Designing welcoming spaces

Designing welcoming spaces

In conversation with Anita Conlon

Anita Conlon, the Lived Experience Coproduction and Engagement Coordinator at Wellways Australia
Kate Bensen, Storyteller at Today

A key recommendation from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system was that new local mental health clinics be established and importantly, they needed to be co-designed with the community.

We had the privilege of working with the team at Wellways and their communities in a design process to understand and define what type of spaces were needed in the local hub, how the physical spaces needed to look and feel, and equally get clear on what the experience should not be like.

Together we co-designed the spatial experience of three local mental health and wellbeing hubs across Victoria and we’re thrilled that the spaces are now operational for the communities.

We caught up with Anita Conlon, the Lived Experience Coproduction and Engagement Coordinator at Wellways to chat about the design process of these local hubs.

By Kate Bensen

12 Dec 2023


Can you tell me about your role at Wellways?

I am the Lived Experience Project Advisor in the Lived Experience Leadership team. My team is for people in leadership roles who have a lived experience of mental distress or as a family member or carer. I have played a leadership role in the implementation of Victorian Reform programs coming out of the Royal Commission in particular around community co-design and workforce development.

How does the Frankston Local work?

The Frankston Local is designed to be the front door of the mental health system for the Frankston community. It is for people experiencing mental distress, alcohol and other drug concerns and their family/carers. It is for people who might need more support than what a GP can provide but don’t need hospital care. There is a multi-disciplinary team of peer workers, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, exercise physiologists, art therapists and more.

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How important was the design process we did together?

The design process was fundamental to the establishment of the service as it was around the co-design of the fitout of the service. Co-design is when consumers, carers and staff get together and make decisions. The facilitators were kind and gentle, and really helped the group explore new possibilities together.

We focussed a lot on creating safe spaces, what does a safe space mean for you?

A safe space is about being trauma aware, taking it slow, making sure people can contribute in whatever way works for them.

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Worldways 23 138

What role did the community play in the creation of this space?

The community played an instrumental part in the creating of this space through the co-design group facilitated by Today. The group workshopped the layout, as well as the design aspects. The outcome is a space that has a lovely balance between comforting and professional, and doesn’t have a clinical feel that the group were keen to avoid.

What has the response been like from the community since it launched?

The community have said they find it reassuring, they love the colours and the Aboriginal art on the walls. Staff have said the space is an honour to work in each day.

Learn more about the new mental health and wellbeing Locals here.

Today Team Kate

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Kate Bensen


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Transforming the mental health sector with the community

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