Recently, a visit from St. James’ Settlement social workers has sparked discussions within the Asia Australia Mental Health team about the rising importance of community based mental health services and population wellbeing in Asian countries.

St. James’ Settlement is a non-governmental charitable organisation in Hong Kong with more than 60 years of history, providing diversified services for children, youth, families, elderly and people with disabilities.

As professional social workers, the group visiting St. Vincent’s Mental Health have been involved in early stages of St. James’ mental health service, and are eager to be part of the response to the rising demand in their communities. The visit to Australia was supported by St. James’ Settlement and driven by passion for professional development and experiences of new models of mental health care with potential for adaptation in Hong Kong.

Over a few weeks, via skype and email, a program was collaboratively designed for this group, tailoring ideas to their workplace and experiences. The social work team provided services to support people to build up their choices of living and enhancing quality of life in person-centered way, so the training program had to be grounded in recovery focused services. As well as visiting a range of St. Vincent’s services and teams, the program included meeting with our partnering organisations supporting people experiencing mental illness. This included headspace, the National Youth Mental health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing and Mental Illness Fellowship, who were able to showcase their work changing lives through peer education.

During their stay, we asked our visitors to share more about their experiences in Melbourne.

“During our time here, we hoped to see more practical examples of many of the things we are hoping to develop in our mental health programs. Our work is often grounded in theory, and adapted to a Hong Kong context. We wanted to see what this theory would look like in Australia.

We were very struck by the humanistic way that the services were provided, with kindness. We seldom talk of the model of care that underpins our services, and hope to bring this holistic approach to our work.   The Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC) facilities were one example of something that could be adapted to Hong Kong, to provide real alternatives to hospital care for people with higher needs.

After work hours, it has been e have really enjoyed the Melbourne site seeing, such as the little penguins on Phillip Island. Shopping has been fun, and we were amazed to see the kangaroo meat amongst all the produce available at the Victoria Market.”


On the final day, the reflection session really highlighted the enthusiasm of the St. James’ Settlement visitors, and the opportunities in Hong Kong for stronger partnerships and developing more accessible and effective mental health services which can lessen stigma and social exclusion.

1607 St. James Settlement delegates at PARC

St. James’ Settlement’s Florence and Bonnie visiting the North Fitzroy Prevention and Recovery Centre