Department of Health

Workforce initiatives: lived and living experience workforces (LLEWs)

Lived and living experience workers (LLEWs) work across a wide range of areas including peer work, system advocacy, consultancy, learning and development and academia.

We work with different organisations in Victoria to provide development opportunities for LLEWs in the mental health, alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment and harm reduction sectors. These workforces include:

  • consumer mental health workers
  • family/carer mental health workers
  • alcohol and other drug peer workers
  • harm reduction peer workers.

To enable LLEWs to thrive, their roles need to be supported, valued and sustained.

If you have any questions about LLEW initiatives in Victorian state-funded mental health, alcohol and other drug and harm reduction services, email

For more information on our engagement with LLEWs, see Engaging with lived and living experience workforces.

Lived and living experience workforce strategies

The department has partnered with consumer mental health workers, family/carer mental health workers and alcohol and other drug peer workers to co-design the lived and living experience workforce strategies comprise:

  • The strategy for the consumer mental health workforce in Victoria
  • The strategy for the family carer mental health workforce in Victoria
  • A strategy for the alcohol and other drug (AOD) peer workforce in Victoria

These strategies are available from the Centre for Mental Health Learning's Peer Inside Our WorkExternal Link , SHARC’s Peer ProjectsExternal Link and Harm Reduction Victoria's Fuse initiativesExternal Link .

In December 2021, the department launched Victoria’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Strategy 2021-2024 This strategy sets out 10 priorities that will be designed and implemented with lived experience leadership using the principles of co-production:

  1. Strengthen discipline foundations
  2. Improve understanding of lived and living experience workforces in mental health and AOD services and create conditions that support best practice lived experience work and models of care
  3. Increase lived and living experience leadership roles
  4. Promote sustainability of lived experience roles and models of care that include lived and living experience workforces
  5. Create access to quality training and development and qualifications for lived and living experience workforces
  6. Create equitable access to discipline specific supervision for lived and living experience workforces
  7. Support career pathways into lived and living experience work
  8. Create accountability by establishing and monitoring measures for change
  9. Strengthen networks and support communities of practice
  10. Attract people into lived and living experience work and promote careers

Growing lived and living experience workforces

Leadership pathways and development package for specialist mental health services - underway

The specialist mental health services leadership package enables expansion of peer support roles, and the creation of peer supervisor roles. It supports the professional development, project management and co-design capability of lived experience workers. Since 2021, all Victorian specialist mental health services have been resourced to implement the Leadership pathways and development package over a three-year period, as part of a range of workforce growth initiatives underway in response to royal commission recommendations.

Workforce development opportunities for lived and living experience workforces

  • Lived Experience Peer Cadets Program in community mental health services – underway

    Started in March 2022, the Peer Cadet Program employs 30 cadets in 6 community managed mental health services for a 12-month period. The Lived Experience Peer Cadet Program provides lived experience workers with an opportunity to engage in paid work experience while completing qualifications in mental health peer work.

    The following services were selected to participate in 2021: Neami National and Mind Australia, EACH, VT Uniting and Co-health.

    Community Mental Health Services - Lived Experience Workforce Grants – underway

    To build and grow this vital workforce in Victorian Government funded community mental health services, the department has engaged Mental Health Victoria to administer a new Lived Experience Workforce Grants Program. This program will give individual grants of up to $5000 and organisation/group grants up to $20,000. For details about the program, visit the Mental Health Victoria websiteExternal Link .

    Lived and Living Experience Workforces (LLEWs) University Scholarship Program – underway

    This program supports service management and leadership skill development for lived and living experience workers employed in Victorian Government funded clinical and community mental health and AOD services. Scholarships of up to $13,000 are available to support course fees for university level qualifications. For more information about eligibility criteria and the application process visit the Australian College of Nursing websiteExternal Link .

    Other initiatives to support qualifications and career pathways – in planning

    Initiatives will build on and support existing investment in the LLEWs Tertiary Scholarships and the Consumers Leading in Governance Program led by VMIAC. There will also be initiatives focused on providing support for LLEWs to grow their capability to deliver training and research on micro-credentialled courses and tertiary level qualifications for the mental health consumer workforce.

  • Standardised training for lived and living experience workforces – in planning

    The Royal Commission’s interim report recommended that a standardised training package be co-produced and delivered for all lived experience workers, regardless of their role or time spent working within the mental health system.

    A report (Our FutureExternal Link ) has been delivered by the Our Future Project Partnership that outlines curriculum content required for LLEWs in mental health and alcohol and other drug services. To implement the recommendations of Our FutureExternal Link , training and development funded by the department will be available from August 2022 for LLEWs and for people working alongside them. Opportunities will be shared via Centre for Mental Health Learning, Mental Health Victoria, Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, Self Help Addiction Resource Centre and Harm Reduction Victoria.

    Growing lived experience educator capacity – in planning

    LLEW educators and contractors will be employed to support delivery of standardised training for LLEWs and training for broader workforces about LLE work. LLEW educators will be supported by a statewide coordinator.

  • Increase access to supervision - underway

    Stage 1 of this initiative was a pilot program. It matched consumer and family/carer lived experience workers from mental health services with discipline-specific supervisors from outside their employing organisation. The 6-month pilot program ended in November 2021 and saw 46 consumer and family/carer lived experience workers matched with supervisors. Read more about the program along with information about how to access the Consumer and Family/Carer Perspective Supervision DatabaseExternal Link .

    Stage 2 started in June 2022 and will see approximately 100 consumer and family/carer lived experience workers receive access to external supervision for a 12-month period.

    Consumer perspective supervision training – underway

    Training for consumer perspective supervisors was developed and delivered by Inside Out and Associates in 2019. Three courses in 2021-22 supported up to 42 consumer workers to undertake this training. Further training and support for consumer perspective supervisors will be provided throughout 2022 and 2023.

    Family carer lived experience workforce supervision training – in development

    A co-design project led by NorthWestern Mental Health produced a statewide framework to support carer lived experience workforce supervision. The framework was released in December 2021. See the Consumer and Carer-Lived Experience Workforce pageExternal Link on the NorthWestern Mental Health website for a copy of the framework.

    The department has provided funding for a project to develop related training in 2022 and delivery is expected in 2023.

    LLEW perspective supervision - training for managers - in planning

    An accessible training module will be developed that promotes the importance of discipline-specific supervision for mental health and AOD peer workforce. It will describe the difference between line management and discipline-specific supervision (among other topics).

  • LLEW discipline frameworks – in planning

    LLEW discipline frameworks will be developed which describe the central concepts that ground the work of mental health consumer and family-carer lived experience workers as well as peer workers in AOD treatment and harm reduction services.

    Communities of practice for consumer and carer consultants in mental health services – in planning

    Victorian public specialist mental health services employ consumer and carer consultants. To support people in these positions, VMIAC and Tandem will employ statewide coordinator positions to lead communities of practice, bringing consumer and carer consultants together for practice development; co-reflection and ensuring connection with the department. The community of practice models will be co-designed.

    Practice support for AOD and harm reduction peer workers – underway

    The department will continue to provide funding for positions at Harm Reduction Victoria and SHARC that provide comprehensive practice supports (such as supervision and access to communities of practice) for harm reduction and AOD peer workers.

  • The Mental Health Workforce Wellbeing Committee has been established to identify, monitor and address health, safety and wellbeing needs of staff in the mental health and wellbeing workforce.

    A separate research project will explore options for setting up a peer led Employee Assistance Program.

Evidence base

Evidence, evaluation and expert advice is needed to ensure LLEWs are supported, valued and sustained. To do this, the department supports a number of projects (see below) and funds both the Consumer Academic Program (CAP) at the Centre for Mental Health Nursing and a carer academic position at The Bouverie CentreExternal Link

Lived Experience Workforce Positions Report 2019-20 – complete

This report updates data collected by the department and reported in 2017 about LLEW positions in state-funded mental health services. Additional 2019-20 data includes AOD workforce in treatment and harm reduction services.

Lived and Living Experience Workforces Data Project Report

The Lived and Living Experience Workforces (LLEW) Data Project aims to create a baseline of the experiences of Victoria’s LLEW to help inform the development of new accountability processes.

As part of the project, 2 surveys were conducted in 2022:

  • a survey for mental health, alcohol and other drugs, and harm reduction service delivery organisations
  • a survey for lived and living experience workers.

The key findings from the surveys highlighted in the report establish a baseline against which the department and organisations that employ LLEW can measure change over time.

Carer workforce research - underway

Led by the Carer Academic at Bouverie Centre and CMHL, this research seeks to understand the current functions of carer workforce positions across the state and to better define family/carer lived experience work.

Lived and living experience workforce research grants – in planning

The Our FutureExternal Link report highlights the importance of growing the evidence base for LLEW development. The department will be working with Harm Reduction Victoria (HRVic), the Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC), Tandem, the Carer Lived Experience Workforce network (CLEW) and the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) on research grants programs to achieve this.

Evaluation of lived experience workforce initiatives – in planning

Evaluation readiness assessments and evaluation planning will be undertaken in 2022 to support the evaluation of the:

Supports for employers and colleagues

Organisational readiness supports – in planning

Organisational readiness initiatives will provide mental health, AOD and harm reduction services with training, tools and resources to create the conditions for the sustainable employment and career development of lived experience workers.

To support mental health services to do this critical work LLEW consultant roles will be established to assist mental health services with strategic planning for LLEW. Grants will be provided so that organisations can implement these strategies, which will be informed by National Lived Experience (Peer) Workforce Development guidelinesExternal Link and other planning tools and resources.

Reviewed 08 November 2023


Contact details

Information about development and training opportunities for the mental health and drug and alcohol lived experience workforce.

Lived Experience Workforce

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