Respect, Recovery and Risk: exploring the opportunities and challenges of a consumer-focused hearing in the civil and forensic jurisdictions of mental health tribunals

Anina Johnson1, Matthew Carroll2

1 Mental Health Review Tribunal, NSW, PO Box 2019, Boronia Park, NSW 2111

2 Matthew Carroll, Mental Health Tribunal, Vic Level 30, 570 Bourke St, Melbourne Victoria 3000 Australia

In each Australian jurisdiction mental health tribunals make orders that have a considerable impact on individual liberties.  Tribunals can order that individuals be detained in a mental health facility, required to take psychiatric medications, or be subject to electroconvulsive treatment.  Some mental health tribunals also have a forensic jurisdiction, which can have a significant impact on the lives of those found unfit to plead or not guilty of a criminal offence by reason of mental impairment.

The individuals who may be the subject of Tribunal orders are often highly vulnerable.  They can face significant barriers to their participation in Tribunal proceedings, by reason of illness, the impact of treatment or their broader circumstances.

Non-adversarial and solution-focused procedures are an invaluable tool in promoting genuine participation in hearings and decisions.  These approaches are also consistent with human rights and recovery principles which are embedded in modern mental health legislation.

Mental Health Tribunal decisions are made in the context of institutional and community attitudes to risk and to mental illness which can run counter to the implementation of a therapeutic approach.  Like many courts and tribunals, Mental Health Tribunals work in an environment where both the public agencies and the Tribunals are under resource limitations. Articulating non-adversarial and solution-focused processes and promoting adherence to them is an ongoing challenge, and can lead to conflict and resistance.

This workshop will explore these challenges by drawing on the distinct experiences and approaches of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal and Victorian Mental Health Tribunal, in exercising both civil and forensic jurisdictions.


Anina was appointed as the Deputy President (Forensic) of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal in November 2012.

Anina sits regularly on Tribunal hearings in both its Forensic and Civil jurisdiction. She is also responsible for guiding the work of the Forensic Division, and works closely with mental health services, disability services, corrective services and other stakeholders on strategic issues in relation to forensic mental health.

Prior to her appointment to the Tribunal, Anina worked as a lawyer in the public sector for more than 15 years. She has a broad range of experience as both solicitor and advocate across areas including administrative law, criminal law, constitutional law, child protection and coronial inquiries.

Anina has published and presented in the areas of mental health, access to government documents and administrative law.  She is an active member of the NSW Executive of the Council of Australasian Tribunals, and is currently convenor of the COAT Conference organising committee.

Matthew is a lawyer with extensive experience in the field of human rights and anti-discrimination gained from roles in both Australia and overseas.  Matthew was appointed President of the Victorian Mental Health Review Board and Chairperson of the Psychosurgery Review Board in 2010.  Immediately prior to taking up these appointments he was manager of the Human Rights Unit at the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission.

Upon commencement of Victoria’s current Mental Health Act on 1 July 2014 Matthew became President of the Mental Health Tribunal.


About the Association

The Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration (AIJA) is a research and educational institute associated with Monash University. It is funded by the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council (LCCSC) and also from subscription income from its membership.

The principal objectives of the Institute include research into judicial administration and the development and conduct of educational programmes for judicial officers, court administrators and members of the legal profession in relation to court administration and judicial systems.

Conference Managers

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