Our history

Parents looking at their child

Key activities from 1999 – 2012

  • The Emerging Minds (previously trading as the Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association – AICAFMHA) scoping project on Children of Parents with a Mental Illness was launched by the Minister for Health. In response to this report, the Commonwealth Government allocated funding for a three year national initiative to develop guidelines and principles, plus complementary resource materials for services and workers.
  • Development and release of the position statement: Principles and Actions for Services and People Working with Children of Parents with a Mental Illness.
  • Development and dissemination of psychoeducational materials for parents and family members.
  • Development of initial online learning resource.
  • First worldwide conference on ‘Children of Parents with a Mental Illness’.
  • Establishment of the COPMI National Lived Experience Forum.

Key activities from 2012 – 2017

In 2011-2012, Emerging Minds was invited by the Department of Health to facilitate a consultation with family members, professionals, organisations, researchers and other key stakeholders to plan future activities and directions of the COPMI national initiative. A list of recommendations were presented to the Department of Health.

During this period, COPMI scaffolded on its earlier work in order to support service system and workforce awareness about the needs of children, parents and family members where a parent has a mental illness. Throughout this period much was achieved to address the lack of recognition of the needs of children, parents and family members where a parent has a mental illness across policy, practice, service delivery, evaluation and research.

Leadership provided by the initiative supported:

  • the establishment of programs and service responses across state government and non-government mental health initiatives.
  • policy and legislative change and improvements in workforce awareness.
  • increased understanding that there is a need to ask about parenting status so there can be a better response to the needs of children and families where a parent experiences mental illness.

Focus areas included building awareness about the impact of parental mental illness on the parenting role; creating opportunities to support effective communication that can support parent/child relationships; and skill development, underpinned by resources, to support both families and practice to improve the social, emotional and mental health outcomes for children and their families.

Parallel to this, significant momentum gathered nationally and internationally, including information on prevalence and risk; evidence about early intervention and prevention programs for parents and families; and policy developments and organisational and practice changes. Strategic alliances with national and international researchers and program developers have evolved and grown. These relationships enabled COPMI to draw from research and evidence when co-designing products and resources, workforce development, face-to-face training and online learning; as well as short evidence briefs to inform practice to better support Australian children and their families.

In 2015 the Australian Government Response to Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities – Review of Mental Health Programmes document was released, and recommended reforms in the commissioning and planning of mental health services and programs in Australia. 

A key action was the formation of the Emerging Minds: National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health (NWC) as a way to move away from multiple programs to a single entry point for professionals working with children, parents and families in the health, social and community sectors.  

2017 and beyond

In June 2017 funding for the COPMI national initiative officially concluded and five months later the NWC was launched. These days Emerging Minds and our delivery partners produce a range of information and tools for practitioners related to supporting infant and child mental health in their work with children, parents and families. Visit our ever-growing resource hub for over 1,000 free resources that cover a range of topics, including:  

  • Parental mental illness 
  • Children of parents with a mental illness 
  • Trauma 
  • Natural disasters 
  • Family domestic violence 
  • Substance use 
  • Infant and toddler mental health 
  • Child mental health 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing 
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences 
  • Bullying 
  • Child development 
  • and much more. 

Our online learning courses are accessed by over 70,000 users and we also have a comprehensive range of practice papers, podcasts, animations, videos, fact sheets and more. This means that no matter how much, or how little, time a practitioner may have there is always information that fits their needs. 

Our other major project, Emerging Minds Families, further builds on COPMI’s legacy by working together with families and professionals and drawing on the latest research to produce practical information to help parents and carers support infant and child mental health and wellbeing. 

All our resources are available freely on the Emerging Minds website. 

Emerging Minds leads the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health (NWC). The NWC is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.