupational levels, we have sought to provide staff with suitable opportunities. And where improvements can be made, we will seek to implement change.

Advocacy is also a key pillar of our strategic plan and over the past year we have significantly expanded our reach and influence through our communication and responses to government inquiries and reviews, including the Productivity Commission inquiry into Mental Health, the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health and the Federal and Victorian parliamentary inquiries into homelessness. This year we also saw the launch of our innovative public mental health campaign, #StampedeStigma and the appointment of the campaign’s inaugural ambassador, comedian and media personality, Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann. In its first year the campaign reached out to over 2 million Australians.

On a personal note, as the new Chair, appointed in June 2020 and the new Chief Executive Officer, appointed in December 2019, our priorities have been to engage with our staff and stakeholders. We have both benefited from succeeding leaders who have left Wellways well placed and in an extraordinarily strong position. To Paul Montgomery, our former Chair of the Board and Elizabeth Crowther, our former CEO, we say thank you and wish them both all the best with their future endeavours.

In a year like we have just experienced, it is hard to list all those we need to thank. From the perspective as Chair of the Board thanks go to our Directors and Co-opted Independent Committee members for their support and attention to detail and as CEO thanks must be passed on to our management team and all staff at Wellways for their continued dedication to our mission.

Moving forward into a new year, Wellways will only continue to grow. Just as being defined as an essential service has characterised us this year, 2020-2021 will be a year where we strengthen our accountability for achieving the commitments in our Reconciliation Action Plan as we advance reconciliation and our relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It will be a year where we will seek to not only stamp out mental health stigma and discrimination, but we will also further address discrimination and inequality experienced by the LGBTIQ+ community. It will also be a year for seeking out collaborations with more individuals and organisations who can help us reach more people, more effectively and strengthen how our services are delivered in a COVID impacted environment. It’s a year we look forward to.

- Michael Gorton AM (Board Chair) and Laura Collister (CEO), October 2020

Board of Directors

Our board of directors meet every month to set Wellways direction.

Top: Michael Gorton AM (Board Chair), Scott Hartley, Julie Babineau, Kay Toshach.

Middle: Kevin Abrahamson, Paul Montgomery, Rosemary Boote, Dr Julian Freidin.

Bottom: Laura Collister (CEO), Hon. Reba Meagher, Gerard Reed (Company Secretary).

Building inclusive communities

We work with...


Increase on the previous year:
+ 25% (7159 last financial year)


of participants are aged between 41 to 60 years old

Participants under the age of 24

We ran 96 programs from Queensland, down the Eastern seaboard to Tasmania. Below are some of the highlights.

Community mental health

Well Connected

235 people who live in Victoria’s Barwon-Otways and Greater South Coast regions participated in Well Connected – our new, 12-month psychosocial support program for people who have not already engaged with clinical mental health services or the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The team facilitated 52 peer support and group-based programs to build capacity, like narrative therapy (re-framing your story), Qi Chong and mindful meditation.

We helped 20 people gain access to more support via a NDIS plan and 39 participants to complete the program to return to work, join other community groups to follow their passion or access appropriate services.

Another 40 participants in our Murrumbidgee region accessed the program in New South Wales while in the Murray region in Victoria’s northwest, the National Psychosocial Support Measure program supported more than 160 people.

Life In Community

We matched 14 volunteers in Melbourne and the ACT with 18 people with mild to moderate mental health issues. They worked together over three months to build skills and confidence to access and participate in their local community.

This support transitioned to great success to over-the-phone chats while COVID-19 restrictions were in place.

Two craft volunteers continued to run a weekly craft group for participants via an online setting while participants and volunteers were unable to meet face-to-face.

An extra 10 people have put up their hand to become Life In Community volunteers.


Developed by Beyond Blue and delivered by Wellways, NewsAccess is a free mental health coaching program for anyone over 18 years old who feels stressed, anxious or overwhelmed about everyday life challenges.

Wellways first NewAccess program was established in November 2019 in Gippsland Victoria and has supported 226 participants since launch in February 2020.

We successfully tendered for a second program in South Eastern NSW which includes Cooma, Eden, Goulburn, Nowra, Ulladulla, Wollongong and surrounds and are currently training our new coaching team.

Positive Life in Aged Care Enterprise (PLACE)

Designed by Wellways and co-produced with a range of service users and families who have experienced the transition to residential aged care. The program supports individuals in residential aged care facilities and their families to stay connected, manage stress and try new things.

