Queensland Lived Experience Workforce Network

By, with and for the Lived Experience Workforce

QLEWN Roundtable

The QLEWN Roundtable provides strategic advice and oversee the establishment of the Queensland Lived Experience Workforce Network (QLEWN) as an independent peak body.

The Roundtable will:

  • Ensure the process of establishing QLEWN is informed by and representative of the diverse interests of the Lived Experience workforce.
  • Provide strategic advice and approve the direction and activities for establishing QLEWN.

Roundtable Members

Amanda Waegeli – Darling Downs
Amanda is a Lived Experience, independent national trainer, consultant, and supervisor. As a qualified trainer and assessor, specialising in the Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Work her passion is to ensure the peer workforce are trained and supported in their valuable work. She has recently become a Certified Personal Medicine Coach with Pat Deegan and associates and has an interest in the History of the Consumer Movement in Australia. She founded a peer led mental health community in WA; has authored journal articles and book chapters; and was a finalist in the 2018 QLD Mental Health Week Jude Bugeja – Peer Experience Award. She is the current Chairperson of the International Society of Psychological and Social approaches to Psychosis (ISPS Australia).

Donna Humphrey – Brisbane
Donna is the Lived Experience Workforce Engagement and Development Coordinator at Brook RED, a peer run organisation based in Brisbane. Donna has been working in the mental health sector for ten years both as a peer worker and leading projects and events both state wide and nationally that advocate for connecting, strengthening, and training the Lived Experience Workforce. Donna has also been working with Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness on a new training project to upskill Perinatal Peer Workers. Donna loves how much our Lived Experience practice can cultivate, inspire and model recovery and is passionate about working in a way that deeply aligns with her values and purpose. Donna likes to spend her spare time in water, in nature and with her family.

Eschleigh Balzamo – Brisbane
Eschleigh is the General Manager of Brook RED, a Lived Experience staffed mental health service in South Brisbane. Prior to moving to Australia Eschleigh worked in Canada and the United States developing live-experience run social enterprises and this experience ignited her passion for ensuring that the design, operation, and evaluation of mental health services are driven by the communities of people they support. In her spare time she likes to build 3D printers, make things out of molten glass and metal, and read anything she can get her hands on. Her favourite chocolate is Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Eschleigh Balzamo

Karalee Busniak – Brisbane
Karalee works for Footprints Community as the Mental Health Peer Support Team Leader. She is passionate about Peer Support work and believes that Lived Experience workers are a crucial part of the mental health sector. Karalee believes in the importance of Peer Work and has practiced it with the people she has come in contact with over her lifetime. She believes in using her Lived Experience in an intentional way to bring hope to people and show that there is life beyond the dark.

Michelle Edwards – Gold Coast
Michelle’s Lived Experience includes supporting her mother and siblings as a young carer. As an adult carer she has provided ongoing support to her mother, younger sister and son. She has also had many personal experiences of overwhelming emotional and mental distress leading to involuntary treatment and diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder with psychosis. She has over 22 years experience working in a variety of consumer and carer representative and peer/consultant positions. Michelle is a Peer Champion support by the National Mental Health Commission to qualify as a trainer and assessor of the Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Work in Both Consumer and Carer streams.

Paula Arro – Brisbane
Paula is the Lived Experience Engagement Coordinator – Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Alcohol and other Drugs (MHAOD) Program at Brisbane North Primary Health Network (PHN). Paula has a Lived Experience both as a consumer and a carer. She is employed by the PHN to develop capacity and support opportunities for people with a lived experience to actively participate in MHAOD reforms. More recently her role has expanded to Chair and provide secretariat support to the National PHN Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network. Paula has been an active leader in the development of the Lived Experience Workforce both in Queensland and nationally.

Paula Arro

Viv Kissane – Brisbane
Viv is the Founder/CEO of Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness, a Peer Led organisation based in Brisbane that specialises in perinatal and infant mental health. Over the past eight years, Peach Tree has flourished into a leading community support service, that is entirely owned and operated by Lived Experience workers. Vic is also an active Consumer Representative, sitting on the Strategic implementation Group for the Brisbane North PHN Regional Plan and for the last three years has been a Board Member of the Queensland Alliance for Mental Health. A passionate advocate for suicide prevention, Viv also sits as a founding member of the Brisbane North Suicide Prevention Network (a Lived Experience led initiative).

Sarah Reed
Sarah Reed has an extensive lived experience, which she has drawn upon to work within the AoD and Mental Health community sector for over two decades. She also works within a peer framework during her suicide postvention work for Stand By. Sarah currently sits on the QuIHN board of Directors, as well as being a board member of QuIVAA, and she is passionate about the development of an AoD peer workforce in Queensland. Currently, her 9 to 5 position is as the Community Development worker for APM, a NDIS partner. Where she is involved with developing the role of lived experience recovery coaches and support workers and creating employment opportunities for peers. She always has and always will be a disruptive social activist, who is honoured to sit at the round table.

