Read about the project findings here!

The Moving From Engagement to Partnership Project arose from The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System Report call for a more powerful role for people with lived experience in the reformed mental health system, including that ‘people with lived experience will have an enduring and influential role in government decision making, with an equal seat at the table, working in partnership with others to lead change’.

The Commission’s recommendations require a shift from engagement to partnership. Through a review of the literature and a series of community conversations, this project explored the meaning of partnership with people with lived and living experience of Victoria’s mental health and alcohol and other drugs sectors, with the aim to develop a lived experience definition of partnership and recommend practical ways partnership can be realised with the Department of Health, Victoria (DH) and in the community and associated services and organisations.

The following documents summarise the project findings, which are presented as a definition of partnership and a framework for achieving partnership with people with lived and living experience of Victoria’s mental health and alcohol and other drugs sectors.


1. A lived/living experience informed definition of partnership

The following Definition of Partnership came from 6 interviews with First Nations people and 14 Community Conversations with 105 people from diverse backgrounds, identities and experiences, held between July 2022 and May 2023. It’s kind of lengthy, but we heard that these details are important…

Partnerships involve multiple, interdependent, two-way relationships. They recognise, respect, and value all partner’s complementary knowledge and expertise equally. Partnerships focus on a shared vision and the achievement of a common goal.

Partnerships between people with lived/living experience, governments, services, and other stakeholders understand each other’s philosophies, language, culture, and context. They acknowledge and address power imbalances, and are accountable, flexible, and sustainable. Jointly developed agreements and an equitable sharing of resources support partnerships.

Partnerships actively acknowledge past harms which mental health and other service systems have caused. They dismantle entrenched power, stereotypes, and discrimination. Partnerships cultivate trust to enable effective work together.

Realising genuine partnership takes time and commitment.


2. Findings from community conversations about partnership

The following findings on partnership came from those same 14 community conversations with over 120 people with lived and living experience of mental distress or addiction, and individual conversations with First Nations leaders and stakeholders.

A framework was developed from extensive work on partnership that has been undertaken by First Nations people over many years, informed by a literature review by Blak Wattle Coaching and Consulting. Records of the community conversations and interviews were coded and themed using the framework as a lens.

The result is this summary – click the image to the left to download a copy.

Share your thoughts on the findings using any of the approaches outlined above.

Keen to dive deeper into the findings?

If you would like to review more of what was said during the community conversations, you can download any of the following summaries of each theme:


3. Findings from other perspectives on partnership

The project team searched published reports and literature about partnership to develop a Community Conversation Starter about partnerships involving people with lived/living experience of mental health and alcohol and other drugs, families/carers/kin/supporters, service providers and government departments.

Download the full Community Conversation Starter or the Quick Read version by clicking one of the images below:




Acknowledgements and thanks


This project benefited from the involvement of many people, most notably an amazing bunch of folk with lived/living experience of mental health and/or alcohol and other drugs services and systems, and families/carers/kin supporters, and peer/lived experience workers.  We would like to extend our deepest gratitude for the time and the wisdom that you all generously contributed to the Community Conversations, interviews, analysis testing, reviewing documentation, and providing thoughtful and valuable feedback.

Our heartfelt thanks to Blak Wattle Coaching & Consultancy for their generous collaboration and detailed research, and Dreamtime Art Creative Consultancy for their inspired design work.

Our sincere appreciation to SHARCVMIAC and Tandem, their associates, members and staff for their interest, contribution and support for this project and for their ongoing advocacy and activism towards systems transformation.

And finally, a big thank you to the Lived Experience Branch, Mental Health and Wellbeing Division, Department of Health, Victoria, who supported and funded this project, and staff of the Lived Experience Branch for all their work behind the scenes. Also thanks to our partners in crime – those involved in related projects who we had the pleasure of working alongside.


What next??


Final project reports have been sent to the project funders, Lived Experience Branch, Mental Health and Wellbeing Division, Department of Health Victoria.
Summaries will be made available on this webpage.

Enquiries? Feel free to contact us at or 0435 348 168.