Funder by the Department of Human Services Auspiced by Our Community

Training / Events

Our Consumer Place offers many forms of training and talks, ranging from workshops on using our story to fostering consumer leadership; from teaching clinicians-in-training at universities to facilitating talks on Stigma. On this page, you can see some examples of current and previous training.

Please contact us if you are interested in discussing your particular training needs.



Our Consumer Place is creating a six-volume set of innovative resources - conversation starters - designed to offer opportunities to discover not only what is 'officially' known about mental distress, illness and health but, more importantly, to explore the everyday understandings, emotions, experiences, fears, ambivalence and contradictions and the ethical undercurrents often barely discernible at the surface. We offer this exploratory material in a series of forums and conversations, thematically corresponding to the set of conversation starters. To learn more about ourselves and those we relate with, we need to share. Our conversation-starters program moves from what appears obvious to a deeper exploration of connections, alliances and the politics of healthy lives. They are set contextually as people will find that their own truths may not be shared and their own fear might be someone else's confidence. The forums aim to introduce the themes associated with each volume of conversation 'starters'. Two speakers will offer sometimes paradoxical and sometimes complementary views. There will be an opportunity for a few questions and an invitation to join in two subsequent conversations during the weeks after the forum and future forums will be flagged. Organisations and groups interested in organising conversations are invited to book a session with Our Consumer Place.

As we are preparing to engage in the Victorian Royal Commission on Mental Health, these forums and conversations take on even more relevance; ideas and discussions which cannot be aired in the formalised environment of such a Commission can still contribute - however indirectly - to its intentions.


Our Conversation Program

The program consists of six 'areas of interest', each corresponding to one volume of the Conversation Starter resources as described and referred to below. Each forum will include one speaker from the Our Consumer Place team and another bringing expertise to the particular theme.

1. The Medical Model - A half day forum
26th March 2019 (9.30 am - 12.00 noon)
The 'medical model' is the dominant discourse right now but what exactly is it? It defines mental distress medically and thus adopts 21st Century science and with it 'evidence-based practice' as its central tool - or- is this too simplistic? This forum looks at some of the consequences of medicalising distress. The two speakers will be Dr Christopher Ryan and Merinda Epstein. Merinda is well known in Melbourne. Chris may not be. He is a public psychiatrist who is a clinical Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. His interests are in the legal and human rights of people diagnosed with mental illness.

2. Stigma: The precarious balance between social and personal identity - A half day forum
15th May 2019 (9.30am - 12.00 noon)
First popularised by American sociologist Erving Goffman, stigma may have become an overused concept. This forum takes a wide interpretation of how people who are different are treated badly in society. Speakers will challenge taken-for granted assumptions in the 'anti-stigma discourse' in psychiatry and invite people to think critically and creatively about 'stigma'. Some content may be surprising and challenging.
Speakers: Flick Grey and Merinda Epstein

3. Entering the labyrinth: Balancing care and risk in clinical services - A half day forum
29th May 2019 (9.30am - 12 noon)
This is a forum which looks at the structures, systems and discourses which have evolved alongside the medical model. Issues include trauma, symbolism, language, interconnectedness, relationships and identity (of both staff and consumers). They are located in situations including emergency services and responses, psychiatric hospitals, private facilities as well as private psychological and psychiatric practices.

4. Mad Studies
27th June 2019 (6.00pm - 8.00pm) at Our Community House, 552 Victoria Street, North Melbourne.
Reclaiming the discourse of madness is important for many. Madness studies moves the conversation away from understanding madness as an individual deficit. Challenging ideas is important. In this forum, the idea of anti-psychiatry is explored along with more complex ideas around anti-anti-psychiatry. Relationships between madness and disability and alternatives to psychiatry are explored.
Speaker: Flick Grey and Merinda Epstein.

5. Holding ourselves together in time and space: Living in community - A half day forum
20th June 2019 (9.30am - 12.30 noon)
Many people with psychosocial disabilities - including those with past experiences of institutionalisation or other forms of segregation - live in what is usually referred to as 'the community'. Unprepared communities were not really ready to 'receive' or 'include' equally unprepared people who sometimes had been isolated for many years… So what do we understand 'community' to be like? How can we understand and experience the relationship pre-supposed by the notion of 'living in community'…?

