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Stepping up to the plate: QUT-Australia Awards alumnus chairs special psychiatric board in Zimbabwe; ends four-year drought

By Dr. Peace Maramba, Zimbabwe

In 2019, QUT delivered a Mental Health Care short course for Australia Awards Africa. Shortly after completing the short course, I was appointed into a special board for Mlondolozi Special Institution in May 2020. Mlondolozi is one of the two national institutions for psychiatric offenders in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately the functioning of the board was initially delayed by the COVID-19 lockdown, then later by the resignation of its chairperson. So, for the rest of 2020 it could not function but at the same time, the number of patients ballooned since the last sitting of the board was still in 2017.

The congestion and COVID-19 issues compelled us to put pressure on the minister for the appointment of the new chair. From my experience at QUT and Cape Town I was well aware of the need to respect human rights and human dignity as well as the need to avoid institutionalization of our clients so this year we have been increasing calls for the board to be constituted and start functioning. In May 2021 I was then appointed Acting Chair so that the board could finally start sitting. Our first sitting as the special board was on the 10th of June.

The excitement from both staff and clients at Mlondolozi was amazing at our first sitting after a four-year break. I am so grateful for the knowledge and experience I have gained from the Australia Awards Africa – Mental Health Care program.

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