Leading with lived experience

Darren Smith knows firsthand the belief that feeling understood can instil when dark thoughts take over.

‘’The most important and beneficial part of my recovery was my peer support worker who had a lived experience of mental health,’’ he says.

‘’He was compassionate, non-judgemental and empathetic. I felt connected, understood and valued.’’

Inspired to play the same role in others’ lives, Darren is undertaking CHC43515 Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work in Port Lincoln.

The nationally recognised training is delivered by Centacare’s Registered Training Organisation, in partnership with Mental Health Coalition of South Australia’s Lived Experience Workforce Program, and with funding support from Country SA PHN.

‘’I have learnt the importance of self-compassion and self-care, collaborative problem solving, and to seek support from my peers and not to be afraid to reach out for help and ask questions,’’ Darren says.

‘’Best highlights have been learning to lean in and face adversity and personal challenges and building a network of peer workers and community resources.’’

Darren sees the Certificate as a catalyst for personal growth through emotional intelligence.

‘’Gaining confidence and understanding of other people's experiences and perspectives has assisted me in improving relationships with others and myself,’’ he says.

With the continued funding support of CSAPHN, Centacare is now offering the qualification in Port Augusta and Mount Gambier. The cohorts are open to people living in the Limestone Coast, Flinders Upper North, Yorke Peninsula and northern regions and will begin in May.

The aim is to build a lived experience peer workforce to address current shortages within the mental health, suicide prevention and disability sectors in rural and remote communities.

The qualification takes up to 12 months to complete and is for people who have lived experience of mental distress and recovery as either a consumer of services or a carer of someone who has.

Darren is encouraging others to follow his lead and undertake the certificate.

‘’You won't regret it and you will learn a whole more about yourself,’’ he says.

‘’It was tough but definitely worth the effort.’’

Five learner cohorts have commenced with Centacare in the past two years, with learning retention tracking at higher than 80 per cent and a 70 per cent employment rate.

The Mount Gambier and Port Augusta cohorts are open to people living across the Limestone Coast, Flinders Upper North, Yorke Peninsula and northern regions.

For more information, phone Centacare’s Registered Training Organisation on 8215 6700 or email

Share this article