6. Living with the National Disability Scheme: Are we 'in' or 'out'? - A half day forum
Date to be announced
The NDIS is here, likely to stay. There are, however, significant internal (and external) inconsistencies to be explored. Distributing taxpayers' money in an insurance scheme designed for 'individuals' needs exploration; changing the way people relate to each other in a social, cultural, historical or community context needs careful preparation and requires a lot of (re-)learning. Inevitably, some experiences of disability are responded to more favourably and generously.

To book any small group conversations on any of the topics above please call Merinda Epstein on telephone 03 9320 6838 or email on



Please contact Merinda Epstein on to arrange any of the following workshops.

Our experience and the social context of storytelling
'The personal is political' as Carol Hanisch declared (1970). What is the nature of personal story-making (and telling)? In this workshop we explore the idea that our stories do not just sit in our personal history and experiences. They also reflect our place in society. How much are we the creators of our own stories and how much are we the actors within a much larger social narrative? In this workshop we use our publication: Pluck, acceptance, defiance and fortitude: telling mental illness stories to change the world.

Stigmata - the mark of disgrace.
What are our experiences of stigma? Are there patterns to be understood? This workshop explores the difference between 'stigma', 'prejudice', 'discrimination' and 'oppression'. Exploring stigma, we utilise the conversation starter prompts in the Atlas of Madness, volume 3 - Stigma: The precarious balance between personal and social identity.

Competing understandings: Do we need permission to disagree?
Trauma after a compulsory acute admission is often seen by clinicians to be a lasting result of symptoms of illness, but many consumers understand ongoing trauma to be a result of the interventions themselves. The realities are often only distantly related. This is one example but there are many more. How do understandings become either orthodoxy or marginalised? If multiple truths are equally balanced, what will lead to positive change?

Bringing back community
Why are the ways we relate to each other imperative? How can we imagine responses to distress that are located within a relational and communal space, concretely, ideologically and culturally? How could we reach shared respect for understandings of healing, medicine and community? Understanding the role of the spiritual, relational, individual, political and cultural seems important. We are looking for kind and generous conversations reflecting differences of many kinds.


Past events:


Storytelling workshops for consumers

In November 2011 Our Consumer Place produced a booklet for consumers on using their personal stories in many different ways from working with the new media through to public speaking. Following the success of this booklet Our Consumer Place ran two workshops on using story.

Both workshops were run by Merinda Epstein and Wanda Bennetts, two of the best loved and most experienced consumer story users in Australia. Click here for more information. If you are interested in hosting this training in the future, contact Merinda at:


Listening to Lived Experience

This series discussed mental distress/madness from the perspective of people with lived experience. The voices of other experts have been dominating community understanding of "mental health"- this was a chance engage differently. (Presented in collaboration with the Melbourne Free University). Click here for flier.

Session 1: Introduction to Intentional Peer Support (IPS)
How do you support someone going through intense emotional distress or acting in ways that you find confusing, distressing or mad? This was an introduction to IPS, developed by Shery Mead in the US, trauma-informed, non-coercive, honest, transformative and practical.
Flick Grey and Merinda Epstein, Our Consumer Place

Session 2: Madness in the academy
This session looked at how universities are taking up (or not taking up) the impressive intellectual work of people with lived experience.
Speakers: Cath Roper, Australia's first critical consumer (mad) academic, Centre for Psychiatric Nursing, University of Melbourne. Merinda Epstein and Flick Grey (Our Consumer Place)

Session 3: What do we want from the mental health system?
This session explored what people who have used (and/or been damaged or neglected by) the mental health system think and what we want. The mental health system is very sick, still grounded in coercion and paternalism. But these two leaders are at the forefront of the winds of change.
Speakers: Merinda Epstein, Our Consumer Place and long-time human rights activist and Indigo Daya, Voices Vic and Smoking Mad.