Service delivery began in four aged care homes in Gippsland in October 2020. We plan on rolling out PLACE across all of the region’s 53 residential aged care facilities by June 2021

Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative (HASI)

In New South Wales our services provided 243,000 hours of support to 1,215 participants, who received on average 235 hours of support to build independence in their daily life.

Where our HASI participants live

Rural and remote areas
Regional cities and centres
Capital cities

My time with HASI has been excellent.
I've had mental health issues all my life and I haven’t been able to do things on my own. I enjoy doing group outings with some of the other participants and meeting people who have gone through similar and different experiences.
I also love having my support worker around, talking about goals and ways to reach them eventually. I feel accepted and comfortable with my workers. I`ve had great relationships with them too.
I`ve reached some goals already in my time with HASI, things I never could even think of doing on my own and I`m very grateful to be in the service.

HASI participant

Rehabilitation and Recovery

In Tasmania, more than 200 people over the age of 16 accessed our Rehabilitation and Recovery Program to gain support to improve their sense of wellbeing, autonomy and self-confidence. Demand for the program has recently exceeded capacity, resulting in a temporary waitlist in the North West and South of the state.

Peer Workers who have lived experience of mental health issues assist in welcoming all new participants and work on a one to one basis with a number of participants.

A recent survey showed most participants (88%) would recommend the Program.


147 Support Coordinators worked with frontline staff to support 3,150 participants and deliver 351,151 service contacts.

Support workers have shown flexibility, creativity and commitment in the face of the bushfires in Gippsland and coastal New South Wales during December and January as well as throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While hours of support decreased during the national lock down, connection with participants did not. We found different ways to stay connected with our participants, be it social distanced walking or using telehealth to not only the check in but share skills and even play games online.

Many participants are now interested in keeping remote supports going in some form even when COVID-19 restrictions are rolled back.

Where our NDIS participants live

Rural and remote areas
Regional cities and centres
Capital cities

Housing and homelessness

Housing is an essential component to increased wellbeing


Our Doorway housing and recovery program supported 53 people experiencing mental health issues, 18 of which secured a private rental property across Gippsland, North East Melbourne and South East Melbourne.

Pathways to Home

Our rough sleeping homelessness program helped 114 people who were sleeping rough in Melbourne’s Eastern Suburbs to secure accommodation, and link in with health and community-based supports.

The team increased its face to face work throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to meet the significant demand for this vulnerable population group. The team worked hard to not only reach more people sleeping rough, but to strengthen partnerships with council and other providers in the region to ensure people experiencing homelessness were kept safe and provided supports.

Homeless Outreach Mental Health Support (HOMHS)

We worked with 24 young people in Geelong to build on their personal recovery and develop skills for sustaining a home in the community of their choice. Seventeen of those young people secured private rental, public housing, share housing or returned to live with their family.

“This time last year I was linked into Wellways to work with Tracey*, as I had been couch-surfing for three months and living mostly out of my car...

She is a fantastic listener and a great support person with her empathetic nature. She has taught me independence, especially in the setting of managing money…

I am learning to understand myself and also my illness...

With her encouragement I have been striving to meet my goals… not to mention the assistance she has given me in finding me a place of my own to call home.

She has gone out of her way to make sure I am comfortable in my new home with everything that I need and I know that things can only improve for me now that I can finally settle.”

HOMHS participant
*name changed to protect privacy

Residential mental health

Step Up Step Down

We supported 806 participants across ACT and Victoria.

472 people told us that staying at Step Up Step Down and Prevention and Recovery Care services (PARC) programs had a significant impact on their wellbeing and recovery.

Wellways PARCs consistently rank first in overall experience of care in the Victorian Government’s Your Experience of Service (YES) questionnaire which tracks participant experience of Victoria’s 66 mental health programs.

Participants reported significant reductions in major stress, depression, isolation and loneliness. The programs also helped people make positive improvements in relating to others, daily life tasks, managing psychosis and dealing with addiction.

Expanding our reach

On July 1 Wellways started operating six new PARCs across Melbourne after a massive effort to find and employ more than 60 staff to run these important sites and programs.

PARCs are now a big part of how Wellways supports people to connect and achieve their hopes and potential.

Over the next 12 months we will support more than 1,500 people to return home and achieve their goals.

