Donna and Shayne, carers for their daughter, Jasmine, and members of Western Metro Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect's Lived Experience Reference Group

Donna and Shayne’s 23-year-old daughter, Jasmine, has autism and associated mental health and mood problems – frequently experiencing anxiety, particularly when life lacks structure and order.

“Unfortunately, most people don’t understand her challenges, said Donna. It’s a real issue.”

Donna and Shayne’s fulltime role as carers to Jasmine saw them nominated for the lived experience reference group for Western Metro Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect – our recently launched resource and support hub for carers of those experiencing mental health or substance misuse issues.

The 2021 Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System recommended that Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect hubs be established to provide free services and a warm and welcoming space to the estimated 60,000 Victorians providing care.

The involvement of those with lived experience of care is a key feature of each hub.

“The hub’s approach is an extension of the way Jesuit Social Services works,” said Leanne Acreman, General Manager – Housing and Complex Needs, whose team has helped lead the establishment of the Western Metro Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect.

“Therefore, our approach is different to suit the needs of this particular group we’re supporting. “It’s about tailoring a service that meets the needs of individuals, rather than an existing model that people access. It’s the way we treat and respect people and listen to them on that journey.

“It’s not just about what we deliver, it’s how we go about doing that.”

Alongside seven other carers, Donna and Shayne attend monthly meetings, where they advise staff on everything from program design to the design of the walls. This ensures that the hub is a  welcoming, non-clinical space, providing services which will be genuinely useful to carers.

Though Donna and Shayne aren’t users of the service – their involvement in the hub is with its reference group only – they say the hub has given them new value and purpose.

“The thing is, when you’re a husband and wife, you look after each other; that’s just our responsibility. But when we come here, we’re stepping out of that role, and we’re looking at how we can help other carers. It’s given us the opportunity to contribute beyond our family.”


Carer and member of our Lived Experience Reference Group