National mental health charity SANE Australia and The Dax Centre, a not-for-profit learning centre promoting mental health through art, have merged thanks to an investment of $1.19 million from the Victorian Government.
The two organisations have shared a common goal to reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness for more than three decades.
The merger provides new opportunities to grow The Dax Centre’s programs which promote mental health through the use of art. It also ensures the ongoing care of artworks in The Cunningham Dax Collection which is comprised of more than 16,000 works created by people with lived experience of mental illness or psychological trauma.
SANE Australia Chief Executive Officer Jack Heath explains stigma is still a barrier that’s yet to be completely knocked down for people affected by mental illness.
“The Dax Centre’s work sharing personal and powerful stories of experiences of treatment, isolation and stigma through art complements SANE’s stigma-reduction work which places importance on sharing real stories of people living with mental illness,” Mr Heath said.
“We’re honoured to be merging with such an iconic institution to help build on the pioneering work already completed by The Dax Centre to help reduce stigma. SANE Australia will draw on our strong communication and digital expertise to grow The Dax Centre to become a Melbourne-based national hub where the arts and mental health are celebrated.
“We thank the Victorian Government for recognising the important work of SANE and The Dax Centre. This funding opens to the door to important new opportunities which will help more people affected by mental illness.”
The Dax Centre Directors, Associate Professor Elizabeth Dax AM and Rob Gerrand, have been welcomed to the SANE Australia Board and SANE Board Chair Margaret O'Donnell AO is the new Chair of The Dax Centre Board.
Associate Professor Elizabeth Dax AM says the merger will provide new opportunities for The Dax Centre.
“Merging with SANE Australia offers new horizons on a national scale,” Professor Dax said.
“Art is a way for people to engage with experiences of mental ill-health and develop understanding not necessarily achieved through other learning methods.”
The Cunningham Dax Collection is the only collection of its type and size in the southern hemisphere and one of three such collections in the world. More than 8000 artworks were salvaged by Dr Eric Cunningham Dax AO as Victorian psychiatric hospitals began to close down in the 1980s to form the kernel of the collection. Works have since been donated by individual artists, including poets, and groups experiencing trauma.
SANE Ambassador Sandy Jeffs who lives with schizophrenia said poetry transformed her life in ways she could never have imagined and that having her poetry in The Cunningham Dax Collection provided her with validation.
“Poetry opened many doors and gave me hope, purpose and meaning at a time when my life was at a crossroad and I was a lost sheep,” Ms Jeffs said.
“The Cunningham Dax Collection has opened up a wider forum for my work to be read alongside the work of others who have told their stories in creative and artistically engaging ways.”
If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, contact the following 24/7 crisis support services:
• Lifeline 13 11 14
• Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
• Mensline 1300 789 978
• Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
SANE Australia is a national mental health charity working to support four million Australians affected by complex mental illness including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression and anxiety.
To organise an interview with SANE Australia Chief Executive Officer Jack Heath, please contact:
Senior Media and Public Relations Advisor
Phone: 0407 367 215