Ali Faraj, a prominent young Muslim leader from Western Sydney is one of the four winners of the 2023 Australian Mental Health Prize announced on Monday 25 September at the University of New South Wales.

The Prize, since its inception in 2016 is awarded annually to Australians who have made significant strides in the realm of mental health advocacy.

Ali was awarded the prize in the category of ‘Community hero’ to recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership at a State or community level.

As the General Manager Community of the AFL club, GWS Giants, Ali fosters unity and mental well-being in Western Sydney through diverse initiatives, particularly among youth.

Talking about his passion, Ali said, “Football in western Sydney isn’t just a game; it’s a powerful force that unites diverse people. It nurtures a sense of belonging, crucial for our mental well-being. It’s more than players on a field; it’s a community supporting one another. In unity, we find strength, and through connection, we find solace.”

Recognised as ‘Case Worker of the Year’ by the Migration Council Australia in 2015, Ali’s collaborations with schools and government bodies emphasise social cohesion.

Ali’s commitment to suicide prevention and mental health is evident through his role as the Board Chairman of Educaid Australia, a leading Mental Health not-for-profit organisation working with culturally and linguistically diverse and faith communities across Australia.

Together with Ali, there were three other prominent Australians who won the 2023 Prize as well.

Megan Krakouer (Fremantle, WA) in the ‘Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander’ category to recognise and celebrate outstanding Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander mental health leadership at a national or community level.

Megan Krakouer, a proud Menang Woman of the Noongar Nation, is a First Nations rights beacon, reshaping laws and advocating for the marginalised.

Dr Geoffrey Toogood (Frankston South, VIC) in the ‘Lived experience’ category to recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership by someone with lived experience of mental health, either personally or as a supporter, at a national level.

Dr Geoffrey Toogood is a highly regarded consultant cardiologist, a distinguished medical expert and an impassioned advocate for mental health awareness.

Professor Maree Toombs (Coogee, NSW) in the ‘Professional’ category to recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership in the clinical, academic or professional sectors at a national level.

Professor Maree Toombs is a proud Euahlayi and Kooma woman who has revolutionised mental health and suicide prevention within Indigenous communities and exemplifies the transformative power of culturally attuned practices.

The prizes were resented to the winners by the Hon Emma McBride MP, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at a celebratory ceremony at the UNSW on Monday 25 September.

Allan Fels, past winner and co-chair of the Australian Mental health Prize Advisory Group said, “These remarkable winners epitomise community leadership and resilience, channelling their personal experiences into transformative initiatives. Through their innovative efforts, they’ve dismantled stigma, ignited crucial conversations, and left an indelible impact on the landscape of mental health.”

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Attila Brungs said, “These remarkable individuals have not only inspired us but provided a guiding light for our nation’s mental health journey. Their unwavering dedication to creating change serves as a testament to the power of resilience, compassion, and innovation in transforming the mental health landscape. We are privileged to honour their exceptional contributions to our society.”

The Australian Mental Health Prize  is awarded annually to Australians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention or treatment of mental illness – in areas such as advocacy, research or service provision. 

Mental illnesses are common and highly disabling. In any one year, one in five adult Australians and one in seven children aged 4 to 17, will experience some form of mental illness. One in three Australians will have a mental illness in their lifetime.

The Australian Mental Health Prize:

  • Acknowledges and recognises the important and ground-breaking work that many Australians are doing for mental health
  • Raises public awareness on the importance of mental health and
  • Provides an incentive to improve services and outcomes for people with mental illness. 

The Prize has been established by a group of eminent Australians in partnership with UNSW. Co-chaired by Lucy Brogden AM and Professor Allan Fels AO, the Prize Advisory Group comprises: Sophie Scott, Greta Bradman, Erandathie Jayakody, Melinda Upton, Jeremy Coggin, UNSW Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty AO, UNSW Professor Kimberlie Dean, UNSW Scientia Professor Philip Mitchell AM and UNSW Professor Valsamma Eapen.