Mad Studies

University of Sydney, Faculty of Health Sciences

A Mad Studies subject co-designed by the University of Sydney and Sydney Local Health District

Lived Experience Framework: Actions to achieve change

  • Education or training design partnership: people with lived experience of mental health issues and caring, families and kinship groups partner in delivery, assessment and improvement
  • Value lived experience: inform training by focusing on challenging assumptions, beliefs and behaviours, with people with lived experience of mental health issues and caring, families and kinship groups across the mental health and social support system
  • Make available: education, training and supervision for people with lived experience of mental health issues and caring, families and kinship groups.


Co-design an inspiring university subject, especially for peer workers seeking development beyond TAFE options, as a Health Science elective or an individual unit of study.


Academics from the University of Sydney developed a literature review and an evaluation plan. Sydney Local Health District (LHD) engaged peer workers, people with lived experience of mental health issues, carer networks and project coordinators/facilitators.

The project was developed over five stages, between May-June 2019:

  1. Literature review
  2. Co-design sessions: with peer workers and academic staff
  3. Subject planning: based around Mad Studies and Mad Academia
  4. Two consultations:  carers and a Reference Group; and
  5. Project evaluation: subject design and unit of study evaluation.

Evaluation process

  • Evaluation was through an electronic survey
  • In the evaluation, project members noted they could meaningfully participate in the project
  • Increasing sessions and cultural diversity were suggested areas of improvement.


  • Consultation group members felt they meaningfully participated, consultation worked well, albeit with a challenging volume of contribution from some members
  • Consultations recommended co-design in project development, more consultation sessions, and greater cultural diversity of member representatives 
  • Co-design principles aligned to the development process, as recorded in an evaluation survey
  • Developed a framework for this unit of study with priorities for subject content and delivery
  • A unit of study outline, which has been revised from the feedback of two consultations
  • A project evaluation plan, with lessons learned and feedback from project participants.
  • Policy and organisational change:
  • The unit spanned co-designed mental health and social policy, procedures and guidelines, directly created by people with lived experience of mental health issues and caring, families and kinship groups.

Adaptability to other organisations:

  • Recruitment of a diverse group for consultation: local peer workers and consumers, carers, consumer carer network groups, hearing voices groups and District peer worker relationships
  • Demonstration of use of a peer workforce and consumer academics to create training for the workforce and at a community level
  • Project evaluation findings, when published and publicly available, could reduce barriers to developing peer worker and health sector workforce training.

Challenges to the project

  • A two-month timeframe

If greater time was available:

  • the literature review would have been distributed in co-design consultations
  • consultation questions could be co-designed
  • more consultation groups could be held, and the consultation design amended accordingly
  • a co-design committee would develop and review learning outcomes, content and assessment
  • a final project evaluation would be distributed at its conclusion, following a review
  • teachers for the unit would be identified
  • a comprehensive proposal to the university would be made to develop the subject for non-award and elective enrolment.

Next steps

  • Evaluate the project with stakeholders with lived experience of mental health issues, carers, families, kinship groups and people working in education and training
  • A proposal to University of Sydney for Mad Studies as an elective and non-award subject
  • A proposal to develop a massively online course (MOOC) Mad Studies university subject
  • Collaborate with University of Sydney Student Services Disability Support team to apply principles of universal design to assessment pieces and incorporate into the unit proposal. 


  1. University of Sydney Lived Experience Framework Project report.