Developing a lived experience workforce for mental health services


October 12, 2022

At the beginning of February this year, Uniting was proud to be one of the six organisations chosen to offer the Lived Experience Peer Cadet Program. This employment opportunity is available for people with lived experience undertaking the Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Work.

The 12-month paid Cadetship is centred around assisting participants in developing their practical and personal experience so they can effectively work in the role of a lived experience consumer or career peer worker within a large community mental health service.

“The Peer Cadet Program is about establishing and developing the lived experience workforce so there is a pathway towards meaningful employment within the industry,” said Luke, one of program’s participants.

“For myself it’s been quite a good, stepped approach into the industry, especially considering I’ve come from outside it.”

Luke worked within the Australian Defence Force for 18 years before he decided on a career change.

“I did some soul searching and wanted to find out exactly what was important in my life and re-evaluate my values. This led me towards changing careers and focusing on mental health.

“I’ve got a real connection to this industry personally. Just due to my own struggles with mental health and my own recovery and having seen previous colleagues take their own lives.

“When I was studying Cert IV Mental Health Peer Work, I was recommended by one of my teachers to apply for this Cadetship and specifically I was told Uniting had a good program.”

While Luke is in the infancy stages of his career, he says the program’s expansive opportunities allow him insight into the many avenues available to him.

“I’m still deciding on what path I want to take but I suppose that’s the great thing about this Cadetship is there’s no pressure towards a specific path.

“It’s been great in assisting me to set up boundaries so that this work is a sustainable career path for the future.”

Amy, the Cadetship’s Project Lead at Uniting, says lived experience employees have a lot to offer the workforce.

“It’s important in building relationships with the people we work with. It breaks down the stigma for people accessing our services and asking for help,” she says.

“As a lived experience worker, you have that awareness that we can’t necessarily fix people’s problems, but we can walk alongside them as they figure out what they want in their lives or their recovery.”

Luke adds that lived experience workers can help inspire those currently struggling with their mental health.

“I suppose we provide a level of hope that recovery is attainable and achievable. If anything, we can be role models to people who are going through mental health difficulties, to show that there really is light at the end of the tunnel.”

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