Fund amount:

Program area:




Lived experience the key to trauma support

7 Jul 2022

Survivors of trauma will play a crucial role in an innovative Lived Experience Council at 

Australia’s leading trauma and disaster mental health center.


The Ross Trust is providing essential funding to help Phoenix Australia establish the council, which will comprise up to 15 people with diverse lived trauma experiences. The Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation contributed an initial portion of funding to the council, which will meet regularly to guide, critique and inform trauma projects from design to delivery.


The council will promote national discussion and awareness of trauma, its consequences, and available support by engaging in forums, conferences, online events as well as engaging with Phoenix project staff and its network of collaborators.


Phoenix Australia Director Professor David Forbes said the council is a critical step forward for the organisation, which supports people struggling with the impacts of trauma through clinical services, policy advice, training resources, and world-leading research. 


Phoenix Australia is a national Centre of Excellence in trauma and disaster-related mental health. It supports communities, organisations and individuals to overcome the emotional impacts of trauma, and partners with government, first responder agencies, hospitals, veterans, family violence and sexual assault services, disaster relief, asylum seeker, and Aboriginal community controlled services. Phoenix Australia is affiliated with the University of Melbourne and is made up of more than 60 researchers, clinicians and specialists in psychology, psychiatry and social work.


“Listening to those with lived experience has always been an important element of our work,” Professor Forbes said. “But we are now formalising this process of engagement across all our projects to raise awareness of what it is to experience trauma, and to promote understanding that recovery is possible.” 


Senior psychologist Dr Winnie Lau said that many people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might not be aware they are suffering from the condition or may feel shame about seeking help. 


Tim Peck, Phoenix’s Lived Experience Lead Advisor and Deputy Director of its First Responders program agreed.


“Despite great strides in trauma education and intervention, many people are still reluctant to seek help, do not know how or where to access evidenced-based treatments, or find it difficult to access and engage with mainstream services,” he said.


“We know, for example, that many survivors and victims who have experienced trauma are in this position, so the council will play a key role to raising awareness of trauma and its impacts and providing the necessary perspective to ensure meaningful outcomes for survivors.


“A key driver of this program is to ensure that lived experience is placed at the centre of the design process of any model of care.”


Phoenix Australia plans to engage members for the council with a range of professional and personal backgrounds from its existing networks and partnerships.


“As well as survivors and victims, we will look for family members and carers of people who have experienced trauma and PTSD, who we know also bring a unique experience of trauma,” Tim said.

“Of course, we are also aware of the need to care for council members to ensure they are supported through the activities we undertake.”


Professor Forbes said the establishment of the council would have a profound impact on Phoenix Australia’s work in the future.


The Ross Trust CEO Sarah Hardy said supporting the panel and work of Phoenix Australia strongly aligned with the trust’s commitment to human rights and care for vulnerable Victorians.


“A lived experience voice will help decrease stigma and barriers, as evidence shows that hearing about the lived experience of others is a powerful way to increase community awareness of PTSD and address barriers to care,” Sarah said.


Read more about Phoenix Australia