Senior Lecturer, Brain and Mind Research Institute, Faculty of Medicine, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW Australia.
OBJECTIVE: Partly in response to ongoing concerns about the state of mental healthcare, several jurisdictions across Australia, including the federal government, are hoping to drive change via the establishment of a mental health commission. This is the first of two articles in a series which aims to describe the background to this new trend. The commissions are being established with different powers and structures. This variety is explored and considered against a typology of commissions. Some consistent themes and goals emerge. The paper then provides a contemporary assessment of the 'state of play' of the nascent commissions and describes important emerging issues and differences between the models. CONCLUSION: There are significant differences not only in the construct of the respective commissions but also in the political circumstances in which each must work. At the same time, the problems facing mental health in Australia are ubiquitous and profound. For commissions to be successful they will require not only astute leadership but also durable, bipartisan political support and an enduring capacity to generate new resources for the mental health sector.