Recovery colleges are possible in your local area

by Dr. Robbie Lloyd

Continuing the work of reform in Australia’s inadequate mental health system, including addressing trauma and addictive behaviours, will require serious intentional efforts by all of us. One way for parishes and schools to get more active in this space is to learn more about the Recovery College model, which exists in a number of places across Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK.

These gathering places value the lived experience of people with mental health challenges, alcohol or other drug (AOD) dependencies, or addiction to social media, on-line gaming and/or gambling. Many of these activities have grown exponentially during COVID’s long isolation-at-home periods.

Local Health District’s in NSW run mental health wards, and alcohol & other drug recovery wards. But once someone is discharged from hospital they can just feel abandoned from any further support, unless they are put in touch with ongoing connection to a recovery college or other community rehabilitation service.

What is missing from the many NGO-run rehabs is any sense of valuing the lived experience of “consumers & carers,” so they can become equal staff members alongside clinicians and adult educators, and be paid accordingly. Then they can be co-designers and co-deliverers of the programs, so these will reflect the needs, interests and aspirations of people in recovery.

Churches and schools can come into the picture here, by lobbying Local Health Districts (with funds from State Governments), Local Councils (who often run premises where recovery colleges can be established), and Primary Health Networks (who have the Mental Health & AOD & Trauma funding from the Federal Government).

Many of you will have family members and friends who have been affected by these distresses, which are no unusual or weird. They’re just life happening, so you all have a vested interest in becoming part of the pressure for reforming our system to make it more people-friendly and people-valuing.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact our new JPO Mentor in Lived Experience of Mental Health challenges, Ms Lira Budiarty through the Justice and Peace Office, and by email to: