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Course Mentors

Ahmad Abojaradeh

Ahmad is the Founder of Life in My Days, an international non-profit that supports individuals and their communities on their journeys for self-actualization through mutual aid, transformative justice, and disability justice. Currently, they are working as an Equity and Transformation consultant, supporting various organizations in four continents. They are a disabled, trans, Muslim, indigenous Palestinian focusing on creating transformative work around displacement, decolonization, equity, and centering lived experiences of individuals most impacted by injustice. Ahmad brings together engineering, peer support, and trauma work to support their vision of more equitable and accountable communities that lead to individuals' self-actualization.

Martha Barbone

Martha received her BS and DVM from Colorado State University. She spent twelve years in the US Air Force before being sidelined by a diagnosis of depression and PTSD. After several years including multiple hospitalizations, medications, and other treatments, she was introduced to peer support. This led to newfound hope and discovery of inner strength. She served as the director of the Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) Training for Massachusetts for four years. Martha has also worked providing peer support in an inpatient locked unit and in a peer-run organization. In addition to CPS training, Martha is a certified Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator, Alternatives to Suicide Facilitator, Hearing Voices Network facilitator, SAMHSA Recovery to Practice Next Steps facilitator and a Vet-to-Vet group facilitator. Martha serves on the advisory board for the National Center on Advancing Person-Centered Practices and Systems (NCAPPS) and served as a member of the Recovery Advisory Board and the Veterans' Engagement Stakeholder Council for the VA Healthcare and Implementation Research (CHOIR) program.She also facilitates Alternatives to Violence workshops in several state prisons. Currently, she is on the training team for the Wildflower Alliance and has recently returned to veterinary diagnostic imaging at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

Sera Davidow

In addition to her work with the Wildflower Alliance where she does project development and oversight, grant writing, public speaking, curriculum development, training, supervision, and leadership, Sera has also worked as a lead trainer for the state’s Certified Peer Specialist program for nearly ten years, is a founding member of the Hearing Voices USA Board of Directors, and publishes articles regularly on Mad in America. Sera was able to take her lived experiences in the mental health system and re-define herself as a survivor to find success without any diagnoses or psychiatric drugs for over a decade. She has also developed a passion for filmmaking, beginning with ‘Beyond the Medical Model’ in 2013.

Margaret Doherty

Margaret Doherty, BA, BCommerce, Higher Dip Ed, Grad Cert in Mental Health is the Founder/Chairperson of Mental Health Matters 2 Limited (MHM2), a lived experience-led micro-charity based in Perth, WA. Through a range of strategic roles, Margaret applies her lived experience expertise as a family member to help achieve positive, effective systems change with and for individuals and families with experiences of mental distress, alcohol and other drug challenges and possible involvement with the criminal justice system. Margaret currently holds leadership roles on a range of strategic committees. These include: Chairperson, WA Mental Health Advisory Council; Lived Experience Co-chair of the WA Lived Experience (Peer) Framework Steering Committee and the Graylands Reconfiguration and Forensic Taskforce Lived Experience Advisory Group; Member of the Sustainable Health Review Independent Oversight Committee and Lived Experience (Family/Carer) representative on the WA Joint Service Planning and Governance Committee. Recent relevant roles have also included Deputy Co- chair of the Steering Committee for the National Lived Experience (Peer) Workforce Development Guidelines and independent Lived Experience member for the 2020 Review of the Clinical Governance Public Mental Health Services in WA. Margaret is a self-employed Independent Lived Experience consultant and sessional academic at Curtin University. She was an Investigator on the 2021/22 National Forensic Mental Health Principles project and was co-author of ‘Disrupting 'Expertise': Learnings from a Grassroots Lived Experience and Social Work Academic Partnership. Advances in Social Work. 22. 39-55 (2021).

Niharika Hiremath

Niharika Hiremath is a South-Indian mental well-being practitioner and intersectionality advocate living on the lands of the Wurrundjuri people in Melbourne, Australia. A youth mental health advocate by lived experience, a social worker by study and a student of life - she tries to identify and bridge systemic gaps within the wellbeing sector. Niharika focuses on the mental wellbeing of refugee and migrant-background communities through exploring culture and identity, and their overlap with mental health across a number of facets including service delivery, clinical & quality governance and through organsational & systemic change.

Niharika works toward increased sectoral cultural humility by being a member of headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation's Advisory Board, a member of the Refugee and Migrant Mental Health Partnership led by the former Migration Council of Australia, as well as a number of other committees and working groups. She is an AASW-certified social worker and a Clinician with the South Eastern-Melbourne Primary Health Network (SEMPHN). She also co-chairs Solis - Culture & Mental Health, a capacity-building support network for multicultural mental health advocates and professionals to address silos and promote integration within the sector. Niharika believes in the importance of narrative approaches, as well as the need for agency and self-determination, when working toward a safer and more culturally responsive system.

Lauren Keys

Lauren Keys is privileged to live and work on Larrakia Country in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. Lauren has been empowered in her healing journey through lived experience advocacy; connection to lived experience and peer communities; and grassroots movements of the NT.

Using ways of knowing, doing and being of lived experience leadership, peer support, education and community development - Lauren focuses on facilitating systems change to support individuals, communities and the lived experience workforce to self-advocate, grow and actualise as agents and experts of personal and collective recovery and healing.

Lauren has a repertoire of experiences in lived experience advocacy and representation, peer support, peer workforce development, consultancy, co-production, community education and skills training. Previously Lauren has worked across the mental health, suicide prevention, disability and community sectors more broadly. Lauren has been juggling her time and resources in both volunteer and paid capacities and some milestones include: Co-designing the first local peer-led recovery education program; developing and delivering the first locally tailored peer work programs in the NT; and membership as a co-founder of the NT Lived Experience Network – the first community group representing the interests and voices of the Lived Experience community in the NT.

Lauren has been a member of numerous national, state, territory and local boards, committees, advisory and working groups; including currently: Consumer Advisory Board of the Flinders University Health and Medical Research Institute, National PHN Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network (MHLEEN) and partnership projects between the National Mental Health Consumers and Carers Forum and MHLEEN.

I'm late 2021 Lauren was appointed to the first designated lived experience role at a systems level in the NT and is leading the development and implementation of a Lived Experience Capability Framework with the Northern Territory Primary Network. This systems change initiative is the first significant lived experience reform in the NT and provides a model for developing the lived experience capability of organisations and the sector.

Lauren provides peer support and mentoring to emerging lived experience leaders in the NT and hopes to collaborate with others in the space to create local lived experience leadership development initiatives to grow the community, influence and momentum of the movement.

Juanita Koeijers

Juanita Koeijers, BA Health Science, Dip Community Services, AOD Counsellor and Personal Medicine Coach has worked in varied capacities at both state and national levels aspiring to make visible the experience of people who use drugs and their families in the broader health and mental health landscapes. Passionate about courageous conversations, as the primary founder and Chairperson of the first AOD consumer representative body in WA, the AODCCC, she ensured equal inclusion of family members acknowledging the inherently shared experience and the importance of bringing the two together. After writing a peer led submission to a government inquiry bringing the voices of over 80 people who use/have used drugs and their family members to parliament in 2018 the AODCCC was funded to establish, is now recognized as a peak body and charity. Her knowledge base spans across sectors with many years of experience on boards, committees, communities of practice, consultations and forums, developing plans, frameworks, models of service, legislation, and policy, and participating in procurement, recruitment and implementation. Believing strongly in the concept of ‘health through community’ she has worked hard to break barriers between sectors and the stigma of being someone with lived experience of drug use. Always seeking to empower others to be heard, she emphasises the need to be ever strategic in their delivery of their message and vigilant about staying current, informed, and connected so that a consistent, collective voice may be used as leverage to push systemic change and create the inclusive, compassionate cultures we seek to be a part of.

At the 2017 ACMHN Symposium: ‘Joining the Dots’, she delivered a unique keynote to this effect: ‘Life the Universe and, Drugs: An Interesting Situation’. Historically focused, it highlighted that drug use has, in fact, been around, problematic, and documented, since the 3rd century BCE, over 5000 years ago. Juanita was the first lived experience board member of NDRI, has since worked with multiple institutes, peak bodies and universities on a variety of projects including ECU and Sideffect on the development of GamePlan, a VR intervention for youth, the Methamphetamine Taskforce, assistant to the N-ICE trial, engagement educator with HCC, WAPHA and HEN, engagement and translation support to WAHTN and CCI, with other board positions including PBHRWA, RCWA and WARCA.

