National Lived Experience (Peer) Workforce Development Guidelines

Chapter 4 - Transformation: embedding through learning

At the mature stages of workforce development, effective lived experience practice and principles contribute to transformational change within individual organisations and the sector. This transformation helps actualise key change priorities, particularly, better understanding and implementation of recovery-oriented and person-directed approaches. Additionally, at mature stages, greater whole-of-workforce benefits are increasingly evident, providing a more accepting work culture for all staff. At this stage, the Lived Experience workforce is successfully embedded across all levels of the sector and individual organisations.

The mature stages include some areas for continued development and some indicators that demonstrate Lived Experience workforce development is well established and sustainable.

Leadership and culture


Challenge remaining workplace cultural barriers for Lived Experience workers

To achieve and sustain a truly inclusive workplace culture, it is important to consider the impact of existing cultural norms on Lived Experience workers and their roles. Specifically, traditional corporate culture that Lived Experience workers may find hard to relate to and feel comfortable within.

Nurturing an inclusive corporate culture which embraces different ways of being, becomes a focus for change during the mature stages. Communications that emphasise the Lived Experience role in connection and rapport building – particularly with people who have historically had fraught experiences of service use – can assist in highlighting the value of less formal approaches, which are more welcoming and inclusive for many Lived Experience workers.


Lived Experience roles represent diverse perspectives and cultures

By these stages sustained effort to ensure a diverse Lived Experience workforce contributes to the sector and individual organisations benefiting from the strengths diversity brings. As a result, practice across the sector more frequently reflects understanding of the inter-connection (intersectionality) and the diverse needs of specific experiences, identifications and cultures. Messaging and policies that make explicit commitment to diversity and inclusion are well established and promoted.

Acknowledgement that there are different perspectives across cultures, particularly in relation to concepts of mental health and individual rights and advocacy, helps inform interactions with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. The practice of workers reflects a recognition of different cultural meanings/language used to understand and talk about mental health and Lived Experience roles. The important role of connection to land, community, family, and spirituality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is recognised and considered when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities.

Individual organisations are recognised as inclusive service providers, employers and workplaces.


Safe sharing of Lived Experience is prioritised and more available for the whole workforce

Many people in non-designated roles also have a personal lived experience. However, sharing these experiences with colleagues and managers is still relatively rare across the sector and can pose risks to the individual and their career.

A culture of safe sharing for all employees contributes to:

  • greater work satisfaction, feelings of being valued and belonging
  • feeling supported and safe at work
  • a more reflective and confident workforce
  • likelihood of earlier help-seeking and decreased severity or longevity of mental health challenges.

At mature stages, strategies to support greater wellbeing for all are increasingly prioritised. By this stage, individual organisations are more adaptable, flexible and open to change, and embrace the role of lived experience in influencing and changing workplace culture. The expertise of designated Lived Experience workers can be used to guide work practices and policies to benefit all employees with a lived experience.

Lived Experience workers contribute to a culture of safe sharing by:

  • co-producing initiatives to specifically challenge discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes towards people with lived experience.
  • leading the production or co-production of training on identifying with lived experience and/or coming ‘out’.
  • leading the production or co-production of training to assist people in non-designated roles to learn how to talk about their lived experience appropriately and effectively.

Additionally, HR managers can routinely draw on and adopt the advice of Lived Experience leaders/research and/or have Lived Experience workers employed within HR teams to co-create more Lived Experience-friendly policies and work practices. Including lived experience as desirable and valued within all position descriptions, not just designated roles, assists in creating a culture of safe sharing.

Developing a culture of safe sharing creates positive impacts for all, including colleagues in non-designated roles, designated Lived Experience workers and people accessing services.

A key area for action includes embedding policies and messages to challenge traditional ‘corporate culture’ in the workplace and promote better inclusion of Lived Experience workers. Implement strategies to support the wellbeing of all staff and create an environment in which it is safe to disclose, including having ‘lived experience’ as valued within all roles, not just in designated Lived Experience roles. Ensure HR managers routinely draw on and adopt the advice of Lived Experience leaders/researchers and/or have Lived Experience workers within their teams.

Policies and planning

Areas to consider including in plans include: expanding career pathways for Lived Experience workers, developing additional Lived Experience leadership positions; and ensuring appropriate remuneration and salary packaging arrangements at all levels of employment.


Career progression

Career progression is addressed to ensure Lived Experience workers have career pathways within organisations/the sector, and to avoid skilled and experienced Lived Experience workers leaving to take on more senior positions in other industries/roles. Organisations could consider a Lived Experience worker for roles other than a Lived Experience-specific role e.g. management positions.