Wellways Helpline

40 trained volunteers took 7,500 calls and responded to 1,200 emails last financial year – the majority of these helped people understand their mental health issues or those they care for or supported people experiencing isolation and loneliness.

Helpline supports

Rural and remote areas
Regional cities and centres
Capital cities

Working with young people

In Queensland, we supported 48 young people in both short term crisis placements and longer-term care arrangements.

A major restructure of our program has ensured that lived experience is embedded in key roles within the program which has resulted in quality outcomes for young people in Wellways’ care.

Both of our Program Coordinators have a lived experience of being a child in care.

Youth Community Living Support Service

In Northern NSW and South Western Sydney, we provided more than 8,324 hours of intensive psychosocial support to young people who live with serious mental illness.

Our team maintained uninterrupted services throughout COVID-19 pandemic by adapting services to be COVID Safe, implementing new virtual and telephone-based supports, rethinking what support can look like, refreshing individual recovery plans and boosting the role of natural supports.

“Significant changes have occurred in the structure of staff arrangements and recruitment of new staff including those in management roles. These changes have improved positive outcomes in service delivery and working in partnership with the department.

“Wellways appreciates the importance of matching specific workers to young people so that the care service is personalised.”

Qld department of child safety, youth and women

Suicide prevention and support

As well as providing support to individuals who have attempted suicide and their families, we connect with and guide families, friends and workplaces who have lost someone to suicide.

Gatekeeper Training

Some of our most important work is helping train communities about how to support someone they are worried about, whether it be a workmate, family member or complete stranger.

Across the organisation last year, we trained more than 300 community members to help start the conversation and link loved ones with support that can literally save a life.

Meet some Gatekeepers

The Way Back Support Service

Across the Murray, Great South Coast and Gippsland regions in Victoria we provided practical, non-clinical support to individuals and their family following a suicide attempt. This includes providing education and awareness and being a sounding board to help increase resilience and coping.

In Murrumbidgee, six staff provided 184 people with non-clinical support following a suicide attempt. And just before the end of financial year we successfully tendered to run Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal Engagement in Ballarat to support people to reduce the risk of suicide or repeated intentional self-harm.

Supporting carers

April 2020 was ground-breaking for Wellways.

The phone lines for our Carer Gateway contact centres in Brisbane, Queensland and Campbelltown, New South Wales opened.

We’ve advocated for a service like this since Wellways started in the 1970s.

The Carer Gateway delivers support to people who provide unpaid care to family members or friends who live with disabilities, mental health issues, chronic health conditions or are frail aged.

In our first six months of operation our contact centre took more than 12,000 calls from carers in Queensland and NSW. There have been 7500 enquiries for service and our carer support workers are also providing services to 4000 people.

We worked hard to employ an extra 90 talented and skilled staff, including many carers who want to use their lived experience to inform the supports we offer.

“I started taking on caring responsibilities from a very young age … I still support my mother and younger sister and I care for my son who requires extra support due to having Autism and ADHD.

I feel that I have done a good job supporting my family members over many years, especially in supporting my son to access and self-manage an NDIS package which has been so helpful in his recovery.

However, I felt myself getting quite exhausted emotionally and physically rundown and so was really impressed that I could talk to a worker who helped me design supports that were available for me and helped me keep going.

Wellways very quickly put together a package of counselling, respite (with a provider of my choice) and a peer support group which has made all the difference to me.

I feel so valued and energised by the supports made available to me, thank you!”

Michelle Edwards

Our impact

We asked participants how they experienced our supports…


of people report being informed about their rights and their choices


felt their needs and identity were recognised


said it was easy to access our supports


were confident in the skills of our staff


reported overall satisfaction with Wellways


The events of 2020 as well as major reviews of our mental health systems have underlined inequities in our communities but opened up opportunities to reset how we care and support one another.

Wellways continues to advocate for the individuals we work with, their families, carers and the communities in which they live. We’re working to strengthen our sector and work in collaboration with other organisations to lobby governments and departments and to inform inquiries and Royal Commission to give mental health the same priority as physical health.

During Mental Health Month (October 2019), Wellways launched Stampede Stigma, our innovative mental health awareness campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people who experience mental health issues.

A first for Wellways, Stampede Stigma focuses on improving public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health issues and ensures even more people with mental health issues can take action to challenge stigma and discrimination in their communities, in workplaces, in schools and online.

Peer education and training

Our peer education team travelled to Darwin to share their expertise and demonstrate the value of peer support networks and a peer workforce in the Northern Territory.