She currently works in a research and advisory capacity at the UNSW for a national Tina Trial at NDARC. Outside of the sectors she uses her knowledge to improve her local community writing grant applications for the Geographe Bay Yacht Club where she works and sails as well as her small business N2 Nitro Cold Brew which promotes no alcohol, low sugar drinks and harm reduction at festivals while quietly developing the vision for a strategically unique enterprise called ‘Engagement for Change - Our Shared Humanity’.

Nyamuon Nguany (Moon) Machar

In addition to her work at Peer Collective, Moon is contracted as a cultural strategist for Disability Rights Maine where she advocates for the voices of immigrants and disproportionately represented communities in the mental health field. She first began her work with the ACE program in the Army National Guard, where she received training in suicide prevention for soldiers struggling with their mental health. Moon emigrated to the United States from South Sudan as a child and uses her and her family’s experience and trauma to educate and enlighten providers, consumers, policy makers, and community members about the importance of inclusion. Moon is also a spoken word poet and storyteller who uses her gift for writing to empower and build narratives for Black and brown communities.

Angela Obradovic

Angela Obradovic B.Ed., BSW is a mental health consultant and educator who has held senior practice, executive leadership and workforce development roles in the public mental health field over the past 30 years. She has a longstanding commitment to systemic change, family-focused practice and lived experience leadership that acknowledges the impact of mental illness on relationships and the interdependent needs of all family members, in particular parents and their dependent children. Angela’s advisory body roles have included membership of the Children of Parents with a Mental Illness National Initiative Reference Group for its entirety (2002-2015). In her role as Chief Social Worker for an adult mental health service in Victoria, Angela led implementation of a number of dedicated parent-child, family-carer focused and peer support programs, as well as early development of consumer and carer lived experience consultant and peer support workforces.

Across her career, and most recently within the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health (Emerging Minds), she contributed to a number of training resources including the ‘Keeping Families and Children in Mind’, ‘Let’s Talk about Children’, ‘Engaging Parents’ eLearning packages and the adult inpatient ‘Keeping in Touch with Your Children Menu’, and was closely involved in the Australian adaption and RCT evaluation for the Let’s Talk about Children Intervention. She has presented extensively, nationally and internationally, on relationally-oriented mental health practice and has co-authored several publications focused on cross-sectoral approaches and family interventions in adult mental health, including ‘Relational recovery: beyond individualism in the recovery approach’ (2016).

Helen Searle

With passion born from her own lived experience as a carer, Helen Searle made the switch from her executive and board career ten years ago. A desire to support and empower carers has led Helen to create, develop and deliver innovative peer- led national and state based programs. Helen is currently the Eating Disorder Project Lead at Alfred Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS) and also leads carer advocacy for the new Statewide Women’s Mental Health Unit and the Victorian Eating Disorder residential unit (the latter to launch in 2023/24). She is a consultant to Eating Disorders Victoria (EDV) and co-creator and mentor for their carer program for those experiencing Severe and Enduring Eating Disorders (SEED). This is the first program of its kind in Australia. Whilst working at Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA) Helen co-developed the only national program of on-line support groups for carers of those experiencing eating disorders. Helen successfully sought federal government funding, and this program continues to run in every state and territory in Australia, delivered by trained volunteer carer facilitators. Her past and current involvement with peak bodies such as CEED, ANZAED, Butterfly and LEEN reflect a drive to empower carers whilst working alongside and within systems to create long term change. Helen is the founder of a not for profit business ‘Building Hope’ and has sought and received more than $200,000 in philanthropic funding for the education, empowerment and support of carers of those experiencing eating disorders.

