Tim Heffernan
Tim Heffernan is an experienced consumer peer worker and is the Mental Health Peer Coordinator at COORDINARE, South Eastern NSW PHN.

Tim has been Deputy Commissioner since December 2018 and before that was a member of the Commission’s Community Advisory Council from its establishment in 2014. He is a past chair of Being (NSW Consumer Advisory Group) and the NSW Public Mental Health Consumer Workers Committee. He is co-Chair of the National Mental Health Commission’s National Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Strategy Steering Committee and Deputy co-Chair of the National Peer Workforce Development Guidelines Steering Committee.

Tim is an executive member of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative. and was a volunteer Rural and Regional Ambassador and Community Presenter for the Black Dog Institute. In 2013 he was awarded a scholarship to attend Boston University’s Global Leadership Institute to develop a co-designed project, Safety for All, which involved peer workers training mental health nurses working on acute mental health wards.

He enjoyed a twenty-year teaching career before moving to disability support work and peer work. Tim identifies as a person with lived experience of mental health issues and recovery and he is passionate about the development and support of the peer workforce. “It’s a relatively new workforce in mental health, but it’s probably the workforce we need most to achieve significant improvements in mental health,” Tim said.

An award-winning poet, Tim co-edits on online space for ‘Mad’ writing, ‘Clozapine Clinic – The Frater Project’ in the influential Australian journal ‘Verity La’. He has published widely and performed his poetry at the Wollongong Writers Festival, the Queensland Poetry Festival and at Mad Pride. Tim Heffernan’s appointment as Deputy Commissioner is from December 2018 until November 2021.


Abstract Title: Embedding ‘lived experience’ engagement within PHNs

Presentation Type: General

Author(s): Paula Arro and Tim Heffernan


In recognition of the contribution of people with a lived experience of mental illness and/or suicide as central to the mental health system, the Department of Health has developed guidelines for Primary Health Networks (PHNs) that set out a clear framework for consumer and carer participation and more recently Peer Workforce.

In June/July 2018, Brisbane North PHN was invited by the Department of Health to chair and provide secretariat support to a newly established the National PHN Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network (MHLEEN) to assist in improving and embedding ‘lived experience’ engagement within the PHNs, commissioning cycles and commissioned services.

The key purpose of the MHLEEN is to provide support to PHNs in a way that enables them to create an enhanced operational environment that supports not only lived experience and co-design within commissioning mental health and suicide prevention services but also is mobilised from within PHNs themselves. Activities have included

  • Collating and disseminating a stocktake of where PHNs are up to
  • Circulating good practice ideas for co-design and commissioning cycles
  • Maintaining a MHLEEN website on the National PHN SharePoint
  • Attending meetings of the Mental Health Reform Stakeholder
  • Have regular ZOOM monthly meetings and bi-annual planning and
  • Presenting to the PHN National Stepped Care Workshops on progress

Membership is open to all PHNs and relevant staff with responsibility for Consumer, Carer and Lived Experience Engagement.

This presentation will provide a perspective from two of its members who have a lived experience and are employed by PHN’s, Tim Heffernan (Mental Health Peer Coordinator – Coordinare & Assistant Commissioner NSW Mental Health Commission) and Paula Arro (Consumer and Carer Participation Coordinator, Brisbane North PHN).

Heffernan, Tim 2022 03 28