Hailing from New Zealand, Marge Jackson – WayAhead’s new Senior Manager has been in Australia for a few months and has hit the ground running.
Marge isn’t new to mental health. What started as a personal passion grew into a rich career, spanning decades of work with organisations at the frontline of mental health promotion and recovery.
Before WayAhead, Marge worked at the forefront of national promotion campaigns in New Zealand. At NZ’s ‘Health Promotion Agency (HPA)’, she helped steer two major government programs – the National Depression Initiative and the Elimination of Discrimination Toward People who Experience Mental Distress – developing key messages, managing content and engaging stakeholders to ensure these campaigns were effective and remained so over their long lives.
Prior to that Marge had been the Manager of a consumer–led NGO – Kites Trust. Kites Trust focussed its attention on the leadership of people with a lived experience of mental health issues and their ability to act as Peers – providing support to people with similar circumstances. She used her post graduate study into Social Sector Research evaluation to lead a three year study into the Value of Peer Support.
“During many health reforms in New Zealand I needed to navigate changes to mental health funding and priorities to ensure the organisation remained viable and effective” says Marge “it shaped my thinking about the role of an organisation and individual projects. ‘What are we trying to achieve, and how do we know we are getting there?’ are vital questions to be answered if you are going to assess the true value of a particular project or indeed an organisation.”
It is from this foundation that Marge plans to approach her role as senior manager at WayAhead. It’s also a determined belief in the value of not-for-profit organisations that keeps her committed to the work she does.
“Not-for-profits are necessary and really important”, she says. They fulfil a role that is not constrained by beauracracy and they tend to be flexible and responsive to needs.
Marge attributes the personal passion behind organisations like WayAhead as one of its greatest strengths. “Organisations like these were set up for a specific purpose”, she says. “They’re often created out of a desire to meet the unfulfilled needs of a community.”
Staying true to WayAhead’s purpose is key according to Marge.. “It’s important to stay true to an organisations original purpose and to why they were established in the first place”, she says.
“We need to ensure we continue real face-to-face connection with communities. We need to ensure that we’re still meeting the needs of the people we serve. And importantly, we need to be flexible in how we serve these communities, how we meet their changing needs and how we engage with them most effectively.”
These are attitudes that Marge draws upon from of the wealth of her experience in the not-for-profit sector.. “Over the years as I’ve navigated big changes [in the not for profit sector] I have realised the need to be flexible but also clear about the strengths and priorities of projects with limited resources.”
Most of all, Marge hopes that in sharing what she’s learnt she can make a meaningful contribution to WayAhead.
“What drives me is that we can always do better”, she says. “I strongly believe that if we put the person at the centre of their recovery… if we really listen to them to find out what they need in a compassionate and humane way… and if we value the expert knowledge of people with their own lived experience of mental illness… we’re more likely to get it right.”
Welcome to WayAhead Marge!