Our research

ACACIA works together with ACT consumers and carers to conduct research on the issues that are most important to the ACT consumer and carer community. Our core work is funded by a contract with ACT Health, and we also apply for competitive funding to extend its scope. A paper describing our work in practice over the past five years is available here:

Read about ACACIA’s current and past research projects below.

Current research projects


Implementation of a peer worker-led mental health recovery program (MRFF/NHMRC Translating Research into Practice Fellowship)

The integration of peer workers into the current Australian mental health system has significant capacity to address severe workforce shortages, improve recovery outcomes, and meet the growing demand for people with lived experience to support consumer recovery. This project will involve detailed analyses of the mechanisms underpinning the establishment and sustainability of peer work roles. The use of an implementation science theoretical model, coupled with participatory research methods is an innovation and rigorous approach that will develop strong, evidence-based recommendations for mental health system development in Australia.


Music Engagement Program evaluation (RSPH Excellence in Population Health Research Award

The Music Engagement Program (MEP) is a specialised, established program developed by leading researchers at the ANU School of Music, targeted at increasing engagement and participation in the act of making music. ACACIA is working with Dr Georgia Pike from the MEP to deliver and evaluate the program within a residental aged-care centre in the ACT.

Project overview


Understanding participation in the ACT (ACACIA core funding)

In November 2013, ACT mental health consumers and carers attended a forum to develop research topics and priorities. Several of the topics focused on consumer and carer participation in policy and services. This study aims to understand the current nature of consumer and carer participation in policy and services in the ACT. There will be a particular focus on how the consumer and carer voice is valued, and what the concept of value means to different stakeholder groups in the health sector. The study is being developed and conducted in partnership with local health consumer and carer peaks and community organisations. Our goal is to produce a set of consumer and carer-developed principles for participation value and impact, accompanied by a set of indicators.

Project overview



Past research projects


Peer-led e-mental health (ACACIA and ACT Health funding)

There is an increasing need for peer-workers (people with lived experience of mental health problems who are able to support others in their recovery) to work alongside consumers to improve outcomes and recovery. In addition, new forms of technology, particularly tablet and mobile applications, can be used to deliver services in an engaging and innovative way. Enabling and supporting peer-workers to assist in mental health care has important implications for enhancing mental health recovery. This exploratory proof-of-concept study aimed to determine if a peer worker led e-mental health recovery program is a feasible, acceptable and effective adjunct to usual care for people with moderate to severe mental illness. Consumers and health service staff were very positive about the peer worker and the role such a position could play in recovery, seperate from clinical care. Preliminary findings are available below and the final paper and summary are coming soon.

Project overview

Study protocol

Plain language protocol

Preliminary findings


Consumer and carer priorities for research (ACACIA core funding)

In a one-day forum held in 2013, ACT consumers and carers developed and prioritised ideas for ACACIA's research agenda and suggested methods for effective active involvement in the research process. Trauma-informed care, peer work and recovery were key areas of interest for research. Participants were also interested in face-to-face research and mentoring of non-academic researchers on quality participatory research.  In 2017, a national consumer and carer survey was conducted to “check-in” with consumer and carer priorities for research. Participants were asked to rate the priority of the topics developed at the forum and suggest new ideas for research.  A wide variety of research topics were considered “high-priority” by participants, and clear top priorities could not be identified. More details on final results and a link to the publication will be available soon.

Project overview

Forum report

Peer-reviewed journal article

Whose story is it? (ACACIA core funding)

The perspectives of people with lived experience of mental health issues are a critical element of progressive mental health research. This project aims to investigate mental health consumer and carer perspectives on mental health research ethics procedures, and on telling shared stories in a research setting. A discussion forum and in-depth interviews with consumers, carers and lived-experience researchers from the ACT have been conducted. The next stage of the project will be to develop practice recommendations for researchers and Human Research Ethics Committees.

Project overview


Partners in Recovery evaluation (Capital Health Network contract)

The Partners in Recovery (PIR) program aimed to help people with long-term mental illness to develop their own recovery plan. It also helped people to access services and supports. In 2014, ACACIA developed an evaluation framework for the PIR program in consultation with consumers, carers and other key stakeholders.  The evaluation framework was implemented in 2015 and data collection was completed in 2016.  The evaluation found that PIR significantly improved participants’ quality of life, social inclusion, perceptions of recovery, and confidence in the health system.  Support Facilitators (care coordinators) were central to the impacts of the program experienced by clients and their carers. Look out for a summary of the project in the October 2018 issue of Insight newsletter. Links to the papers reporting the findings are provided below.

Project overview

Plain language summary 

Evaluation framework

Participant outcomes


Care co-ordination findings


Finding the path: Service access and navigation for serious mental illness in a complex Australian policy landscape (ARC DECRA Fellowship)

The objective of the Finding the Path project was to inform health system change to ensure people with serious mental illness can access quality services. Improved access to quality mental health services has been a key target in Australian health policy for over 20 years. However, people with mental illness continue to report problems accessing and navigating the complex service system. Finding the Path studied consumers' mental health service experiences using policy, qualitative, quantitative and geographic analysis to identify systemic problems. Mental health consumers and service providers were actively involved in developing final recommendations for policy to ensure system change reflects their knowledge. Project findings are currently under review: links to papers and final reports will be added as available.

Access to general practice findings