Co-producing Safe, Inclusive Workplaces for Consumer Mental Health Workers

How should we change the mental health system to safely include consumer workers? The Leading the Change report argues there is a pressing need for significant improvement in the inclusion and use of consumer workers within mental health care services.

Report cover

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Consumer workers play an important role in mental health service provision,  providing support and advocacy in a way that draws on their lived experience of being a consumer of these services.

Consumers have been employed in lived experience roles within the Victorian mental health sector since 1996. The consumer workforce has evolved over the past two decades and now serves several roles within the service system including enabling consumer perspectives to be represented in service planning, delivery, and evaluation; assisting in improving the responsiveness to consumer needs; and to support consumers directly using a lived experience perspective.

International and Australian research suggests the employment of a consumer workforce has the potential to be a highly effective use of resources, as they have a positive impact on consumers, help to drive service innovation, and improve quality of care. However, for this potential to be realised, the consumer workforce requires adequate resourcing, support, and inclusion within the organisations in which they work.

The Leading the Change project, funded through the Melbourne Social Equity Institute's 2018 Seed Funding Round, sought to investigate the experiences of consumer workers employed in Victorian services, with a particular focus on their experiences of safety and discrimination.

The findings of this project indicate that there is a pressing need for significant improvement in the inclusion and use of consumer workers within mental health care services funded by the Victorian Government.

Participants detailed a lack of clear organisational support for consumer worker roles, a high rate of discrimination and bullying, and a clash of values between consumer work and the mental health system. Participants also highlighted several ways to improve the safety and inclusivity of mental health workplaces for consumer workers.

What is evident is that the implementation of consumer work within the current mental health system requires a systemic approach to change that targets organisational and individual support alongside mental health sector reform.

Report Cover

Leading the Change: Co-producing Safe, Inclusive Workplaces for Consumer Mental Health Workers

Access the 47-page research report including the Executive Summary

Download: Download the Report (PDF)

Download: Download the Report (Word)

This report has been produced by the Leading the Change Consumer Worker Action Group (CWAG) made up of the following members (in alphabetical order):

Associate Professor Susan Ainsworth
Susie Alvarez-Vasquez
Vrinda Edan
Brendan Johnson
Rory Randall
Cath Roper
Dr Kath Sellick
Krystyn Smale
Joanne Switserloot

This project was a partnership between with the University of Melbourne and VMIAC.

Queries in relation to this resource can be directed to

Leading the Change Seminar

On Wednesday 18 November, VMIAC hosted a webinar with Dr Kath Sellick and Vrinda Edan to discuss this research.

This session provided participants with the opportunity to hear from the researchers about how the project was undertaken, using principles of co-production as well as an opportunity to ask questions about and explore the results of the project.