Volunteering on the Committee of Management with Ali Pain

Tell us briefly about yourself.

Hi, my name is Ali Pain and I use the pronouns she/her.

I have been working in mental health in declared consumer roles since 2010. Currently I am with the Mental Health Tribunal as the Consumer and Carer Engagement Officer, and prior to this, I was working as a Consumer Consultant at cohealth for 3 years. Prior to that, I was at Western Region Health Services as a Consumer Consultant in Rocket – a youth mental health residential program and in the consumer-led day-to-day living program in Footscray.

What drove you to volunteer on VMIAC’s Committee of Management?

I learned so much about consumer perspective and roles from attending VMIAC’s consumer workforce education sessions and their newsletters. When the opportunity to apply came up, I put my hand up.

I had previously volunteered as member of Grow’s National Program Team, Grow Victoria’s Management Team and Program team (as well at the literature team and evaluation team). Similarly to VMIAC, I was voted into these positions by other growers (the members) at the annual general meeting.

What are your main duties?

In the COM, I have been on the Finance and Risk Management Committee (FaRMS), which reviews the finances and organisational risk governance matters, so reviewing the balance sheets and other forms.

On the COM we look at various matters, including the report from the CEO (Hi, Tricia), finances, new membership applications and how VMIAC’s strategy is tracking. There are several sub-committees as well and preparing for COM meetings means reading the minutes and other items as they are sent though between meetings.

What are the best things you’ve taken from this experience?

Watching VMIAC grow! It’s work in various programs has been extremely valuable, projects such as NDIS Advocacy, Sexual Safety, the work of the Register, and bringing e-CPR into Victoria. Getting to know other members of the COM over the past 5 years has been personally rewarding, and the work of bringing the bi-annual VMIAC Workforce Conference and Consumer Workforce Awards has been especially nourishing to my spirit.

I’ve also had a lot of training opportunities including IPS and e-CPR, as well as learning on the job, such as developing our current strategy as the COM.

What have you found challenging?

Getting to know other new members, as we are a very focused group so I would love to celebrate having an annual face-to-face meeting when they are possible again.

Also, some areas of our work such as looking at our constitution – I am very thankful we have a sub-committee working on that.

Lastly, there are areas that I am not experienced in such as consumer-led research, so to have other members with that expertise is terrific. I am really looking forward to seeing how VMIAC progress this particular priority.

How has this volunteering experience changed your career?

Volunteering as a COM member nourishes me deeply. I have to point to my volunteering in Grow, as that led to me applying to work as a consumer consultant all those years ago.

I think working on the COM has made me be even more committed to the consumer/survivor/activist/ movement.

From what you’ve learnt during your experience volunteering, what can you take forward in your life?

Understanding revenue reporting and acquitting grants – making sense of finance is a great skill to have! Appreciating people’s commitment, skills and expertise. I am thankful to all people who give willingly of their time to causes close to their hearts.

If a consumer wanted to get into volunteering, what would your advice be?

Do it!! There are many ways you can be involved as a volunteer, and whether it’s with VMIAC or another interest you have, do it! Volunteering has given me new skills, friendships and a career in mental health.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

A shout-out to all you amazing people who are volunteering because change happens with you!

If a Committee is not your bag, think about what you would like to do (there are some awesome organisations/groups/movements out there) online, in person, in your neighbourhood – there are many ways to volunteer.

Volunteering builds your confidence and working in a team brings a sense of solidarity!