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.

Workshops and Talks

To express and interest in having these workshops or talks conducted, please email and advise preferred dates, time and name of organisation


Telling our stories even when we don't want to: Dominant consumer narratives in psychiatry

Interactive Workshop: 3 hours

What are the stories we tell to the mental health system and the community? Just how much of our story is really our own? What social, political and economic pressures play a part in determining what we do and don't tell, even when we are determined never to use our stories?

This interactive workshop encourages people not only to explore their own personal narrative and how to use it, but also to examine the dominant medical narrative and consumer counter-narratives. What do they have in common, how are they different, and what do they mean?

This workshop is aimed at consumers.

Stigma, discrimination, prejudice and oppression

Interactive Workshop: 3 hours

This workshop explores responses to stigma. What does trying to create a less stigmatising community do to challenge a stigmatising service system? Where is the research into stigma taking us? Is this the right direction? Does addressing the stigma of one group further stigmatise another? This workshop explores ideas such as 'dumping', 'othering', 'collateral damage', 'generalising', 'claiming real illness' and 'adopting the language of the medical establishment'. Is it possible or reasonable to describe one group of people diagnosed with 'mental illness' as more stigmatised than others? We will take a critical look at the paucity and inadequacy of campaigns that purport to fight 'stigma'. The discussion will introduce the idea that society has good reason to maintain prejudice against people diagnosed with 'mental illness' and that therefore many vaunted (and expensive) public campaigns may be counterproductive. This workshop invites exploration, challenges inconsistencies and searches for solutions that make sense.

This workshop is aimed at consumers, but it can also be organised as a more general workshop.

Doctors know and the rest of us perceive: The power of perspective

Interactive Workshop: 3 hours

Trauma after a compulsory acute admission might be seen by doctors as a result of devastating symptoms of illness, but many consumers understand it as a symptom of the mental illness interventions themselves. What is the truth? Is there a truth? How does one social understanding become an orthodoxy while another is marginalised? What is the balance of multiple truths? How do multiple truths fit with political slogans? This workshop invites people to explore the nature of knowledge as it relates to everyday practices of madness. Issues of language, power, society and the mental health system will be mined for greater understanding.

This workshop is aimed at anyone interested in psychiatry, social justice, democratic medicine and epistemology; consumers are encouraged to get involved.

Listening to us: Consumers talking to the service

Interactive Workshops: 2 x 2 hours

Getting organised - listening to each other

This is a workshop for consumers engaged in, or willing to be engaged in, service evaluation and planning. It examines the factors at play when a service seeks help from consumer advisers. How do consumers understand their role, and how can they educate others about it? Consumers will have a chance to explore what is important for them personally and collectively and what is not.

Facts, feelings, ideas and stories are important. Consumers will have opportunities to validate intuitive or visceral reactions to ways they have been approached or consulted or their purpose mis/understood. Not everyone will agree on all things. These differences will not be smoothed over; they will be treated as important. People will be encouraged to say what needs to be said but also to work towards what they want to do next.

Do something - together

This workshop brings together consumer advisers and service decision-makers to explore what it means to have consumers participate in decision-making. It is designed to be a safe yet challenging place for service providers and administrators, and it is deliberately scheduled to take place after the 'Getting organised' workshop outlined above.

This workshop is underpinned by the notion that personal preferences (e.g. ways of thinking and doing things; personal priorities) are as important as mental illness (or lack thereof) in determining how people occupy social roles, build relationships and entertain priorities.

Professionals will be invited to be storytellers in the same way consumers are invited to be experts and specialists in their own fields. Participants will be invited to share their 'gut feelings' and personal wisdom (and angst) in the context of searching for a better service delivery system, one that makes sense to the consumers who use the service.

This workshop is intended to be the start of something, not the end of it.

Putting the community back into community care

Interactive Workshop: 3 hours

This workshop explores the idea of community in relation to the social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of all of us. Why are the ways we relate to one another imperative to personal and communal sanity? What are the social antecedents and complexities of mental distress and the medicalisation of experiences?

This workshop presents an opportunity for consumers to explore why some of us want our distress to be named, medically authenticated and 'treated', while others of us want them to be seen as part of a wide spectrum of human experiences to be honoured and not 'annihilated'.

How can we understand the experiences of people diagnosed with mental illness as essentially communal, and create responses that are located in this common place, without demonising those who seek legitimacy through illness or disability? How can we reach a 'no fault' understanding of healing through community?

This workshop will also look at mentally healthy communities and what it takes to create and maintain one.



Talk: 45 minutes, including questions

This is an edited version of a talk given by Merinda Epstein 20 years ago to acclaim. It does not present the 'glossy brochure' version of stigma, but looks at it differently. It challenges all of us, including consumers, to examine the ways we stigmatise others (and each other). It questions the idea that stigma only occurs 'out there' in the community and argues that there are sometimes very good reasons why a culture and its institutions use stigma to delimit expectations of services.

This talk is available to consumers, family carers, the mental health sector, local communities and community groups.

History of psychiatry: A signal to take care

Talks: 2 x 45 minutes, including questions

It is important to understand history because it informs contemporary practice. History also reminds us also that the medical model we have come to know as a self-evident truth is in fact very new. These talks aim to contextualise common understandings and practices in psychiatry. Both talks draw attention to historical waves of 'goodness' and 'badness', caring and abuse.

These talks are available free of charge to consumer groups, community groups, services, students and anyone interested in starting their exploration of the intriguing history of psychiatry.

Welcome to a history of competing ideas

This talk examines Australia's colonial history and the accompanying institutions of madhouses, asylums and moral therapy, as well as changing ideas about madness in the 19th and 20th centuries. What are the lessons to be learned from the work of Freud and other psychoanalysts, and the blatant abuses of psychiatry as practised during the Third Reich and in the Soviet Union? Closer to home, what about deep sleep therapy and the disaster at Chelmsford Hospital?

Blame, blemishes and bureaucratic competence

History is about more than facts, figures, dates, official accounts and even personal stories. It is also about ideas and competing discourses, about knowledge and whose knowledge counts as authoritative in its day, in its time and in the glance of history. This talk looks at Australia during the period from the closure of the last asylums in the mid-1990s onwards.

This is not a definitive history of policy in Australia, but it does analyse the change of tack that occurred nationally in the 1990s, notably with the publication of the scathing Burdekin report. It also looks at Victorian projects and policies such as the consumers' own Understanding & Involvements Project; the introduction of area mental health services; consumer consultants; and the role of the first national mental health strategy.

This talk examines two issues with major implications for consumers and service delivery today: the relationship between consumers and family carers, and the bureaucratic need to curtail services (rein in costs), treat the 'most needy', define the 'most vulnerable' and be seen to be well targeted. How do these sit in history?

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: