The quest for a purpose built mental health clubhouse received a major boost at a corporate lunch in Wollongong on Friday

Important mission: Gareth Ward, Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies, Angry Anderson and Janine Cullen. Pictures: Greg Ellis.
Important mission: Gareth Ward, Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies, Angry Anderson and Janine Cullen. Pictures: Greg Ellis.

The quest for a purpose built mental health clubhouse in Wollongong received a big boost at a Mental Health in the Workplace Corporate Lunch at Centro CBD on Friday.

The clubhouse has never had support from Federal or State Government and politicians were encouraged to help make it a reality after news that the late chair of the Light & Hope/Highlights on Mental Health committee had left a major contribution to making it a reality.

The announcement made when Illawarra Business Chamber president and Highlights on Mental Health deputy chair Janine Cullen invited James Hogg, of ioh, to the stage. 

“Light and Hope and Highlights on Mental Health would not be where it is today without one very, very special person,” she said.

“I know many of you in the room knew Professor John Hogg as the Dean of Medicine at Wollongong University. He was one of the best people I have ever met. His honesty and his generosity was second to none.”

Ms Cullen recalled how rang her when he was very ill in early 2013 to encourage everyone to keep going with Highlights on Mental Health. Speaking in front of 264 people present including Linda Hogg she described Prof Hogg as a gentle soul that everyone spoke well of.

“We are so lucky that Linda and James have carried on the tradition of looking after people with mental health. Mental health was John’s final journey as it turned out. He was generous to the university and gave out scholarships. And there were people he looked after in other areas. But mental health is an area he never got to finish,” she said.

But Ms Cullen then announced “Professor John Hogg’s legacy is leaving our charity with half a million dollars”.

Son James Hogg said Linda Hogg made the money available because the mental health charity was very close to Prof Hogg’s heart before he lost his battle to a short illness in 2013. “I am really proud of her for doing that. That is what he worked so hard to do. He wanted to help the community..he loves so much.” 

Driving force: Brendan Bate and Robyn te Velde are two of the members of the community who have done significant fundraising for Highlights on Mental Health.

Driving force: Brendan Bate and Robyn te Velde are two of the members of the community who have done significant fundraising for Highlights on Mental Health.

A purpose built clubhouse will provide a vital service in offering care and specialised help to people who suffer from a mental health issue or depression. The goal of the clubhouse is to support people in a rich, supportive and encouraging way with meaningful socially connected and vocationally productive care.

After 12 years and plenty of community support it is not yet a reality although a temporary clubhouse operates two days a week in a rented Wollongong property thanks to ongoing fundraising by people such as Robyn te Velde.

Ms Cullen said that was not sustainable but the future was looking brighter for a new clubhouse. “We have some really exciting news happening. We are negotiating a lease in the southern suburbs to build a clubhouse. It will be a second to none facility. I am feeling absolutely confident that all this hard work has paid off. Last year we talked about a respite program for teenage carers who look after their parents with mental illness. I am please to announce that program is going to start in November.”

Other speakers at the lunch were NSW Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies, Rose Tattoo frontman Angry Anderson, CommuniCorp Group managing director and principal psychologist David Burroughs, University of Wollongong senior lecturer Dr Kelly Newell and Kiama MP Gareth Ward.

The lunch all started from an idea put forward a couple of years ago by Brendan Bate and Robert Specogna when they wanted to do something to help.

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