If organisations have not already planned for and employed senior Lived Experience roles, this is an essential step to take during the embedding stage.

Senior or Lived Experience leadership roles assist to:

  • develop a higher-skilled workforce
  • develop a workforce that is purposeful and has greater autonomy
  • retain experienced and skilled Lived Experience employees
  • provide Lived Experience leadership and greater capacity for change
  • provide ‘in-house’ Lived Experience-led supervision and training development.


Lived Experience roles are employed at all levels of the sector

Lived experience perspectives in positions of influence help protect the authenticity of the roles and advocate for further development. Mature stages include Lived experience at the highest levels of decision-making. This includes authoritative Lived Experience roles across all key mental health and related organisations including:

  • funding bodies
  • peak bodies
  • professional associations
  • boards
  • reviews
  • advisory processes.

Within individual organisations, Lived Experience roles are included in executive governance, on workplace committees, recruitment panels and assisting with induction of all new staff. Diverse Lived Experience roles and perspectives routinely contribute to decision-making during all stages of design and delivery, including planning and development stages, funding/budget creation and evaluation processes. Additionally, Lived Experience roles are employed within HR teams or consulted with to inform policy and practices for all staff.

Similarly, by this stage lived experience perspectives are embedded within funding bodies and boards. Tendering processes also engage the knowledge and expertise of Lived Experience workers. New policies and services are co-produced with people in Lived Experience roles and their perspectives are embedded in critical policy documents and strategies.

Lived Experience roles need to be embedded at all levels of organisations including executive and governance. A key area for action is to employ Lived Experience roles within HR or have HR work closely with Lived Experience roles in the development of policies and processes.


Person-directed and recovery-oriented service delivery and practice are increased

By this stage, sustained commitment to effective Lived Experience employment includes widespread understanding and valuing of the work, adequate numbers, adequate FTE and Lived Experience leadership roles seen as commonplace. As a result, the sector can expect to have made significant progress on some long-term reform goals, particularly becoming more recoveryoriented and person-directed.

Publicising the role of lived experience in helping achieve these reform goals, continues to build respect for Lived Experience work and strengthens Lived Experience roles as a ‘given’. Increased value of individual lived experience as a result of Lived Experience roles, also increases the respect and value shown to people accessing services and the expertise they bring to their own lives and wellbeing.

Continuing transparent reporting, sector-wide auditing and evaluation processes to promote greater accountability towards reform priorities, including Lived Experience workforce development, assists to maintain momentum towards systems transformation.


Progress towards eliminating coercive and restrictive practices

An important task in mature stages is exploring how Lived Experience roles can contribute to the sector goal of eliminating coercive and restrictive practices and taking action to support this. Lived experience contribution to this goal can include:

  • increasing understanding of the impacts of restrictive and coercive practices by sharing their personal experiences
  • sharing different narratives and ideas for non-restrictive or coercive practices
  • specialising in advocacy for people accessing services
  • providing alternate support rather than restrictive practices
  • leading from the Lived Experience workforce on reducing restrictive practices action plans
  • being an integral part of seclusion review committees
  • including at least two Lived Experience workers in settings where restrictive practices occur.

Training and development


Education to continue to grow the Lived Experience workforce

At mature stages Lived Experience workers are supported to obtain additional qualifications. This is achieved by provision of specific scholarships for Lived Experience workers to access tertiary training and research higher degrees, as well as study support from individual organisations. The value of lived experience is continually reinforced and Lived Experience workforce have ongoing access to professional development and training across all career stages as a result of committed funding and resources.


Training and development are ongoing

Training identified in earlier stages is periodically revisited to ensure knowledge and practices are cemented and gains are not lost. Training is strengthened through refresher courses, ongoing reflective practice and supervision.

The effectiveness of previous training and development at this stage is evidenced by mutual respect and collaboration as core business. Opportunities for open conversations are routine practice for both designated Lived Experience workers and people in non-designated positions to continue to respectfully and safely discuss how they can best work together.

Mature stages training/professional development is indicated by:

  • regular and equal opportunities for professional development and training for all staff
  • sufficient funds allocated to ongoing professional development opportunities and considered/included in budgets when creating new Lived Experience roles
  • investment in innovation and ‘cutting edge’ knowledge and training
  • networking and knowledge sharing, both formally through conferences, and informally through connecting with other Lived Experience workers, is recognised as enhancing practice and valued/budgeted for.


Lived Experience workers are benefiting from a range of effective supervision

A mature supervision system enables an increasingly skilful and effective Lived Experience workforce, whose unique ways of working are beneficial and whose roles remain authentic. At mature stages, individual organisations offer a range of flexible and timely supervision options including Lived Experience-led supervision, ad hoc and formal supervision, internal, external, co-supervision and group reflection.

Access to external Lived Experience supervision is supported by sector-wide resources including registers of external Lived Experience supervisors and by sharing supervision resources between settings and jurisdictions.

Development of a national register of Lived Experience supervisors, could enable Lived Experience workers to choose their preferred type of supervision and supervisor.


Progress Lived Experience workforce development in regional, rural and remote areas

At mature stages funding bodies/policy makers and organisations give priority to developing additional ways to increase access to Lived Experience workers in regional, rural and remote areas.

Strategies include the provision of ‘train the trainer’ workshops to allow ongoing, accessible training within the community. The opportunity to undertake training locally and build capacity ensures skills are not lost if people move away. It also values and enables the greater utilisation of local knowledge. This locally based training may also include a focus on understanding and incorporating cultural practices and benefits. If so, it will need to be co-produced by people from relevant cultural backgrounds and knowledge bases.

Organisations in metropolitan and regional/rural/remote settings may initiate ‘exchange programs’, whereby Lived Experience workers have placements in regional, rural and remote settings, both to learn more about the unique needs of people accessing services in those locations, and to give local service providers with exposure to cutting edge Lived Experience work and concepts.


Transformation actions

At a mature stage in the development of the Lived Experience workforce, the focus starts to shift from actions to support the workforce, towards the observable impact of the Lived Experience workforce on the organisation.

Table 6: Achieving transformation action checklist for employers

 Area of focusWhat does it mean?
Leadership and workplace cultureChallenge remaining workplace cultural barriers to Lived Experience workUnderstand the potential for tensions between the existing organisational culture the Lived Experience roles. Nurture an inclusive culture which embraces different ways of being, including less formal approaches.
 Lived Experience roles represent diverse cultures and perspectivesDiversity is embedded across the workforce including the Lived Experience workforce. Practice and policies reflect deep understanding of the inter-connection between a person’s different identities and experiences (intersectionality).
 Lived Experience roles are employed at all levels of the organisationLived Experience roles are employed at all levels including executive, governance and boards. Lived Experience roles at various levels routinely contribute to decision-making.
 Safe sharing of Lived Experience is more available for the whole workforce.The role of lived experience contributes to creating a culture of safe sharing for all employees.
Policies and planningSustained commitment to funding and resourcing the Lived Experience workforceReliable funding enables sustainable roles and access to professional development for workers at all career stages.
 Person-directed and recoveryoriented service delivery and practice are increasedSignificant progress has been made towards long-term reform goals.
Training and developmentTraining and development are ongoingSustained access to professional development and training for Lived Experience workers across all stages. All training identified in earlier stages continues to be revisited to ensure knowledge and practices are embedded and gains are not lost, particularly during staff changes.
 Access to additional education is prioritised to continue to grow the Lived Experience workforceAdditional qualifications are supported by scholarships and organisationally provided study support.
 Career progressionLived Experience workers are now in leadership and specialist roles. These roles provide career pathways, influence change and provide in-house Lived Experience-led supervision.
 Evaluation contributes to a Lived Experience informed evidence baseRegular co-produced auditing, feedback and evaluation of reform and of Lived Experience workforce development are continued to maintain the organisational transformation.
 Lived Experience workers are benefiting from a range of effective supervisionA mature supervision system offers a range of flexible and timely supervision options. Access to external Lived Experience supervision is supported by sector-wide resources.

Note: This summary represents key actions that any employer may take to develop and embed a Lived Experience workforce. Actions for organisations with specific interests, including regional and rural services, involuntary services, and service planning and funding appear in separate checklists throughout the National Development Guidelines.

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Commission acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands throughout Australia.
We pay our respects to their clans, and to the elders, past present and emerging, and acknowledge their continuing connection to land, sea and community.


The Commission is committed to embracing diversity and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the provision of health services. The Commission welcomes all people irrespective of ethnicity, lifestyle choice, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lived Experience

We acknowledge the individual and collective contributions of those with a lived and living experience of mental ill-health and suicide, and those who love, have loved and care for them. Each person’s journey is unique and a valued contribution to Australia’s commitment to mental health suicide prevention systems reform.