National Lived Experience (Peer) Workforce Development Guidelines

Chapter 7 - Partnering for workforce development

There are important sector-wide areas for action that are beyond the scope of any individual employer or Lived Experience organisation to address. The responsibility for workforce development sits across a diverse range of jurisdictions, agencies, and professions. Action is required by all stakeholders to ensure the development of the Lived Experience workforce.

A system-wide approach to investment in the personal and family/carer Lived Experience workforces including a sector-wide national workforce strategy and KPIs, is vital for ongoing development. Investment must be sufficient, sustainable, and long-term. It must be informed by Lived Experience-led sources and best practice evidence.

This investment needs to encompass whole-of-sector education on the uniqueness and value of the personal and family/carer Lived Experience workforces, support the expansion of the Lived Experience workforces and improve practical and philosophical support for Lived Experience work. Widespread systems change enables enhanced supportive structures, including industrial relations development, the funding of national peak bodies for the personal and family/carer Lived Experience workforces, appropriate supervision, and policies that protect the authenticity of the work.

The overarching system level priorities align with the recommendations of the Mental Health Productivity Commission and the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.


Lived Experience leadership

Co-production is an essential principle for development of the Lived Experience workforce. Where employers have responsibility for engaging Lived Experience expertise in co-production, the lived experience sector must have the capacity to respond.

Specific tasks identified in the National Development Guidelines that require Lived Experience leadership and meaningful co-production include:

  • Educate: Invest in whole-of-sector education on the uniqueness and value of the personal and family/carer Lived Experience workforces. Funders, policy makers and sector leaders also need education in the value and contribution of the Lived Experience workforce, in order to make informed decisions about workforce development.
  • Engage: Higher education and mental health professional bodies to encourage embedding understanding of the uniqueness and value of Lived Experience work, personal recovery, and person-directed approaches in all accredited and ongoing professional development and tertiary qualifications.
  • Establish: Data collection evaluation and auditing mechanisms to measure success and opportunities for ongoing development. Collect benchmark data and continue to expand the knowledge/evidence-based, with particular emphasis on diverse perspectives and those in regional, rural and remote areas.
  • Enable: Networking, professional learning and development opportunities, expand career pathways and provide a wide range of education and training options while maintaining multiple pathways to employment.


Professionalisation of the Lived Experience workforce

A Profession is a coherent group of individuals who agree to work within a specific code of ethics and who develop, and continue to develop, their skills based on a widely recognised body of evidence and educational qualifications (Australian Council of Professions, 2003). For recognition of Lived Experience work as a distinct profession, there is a need to develop one or more peak bodies to drive professional development.

There is currently a strong push for increased professionalisation of the Lived Experience workforce. As a result, greater emphasis is being placed on qualifications and accredited training. This push towards professionalisation is reflected in the recent draft Productivity Report and the Commission’s feasibility study on professionalisation for peer support roles. Recommendations for increasing professionalisation include establishing national professional peak bodies for the personal and family/carer Lived Experience workforces and expanding training and qualifications for Lived Experience workers.

Professionalisation is expected to increase consistency in the employment, pay levels, workplace strategies and supports available to Lived Experience workers, provide greater clarity, structure, and formalisation of roles and lead to more accountability for organisations.

Some key considerations have also been raised in relation to professionalisation, including the need to:

  • consider the “grassroots” origins of peer-to-peer work and the consumer movement and how to increase opportunities for social change
  • maintain the values of mutuality and egalitarianism of Lived Experience workers and avoid a hierarchy of Lived Experience workers based on certification/qualifications
  • ensure mandatory qualifications do not exclude people who have had disruptions to their education, may not have an aptitude for formal education, or have literacy or language barriers that may prohibit success in formal education but do not restrict engaging effectively in peer support and other direct support or advocacy roles.

All movement towards professionalisation must ensure the value of lived expertise is upheld, and adequate funding and time must be allowed to ensure all education and training is Lived Experience-led and/or co-produced. As with all aspects of Lived Experience workforce development, maintaining the authenticity and uniqueness of the roles is paramount.

Recommendations include establishing national professional peak bodies for the personal and family/carer Lived Experience workforces and expanding training and qualifications for Lived Experience workers that is co-produced and Lived Experience-led. National bodies need to be specifically focused on workforce issues and paid lived experience participation and roles. This role is distinct from that of existing consumer/carer peak bodies and new bodies are therefore required to represent the interests and rights of Lived Experience work as a discrete discipline.

Issues for professionalisation of the workforce are discussed in more detail in: Towards Professionalisation

Priorities for Lived Experience leadership


  • Lead and/or co-produce Lived Experience-led training on lived experience values and concepts and how to work collaboratively with the Lived Experience workforce.
  • Pro-actively support better understanding and support for the distinct needs of people in rural, regional and remote areas.
  • Ensure language and concepts are not exclusively focused on Western definitions and practices.
  • Use organisational self-assessment tools to assess the current stages of readiness/Lived Experience workforce development and plan for future development.


  • Promote and maintain the fidelity of Lived Experience work including the values and principles described in the National Development Guidelines, and the profession’s origins in the consumer movement.
  • Promote concepts and language that are appropriate and inclusive for people from diverse experiences, identifications and backgrounds which helps create a more inclusive culture. Progress development of independent Lived Experience workforce peak bodies to liaise with funding bodies/policy makers, government, organisations, training developers and researchers for ongoing identification of need and advocacy.


  • Co-design and develop a fidelity measure for co-production to guide the development and implementation of meaningful co-production within organisations.
  • Develop training and education opportunities for various stages of career progression.
  • Co-design training and resources to support embedding of trauma-informed practice for all relevant professionals.
  • Develop a role fidelity measure to assist organisations in the development and supervision of Lived Experience roles.
  • Co-develop framework/Guidelines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific lived experience.
  • Create and regulate a national register of Lived Experience supervisors.
  • Explore the development of Lived Experience-led, Lived Experience-specific qualifications within the higher education and Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, ensuring that there are multiple pathways to join the Lived Experience workforce.

Learn and embed

  • Continue to build the evidence base for the value of Lived Experience roles, particularly the theoretical underpinnings of the work.
  • Engage in sector-wide auditing and evaluation processes.
  • Guide the development and ongoing facilitation of a formal sector-wide network and/or learning collaborative to assist organisations with mentoring, knowledge sharing opportunities, and progress Lived Experience workforce development.
  • Develop industrial relations awards and conditions for the Lived Experience workforce.
  • Contribute to eliminating coercive and restrictive practice and providing alternatives.
  • Build-in targeted strategies to ensure inclusion of people with diverse experiences, identifications and backgrounds within the Lived Experience workforce and leadership groups.
  • Build greater understanding of culturally appropriate language and concepts within the Lived Experience and broader mental health workforce.
  • Co-produce and lead initiatives to further challenge discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes in the workplace and contribute to a culture of safe sharing for non-designated workers with Lived Experience.
  • Co-produce education on the uniqueness and value of the Lived Experience workforce as part of ongoingand accredited professional development and tertiary qualifications for other mental health disciplines.
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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.