Lisa St George

Lisa St George, MSW, CPRP, CPSS brings over 40 years of experience in the health and human services industry. She currently serves as the Vice President of Peer Support and Empowerment at RI International. Her work with RI spans 22 years, during which time she has provided executive leadership and program development of RI International’s peer support workforce and programs in Arizona, California, and New Zealand. She is a principle author of RI International’s Peer Employment Training which has trained over 15,500 peer support workers nationally and internationally. In addition, she has written over 100 training tools, articles, publications, and presentations that have focused on peer support, recovery, inpatient psychiatric care, and crisis services. Most recently she created a fifteen-module training entitled – Crisis Training for Peer Supporters and Other Paraprofessionals (2022). The training was developed in response to the need for trained individuals to join the workforce following implementation of 988 on July 16, 2022. Ms. St George has been recognized by her peers and has received the National Council of Mental Wellness Peer Support of the Year, Mental Health Director’s Program of the Year (San Diego) and California Health Hero (Mental Health Association of CA) as well as the Elton George Armstrong Award.

Publications include, textbook chapters: The Emerging Field of Peer Support within Mental Health Services, within the book – Workforce Development Theory and Practice in the Mental Health Sector, (2017) IGI Publications, and Self-Advocacy and Empowerment, within the Handbook of Recovery in Inpatient Psychiatry (2016), and United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, Workbook for Certification (2003).

Ms St George also serves as a peer reviewer for several professional journals and believes in supporting the growth of knowledge in the field. Ms St George served as a Faculty Associate at Arizona State University and provided the Master’s Level Social Work Course, Mental Illness, Recovery and Social Justice. She has supported the mental health community in Phoenix, AZ by serving as Vice Chair of the Maricopa Human Rights Committee and as a member of the Arizona Behavioral Health Planning Council. Ms St George completed both her Bachelor of Social Work and her Master of Social Work at Arizona State University. She was a board member of International Association of Peer Supporters for fifteen years and sat as Board Chair for three years. As an Advisory Board Member of Open Minds, Lisa supports organizations and systems in the development of peer support and recovery services as well as training and consultation in a variety of areas. Ms St George, has also worked in childhood oncology and child protective services, where she researched and developed a care protocol for crack addicted infants for the State of Arizona Child Protective Services before joining RI International. Lisa also serves vulnerable communities and especially refugees within her community through education, support, and guidance. Ms St George believes in the resiliency of the human spirit, and in the inherent strength of people with trauma, mental health, and addiction challenges.

Kelly Staples

Kelly is a mother of three children and three grandchildren. She has worked in Peer Support for nineteen years and started Maine’s only Crisis Respite Program. She was hired fourteen years ago to work in the Office of Consumer Affairs for the State of Maine. While that office no longer exists, Kelly’s role continues as the Recovery Training Coordinator, focusing primarily on managing Maine’s Intentional Peer Support Training Program. Kelly’s passion lies in social justice practice and advocacy.

Lydia Trowse

With over 10 years’ experience in the lived experience field, Lydia Trowse has a passion for supporting people with lived experience to bring their voices and wisdom to many varied projects and processes in organisations and systems across Australia. Her work has involved developing organisational frameworks, policies and processes to ensure safe and effective collaboration with people with lived and living experiences. She works closely across a wide variety of projects including collaborative and codesign processes, as well as supporting lived experience voices to be heard in workforce development and advocacy spaces. She is passionate about disrupting business as usual and redistributing power to people with lived experience.

Lynda Watts

Lynda Watts has been a mental health carer for 20 years, with vast experience of State (Victoria) and Commonwealth mental health and disability services. Lynda currently works with Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (EMPHHN), supporting the mental health program design team in their lived experience engagement and commissioning work. In the past decade, Lynda’s work has encompassed advocacy, communications, service design, and education in the mental health sector. Lynda has been a carer representative for the national NDIS Transition Support Project, the Northern Melbourne Partners in Recovery Consumer & Carer Reference Group, the National PHN Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network, and other committees contributing to service integration and primary care. Lynda’s passion in mental health reform is in the area of communications: how we can—and must—do it better for consumers, carers, and family members. Lynda’s professional working life has been in the Australian film industry, and she is a feature film screenwriter on the side, as well as a civil marriage celebrant. She has two adult sons and a 20-month-old pointer puppy and lives in north-eastern Melbourne.