We delivered peer education and training to people with lived experience of mental health issues to facilitate our My Recovery program, which we also piloted while in Darwin.

In its evaluation of the program, the Menzies School of Health Research highlighted the importance of incorporating the perspectives of those with lived experience of mental illness into peer-support models in aiding mental health and alcohol and drug recovery journeys.

Our work also demonstrated the need for developing peer support networks and a peer workforce in the Top End.

Towards reconciliation

Our staff acknowledge First Nations peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of the land and that sovereignty has never ceded and resistance is ongoing.

Over the course of our inaugural Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), more than 1,000 staff attended Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural and significant events, 600 staff completed cultural awareness training and we formed more than 100 formal and informal partnership agreements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.

We continue to build on this in our 2020 RAP, which sets courageous, open and accountable commitments.

Living our values

We are…




work in a peer support or lived experience role

of staff speak language other than English
of staff identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
staff identify as LGBTIQ+
of staff are carers
of staff are living with a disability
of staff have a lived experience of mental health issues or have a family member or friend with lived experience

Our offices

Investing in people

As Wellways continues to grow, so too do career opportunities for our staff.

Our permanent workforce grew 149 on the previous year mainly in Queensland, where 123 people were employed as Wellways launched its Carer Gateway.

An independent-run staff engagement survey conducted in the middle of the financial year showed 62% of staff believe Wellways is a truly great place to work.

Staff told us they know their work is meaningful and that they experience Wellways as accepting.

The work I do is...

something I’m proud of
My Voice staff engagement survey,
conducted by Best Practice Australia

Living our values

The staff engagement survey also found Wellways staff are more engaged than staff in other care-based organisations.

Staff engagement

Social and Community Services
Mental health services
Voice staff engagement survey,
conducted by Best Practice Australia

We have prioritised internal communications with staff in response to our people asking for more timely and relevant information, and we will soon launch a 24/7 telephone support service for staff working overnight or ‘out of hours’. Wellways’ investment in a new intranet will further strengthen access to information for all staff.

We’ll spend the next 12 months developing professional and leadership programs after our people told us they want greater access to personal and professional development opportunities.

Financial position

Wellways is in a strong financial position to meet its challenges of the future of significant ongoing reform in the mental health and disability sectors.

We aim to further strengthen our position by continuing to grow our services organically through tenders and increasing services in existing states and territories.

Total revenue






About Wellways

Wellways Australia is a leading for-purpose mental health and community services organisation dedicated to ensuring all Australians lead active and fulfilling lives in their community. We work with people with mental health challenges, people living with disability, carers, those requiring community care and others facing disadvantage to help them create the life they want to live.

We have a commitment to ensuring that all the people we serve have opportunities to fully participate in the community, and we actively work to build communities that seek out and welcome the participation of everyone. Community inclusion underpins all our efforts as an organisation.

We advocate for policy change to make sure people can access the best possible care and information when they need it. We recognise for people to succeed there needs to be equitable access to services and supports for all and the elimination of barriers to community participation, including stigma and systemic discrimination.

Our vision

An inclusive community where everyone can imagine and achieve their hopes and potential.

Our mission

We connect people, strengthen families and transform communities for individuals of all ages experiencing disabilities or challenges to their social and emotional wellbeing.

Join our movement and help achieve our vision of an inclusive community free from stigma and discrimination.

All donations to Wellways are tax deductible and your funds go directly to our policy and advocacy work.

Funding acknowledgments

Well Connected

This program is funded in the Murrumbidgee region of New South Wales by the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network.


This program is funded by the NSW Government and delivered as a partnership between Wellways, Local Health Districts and the Department of Communities and Justice.

Gatekeeper Training

This program is jointly funded by the Australian Government and NSW Government.

The Way Back Support Service

This program is funded by the Primary Health Networks in the Murrumbidgee region in NSW and the Murray, Great South Coast and Gippsland regions in Victoria.

Carer Gateway

This is a national service funded by the Australian Government.

Tasmanian Rehabilitation and Recovery Program

This Program is funded by the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services.

Positive Life in Aged Care Enterprise

This program was developed by Wellways and funded by Gippsland Primary Health Network.

Youth Community Living Support Service

The YCLSS is a NSW Government funded program.

Positive Life in Aged Care Enterprise

NewAccess is developed by Beyond Blue and funded by the Gippsland Primary Health Network and Coordinare - South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network.