Michael Isager – Ipswich
Michael is presently working as an Advanced Peer Worker in the Emergency Department of a major Queensland Health Hospital. He has worked in multiple identified roles in Queensland Health over a period of more than 10 years. Michael was a Consumer Representative on the Partners in Recovery Consortium Management Committee for the West Moreton Oxley Region for the duration of the NDIS rollout. Michael’s lived experience includes involuntary treatment and hospitalisation. Michael has a passion for peer work and public service. In his spare time Michael is a Rosicrucian student and volunteers with his local Lions Club.

Foundational Members

QLEWN acknowledges the following individuals for their passion and leadership in the early development of QLEWN.

Evan Foulton – Fraser Coast

Liz Guaresi – South Burnett
Liz has been working for Lutheran Services in Kingaroy since 2015. Her first position was undertaking a research project scoping gaps in mental health services in Kingaroy. She subsequently worked as a peer support coordinator. With the recent roll out of NDIS, Liz now offers peer support across the South Burnett region. She has an immense passion for peer workforce development in this region.

Dr Louise Byrne – Central Queensland
Louise is a researcher with deep knowledge of organisational issues relevant to Lived Experience mental health employment. Louise’s work is informed by her own experiences of mental health diagnosis, service use and periods of healing. Louise was awarded a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship in 2017 to conduct research on Lived Experience employment in the United states, based at Yale University and currently has a Fulbright Fellowship with RMIT in the School of Management. Louise’s work frequently informs policy.

Michael Burbank – Sunshine Coast
Michael has more than 20 years experience in the mental health sector. His perspective on the nature of mental illness, resilience and recovery reflects his own experiences enduring a violent childhood and trauma of being incarcerated in prisons and mental health units as a young adult. Michael is devoted to bringing in change in mental health service delivery. He currently works teaching the Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Support for TAFE Queensland. Michael also serves on steering committees for the implementation of Hearing Voices group and the peer workforce. He has been a finalist in the Queensland awards for contributions in the mental health sector.

Gabrielle Vilic – Brisbane
Gabrielle is a well-respected leader with experience spanning over 25 years in the mental health sector. Joining Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Services in 2013 as the Director for Social Inclusion and Recovery, she has developed the Lived Experience workforce to over 60 lived experience positions in the last four years. Gabrielle has published a number of articles around consumer and carer participation and won several awards for her achievements. Gabrielle is the Chair of the Queensland Consumer and Carer Workforce Network and was recently appointed Deputy Chair of the Queensland Mental Health and Drug Advisory Council.

Tyneal Hodges – Cairns

Cherie McGregor – Darling Downs
Chérie has worked as a Lived Experience practitioner in a variety of roles in regional public mental health services, Primary Health Network and academic settings since 2010. Chérie is a Peer Champion supported by the National Mental Health Commission to qualify as a trainer and assessor of the Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Work in both Consumer and Carer streams.

Lisa Jones – Brisbane
Lisa is the Director of Recovery for Metro North Mental Health (MNMH) and identifies as a consumer who has a Lived Experience of recovery from mental health issues. Her experiences drive her passion for working in a senior Lived Experience leadership role with the MNMH Executive Leadership Team. In this role Lisa is responsible for driving improvement and change in recovery-oriented service provision; peed (lived experience) workforce development; and consumer and carer partnerships and engagement.

Tanya Kretschmann – Brisbane
Tanya is a passionate Lived Experience consultant, Speaker and Peer Mentor/ Worker. Tanya is currently employed as a Senior Peer Mentor with Eating Disorders Queensland, and is employed in an indentified Lived Experience role with the Queensland Mental Health Tribunal. As a Lived Experience Leader, Tanya represents mental health and eating disorder consumers on numerous local, state, national and international committees, and is dedicated to enhancing consumer-centred, recovery-oriented, compassionate, collaborative and integrated health care through policy and system advocacy, research, and service design, deliver and evaluation. Finally, Tanya is currently the Queensland Consumer Representative on the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (NMHCCF) and is dedicated to supporting the inclusion of lived and living experience perspectives of mental health concerns in national mental health reform and development agendas.

Tanya was a QLEWN Roundtable Member before accepting the position as QLEWN Project Officer in August 2020.

QLEWN acknowledges the First Australians, who are the Traditional Owners of the lands, winds, and waters of the Country we work on.  We pay our respects to their elders – past, present, and emerging; and we pay our respects to the long and ongoing connection and relationship they have with this Country.  We are grateful for the privilege of sharing this land and express our sorrow for the historic and continued cost of that sharing to First Nations People.  We acknowledge that this land was never ceded.  We know that recovery is not fully possible where systemic injustice and dispossession exist.  In the interests of creating a genuinely equitable and just Australia, QLEWN seeks to walk a path of continual learning, development, and practice that contributes to reconciliation.