Mental health services reform

Modelling a best practice approach to co-design for mental health system reform.

In partnership with Mental Health Reform Victoria
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Each year, one in five of us will experience mental health challenges. Victoria’s Royal Commission into the State’s mental health system found it was falling “catastrophically short of expectations”, specifically recommending that people with lived experience participate in its transformation.

We partnered with Mental Health Reform Victoria (MHRV)—part of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Division in the Department of Health—to co-design safe, practical, scalable ways for people with lived experience to reform the system.

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Creating productive space for co-creation is especially challenging in the mental health context. We enabled safe, meaningful and effective collaboration between people with lived experience, service providers and government.

We used a learn by doing approach with MHRV to build capability in best practice co-planning and co-design within a complex mental health system.

As a pilot, we co-planned a new suicide prevention service for children and young people. We delivered service guidelines that clarify what people with lived experience most want and need from this service, and embedded best-practice guidance for co-design planning and implementation into a digital toolkit.

I won't feel safe if health providers are running the co-design

Young person

This is too fucking important to me and so many young people...don’t make it a tick box, don’t make it tokenistic.

Young person


Our work formed an initial piece of co-design for Mental Health reform. Beyond project deliverables, it was the tip of the spear for a deep, sector-wide cultural and system transformation.

Significantly, this pilot began to change the mindsets around co-design. Clinical professionals saw that it could be conducted with participant safety at the core. People with lived experience found that their ideas could meaningfully inform future service models.

Our work enables MHRV to embed lived experience engagement and start to scale capability for future implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations. Excitingly, the new suicide prevention service for children and young people is now operational at four metropolitan health services.

Listen to this podcast episode where we discuss the project together with our client.


Sharing ideas and listening and learning from other's perspective is really valuable...I’m feeling that we’re forming a ‘culture’ or ‘stance’ about the service.

Co-design participant
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Good Design Award
Winner in Service Design: Public Sector Services


  • Service Design
  • Organisation design
  • Co-design

Impact area

  • Health, wellbeing and care
  • Public service


  • Mental Health and Wellbeing Division
Today Team Karen

Want to know more about safe, practical and scalable co-design? Chat with Karen

Karen Gallagher

Partnerships Director

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