The National Lived Experience Workforce Development Guidelines
The National Mental Health Commission (the Commission) has led the development of the National Lived Experience Workforce Development Guidelines as a key reform initiative of the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.
Recent reports by the Mental Health Productivity Commission2 and Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System,3 highlight the significance of lived experience understanding in helping shape the future of Australia’s mental health system. Successive national and state plans have recommended further development of Lived Experience work.4
The National Development Guidelines are the result of extensive consultation and a co-production process to ensure that national standards for Lived Experience workforce development are grounded in the expertise of lived experience. Stakeholders included people with personal or direct lived experience (consumers), families/carers, designated Lived Experience workers, people working for government departments, mental health commissions, managers/employers, and non-designated colleagues. Across the engagement activities, 787 people participated. All engagement activities sought diverse perspectives, to ensure a broad range of views, experiences, identifications and cultural perspectives were included. (Refer to Appendix 4 for a description of the method used to develop the National Development Guidelines).
As a national document, the National Development Guidelines bring together key issues from state, territory, and organisational policies and guides, with the expertise of lived experience to create a single overarching framework for consistent national development of the Lived Experience workforce. (See Appendices 1 and 2 for lists of documents reviewed in the development of the National Development Guidelines).
The core theme identified through the national consultation process was the need to develop flexible, recovery-oriented workplaces where Lived Experience workers are empowered to achieve in their professional roles with flow-on benefits for the whole workforce and for service users and their families.
The National Development Guidelines provide an overview of the professional principles, values and roles of the Lived Experience workforce together with detailed steps for employers at each stage from planning a Lived Experience workforce through to embedding as part of the services core business.
The stepped actions in the National Development Guidelines, with their emphasis on organisation-wide change, promote the role of Lived Experience workers as change agents and boundary spanners. Change-oriented work environments that recognise and support the holistic nature of Lived Experience work are essential to realise the intended outcomes and impact of the Lived Experience workforce.