Consumers as Educators

Some background: In the 1990s, a series of workshops that came to be known as "The Deakin Workshops" were held to discuss embedding consumer and carer lived experience into the education of mental health clinicians. The findings of these visionary workshops were published as "Learning Together: Education and Training Partnerships in Mental Health."

What was this day about This one-day forum showcased examples of current innovative and exciting educational practice, provided historical context and asked the questions "Where are we now?" and "What does the future hold for consumers as clinical educators?" It brought together consumer educators and non-consumer mental health educators who respect and value the role of lived experience in clinical education. There was also be plenty of time for networking and discussion.

Click here for a copy of the resource booklet made available on the day.

Feedback from the day: (all was collected anonymously)

Another great rejuvenating day, exceptionally organised and facilitated by Our Consumer Place. I cannot thank you guys enough. Cheers.

A consumer conference run in a consumer way.

Seeing so many intelligent, articulate, educated, diverse, enthusiastic people making real change & sharing real ideas.

Meeting and hearing from people with such a high level of knowledge and expertise.

Really good to hear history of people's experiences/work. Good to be amongst peers, feel solidarity and safe, ie. people that are both mad and functioning in various professional contexts.

Blown away by the amazing things people are doing.

That many people have a lot of passion and drive to change things. The huge amount of experience, talents, skills and knowledge. The great sharing of knowledge + resources.

A really excellent day... Not to mention excellent lunch. Much to ponder on the way home and weeks to come.

Lots of ideas and inspiration, awareness of brilliant work people are doing, reinforced my already v. high opinion of Flick + Merinda's work.


Merinda's Keynote from The Mental Health Services Conference 1996

The 2010 THEMHS Conference in Sydney marked 20 years of THEMHS Conferences. Leonie Manns, one of the keynote speakers at the 2010 conference, reflected on the history of THEMHS and noted that Merinda's keynote from 1996 was consistently singled out as the most memorable keynote in the conference's history. It is still remarkably (and possibly disappointingly) relevant today. You can download a copy here. (PDF 310KB)


Consumer Leadership Conference

We ran our first "Consumer Leadership Conference," at Ross House in Melbourne, on October 14th, 2010. About 60 people were in attendance, including both self-identifying consumers and supporters. Keynote speakers were:

Other sessions included:

Photos from the day are available here.

Feedback from the day:

"Awesome! Inspirational speakers! So happy to spend time with "Like Minds" And so much respect in the room." -Bianca Childs (Forensicare)

"It's great that it was organised. Thanks OCP. Consumer leadership is being discussed internationally and it is very important to have a developing Australian perspective to contribute." -Jenny Speed (A Way Ahead Queensland).

"Very positive, respectful environment that came from a positioning of not having the answers but opened the discussion." -Neil Turton-Lane (Western Region Health Centre)

"Great opportunity for us to get together & have our own discussions / develop our thinking / share our experiences. "Conversations" are important & need to be valued & this conference allowed this to happen." -Wanda Bennetts (North West Area Mental Health Services)

"Great opportunity to network & meet new people on the journey. Also a way to learn and be informed about current challenges in the sector/for consumers. ... [I liked] the honesty & transparency of views, mutuality & respect! Face to face communication with peers about shared ideas and problems. "Life-giving" encounters." -Anon (PHaMS worker)

"Great day. Really nice mix of speakers. ... [I liked] the radical articulate voice, respectful for the diversity of consumers' experiences and views. ... I really respect your politics and approach and the way you're communicating "consumer perspective" and facilitating leadership." -Anon

..."an open & safe & welcoming space to discuss, rant, meet and laugh. The good humour was essential. OCP is the place for dynamic ideas on MH in Aus. This conference reflected that." -Anon


Consumer Think Tank

The first Consumer Think Tank was held on a Friday evening, at a cafe in North Melbourne. For a few hours, a group of consumers put our minds to solving the world's problems while working out what we wanted to eat or drink... Twas a lovely way to be together, sharing ideas with no fixed agenda.


Previous training:

Members of Our Consumer Place have been involved in training consumers and mental health workers (and future workers!) Some examples of the training we have conducted are: