ACT CHAMPION

Katie Tonacia.jpeg

Katie Tonacia (she/her)

LIVED EXPERIENCE
Post Traumatic Stress & Mental Health (Carer) 

KEY INFORMATION

Place of Birth: Cooma, New South Wales, Australia
Current location: Bungendore, New South Wales, Australia
Age: 51 years old
Language/s: English only
LGBTQIA+: No
NDIS Participant: No
Diagnoses: Post Traumatic Stress (carer)
Healthcare Access: Primary Health Care, Mental Health Care, Allied Health

BIO

Katie Tonacia OAM is happily married with 3 children, and an award-winning global leader in preventative mental health and post-traumatic stress, strengthened by lived and observed experience, and academia. Awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia, an Australian of the Year Finalist, Lifeline Woman of Spirit Award Finalist, Winston Churchill Fellowship Recipient and Australian Federal Police Service Medal recipient – Katie is highly acclaimed for the impact she has made. Katie is the Co-founder and CEO of Picking up the Peaces, an organisation established in 2008 to raise awareness and understanding about Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and associated conditions for frontline first responders and high risk organisations for first responders, and now also encompassing the wider community to provide assistance to those recovering from PTS through education, support and understanding. Katie sits on the NSW Mental Health Commission Advisory Council, to broaden her impact.
 
Having spoken across the world at various international conferences as a keynote, panellist and session chair, her audiences’ perspectives are transformed by Katie’s insights on reducing mental health stigma, understanding the impact of workplace trauma, preventative mental health education and how workforces and society must take responsibility to do better. Designing and delivering a National Preventative Mental Health Masterclass for management personnel from high-risk settings, Katie’s dynamic skills and knowledge are translatable to a range of contexts. This Masterclass was independently evaluated, showing positive outcomes for participants, commending Katie’s ability to design and facilitate. Katie has delivered mental education to many various high-risk work environments such as the AFP International Deployment Group, ACT Fire and Rescue, ACT Rural Fire Service, ACT Ambulance Service, Melbourne Fire Brigade, Psychology Masters students and ACT Health Directorate.
 
The passion to create systemic change was awakened through Katie’s lived and observed experience of trauma in the Australian Federal Police, after her husband, also an AFP employee, returned from an overseas deployment with ‘PTSD’ and associated mental health conditions.
 
Experiences of traumatic exposure, and the impact our frontline uniformed service personnel, and their families, face is well documented. Suicides have increased in this cohort of personnel at an alarming rate. The cumulative impact of traumatic exposures due to drought, bushfires, floods, and a global pandemic, will undoubtedly increase mental health difficulties within the population, especially frontline workers.
 
Katie’s insight, knowledge, and notable passion allows her to influence change in the field of mental health. Katie is the powerful advocate taking it upon herself to create change and promoting better working environments for women, after facing severe stigma and discrimination herself. Katie was acknowledged as an ACT (and surrounding regions) Woman of the Year Finalist in 2020 for her work in this area. In the same year she was also inducted onto the ACT Honour Roll for her years of service and dedication to mental health.
 
Investing in skill development to create change has been multifaceted for Katie, from professional development, global speakers training, international travel to connect with experts, extensive research and more, it is evident to recognise this is well and truly Katie’s profession. She is driven by altruism – finding opportunities to return to the frontline. This was demonstrated during the catastrophic Black Saturday bushfires where she spent 5 months taking a ‘boots on the ground’ approach working in a severely fire impacted community where significant loss and death had occurred. Katie made a powerful submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements in 2020.
 
Amplifying a human centered, community focused approach to Disaster Management and providing preventative mental health education is Katie’s speciality.

ACHIEVEMENTS

  • ACT Women’s Honour Roll Inductees 2020

  • ACT Women’s Award Finalist 2020

  • Lifeline Woman Of Spirit Award Finalist 2019

  • Australian Federal Police Service Medal 2018

  • Australian of the year ACT Finalist 2014

  • Order of Australia Medal – Australia Day 2014

  • Winston Churchill Fellowship Recipient 2011

  • Australian of the year nominee – 2011

  • Founder and Director of Picking Up The Peaces, an initiative to raise awareness for PTSD (locally formed, nationally recognised and globally partnered)

  • Completed the Kokoda trail – 2008

  • Developed and Introduced the first Charter for Medical Imaging, The Canberra Hospital

  • Publications and Papers:

    • Winston Churchill Fellowship Report 2012: Research Project: Combating the stigma of PTSD among uniformed service personnel.

    • Paper presented to the 14th International Mental Health Conference 2013: Is peer delivery of mental health education the way forward in the prevention, early intervention and reduction of mental health stigma?

    • White Paper presented to the Interdepartmental Forum – Addressing Stigma Within the Workplace 2016

  • Internationally Acclaimed Keynote and Guest Speaker, including:

    • Frontline Mental Health Conference 20-22 October 2019 - Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association – (Presenter and Chair of 3 sessions)

    • Together Against Stigma World Conference Singapore – 3-5th October 2019

    • Speakers Institute – Mastering Communication For Influence – 13-15 September 2019

    • Workplace Mental Health Symposium 2-3 September – Australian & New Mental Health Association– Presented and Chaired several sessions

    • Leveraging Executive Female Talent Conference – August 2018

    • Canadian Critical Incident Stress Congress 2017 – Presented; Addressing Stigma is a Preventative Health Measure

    • Attended the Canadian Critical Incident Stress Congress 2016

    • International PTSD Forum 2015 & 2017– Plenary Keynote Speaker Addressing Stigma

    • “Building Hope: Crisis and Disaster Recovery" Conference, October 2016 – Presenter and panel member – Addressing Stigma

    • Australasia – The Dynamics of Resilience: Building synergies between responders, recovery agencies and communities.

    • Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council 2013 – Presented – PTSD in a Uniformed Service Culture

    • 14th International Mental Health Conference – Presented Interim findings of the PTSD education program delivered to ACT Fire and Rescue

    • Critical Incident Response 2012 – Professional Development – David Cochrane PhD

    • National Health Promotion Conference 2009 - Perth.

    • Conference on the new guidelines for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, The Australian Center for Post Traumatic Mental Health - Joint ASTSS/ACPMH Australasian Conference on Traumatic Stress

  • Professional development and education:

    • Core Health Promotion – ACT Health Short Course.

    • Workshops attended - Social Marketing, Social Determinants of Health, Workforce Development and Capacity Building, Policy and Health programs.

    • 5th World Stigma Conference 2012 – Ottawa Canada - Workshops attended - stigma and the family, lessons learned from anti-stigma programming, building better practices targeting youth, media depictions, workplace mental health, military mental health, and human rights.

    • Attended the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation – An Honors University In Maryland's Course –The Changing Face of Crisis and Disaster Mental Health Intervention

    • Delphi Training & Consulting – John Briere PhD – The Pain Paradox – East Meets West In A New Paradigm For Processing And Moving Beyond Complex Trauma Bessel Van Der Kolk workshop. RMIT Storey Hall CIMA conference. Crisis Intervention and Management

    • Australian Federal Police Internal Courses and Online AFPOLL and IAspire Courses

LINKS