Three cheers for our Engagement Adviser, Leonie Sanderson, whose time with HCQ came to an end in June.  

Leonie joined us in 2016 for a five year journey as the dedicated bridge and builder of trust between families and the government to support the implementation of the recommendations from the Barrett Centre Inquiry. With over 20 years of experience working in the consumer, engagement and community space, a background in youth engagement, and a compassionate and person-centred approach, she was perfectly placed to support these relationships and help develop a shared vision for what mental health services and care for young people could look like.

Jacaranda Place, Brisbane’s extended adolescent treatment centre offering in-patient care, step up-step down facilities and day programs is the result of this work and is now a world class model of care and facility for young people with complex and chronic mental health conditions. Not only does it represent a much-needed investment in mental health services for young people, it is also, thanks to Leonie’s contribution, a brilliant example of the power of genuine co-design.

During her time with HCQ, Leonie also developed a supportive framework for Children’s Health Queensland for the embedding of youth peer workers into service delivery, an innovative role for young people with lived mental health experience.

At the onset of COVID-19, Leonie worked with our Engagement Consultant – Specific Projects, Anne Curtis on Queensland Health’s ethical decision-making framework (EDMF), and as part of that, undertook rapid consultation with 10 informed consumers to learn what principles and values were important to them in a pandemic situation. Leonie also worked with the consumers to develop an EDMF infographic and FAQ resource, informed into the COVID-19 Residential Aged Care Facilities Communications and Engagement Plan and produced an HCQ decision-making guide to assist people with information about the original COVIDSafe app.

Most recently, she has been able to work with our Engagement Adviser, Chelsea Gourgaud to use her expertise in engaging with young people in the development of our own Youth Engagement Project which brought together 24 young people from across Queensland to form a Youth Reference Group, to provide a strategic approach to amplify the voices of young health consumers in the development and delivery of health services across Queensland.

Chelsea Gourgaud said, “It has been a career highlight working alongside Leonie on the Amplifying the Youth Voice and Beyond COVID-19 Project. Leonie has not only guided and co-led the project with me, but made sure every young health consumer’s voice was heard by creating a sense of community that was safe, fun and engaging. Leonie is an innovator, always thinking out of the box or other ways to engage and has taught me what true co-design and co-creation looks like with consumers.

Anyone who saw Leonie in action on HCQ TV will know how much we value her contribution to us as an organisation as well. With her contemporary ideas e.g. patient journey mapping and story mechanisms, a willingness to test and modify her approach to engagement, a passion for best practice and her strategic focus, she has inspired us as well as increasing our expertise and knowledge around how to engage with young people. She has also deepened our experience and ability to identify what meaningful and genuine co-design looks and feels like and how we can support it.

Leonie (second from left) shared her experience of co-design on HCQ TV

We are so grateful to have been able to take these lessons forward into other projects.

Most importantly, she has contributed to some affirming outcomes for the individual young people whose lives she has touched. HCQ Youth Reference Group member, Ellie, said: “Thank you for sharing your time, energy and talents with us at the YRG. We all value and appreciate it more than you’ll ever know. You are so incredibly talented and versatile. I wish we could clone you!”

Another member, Breanna, added: ”Thank you Leonie, alongside Chelsea, for not only creating a reference group to embed change in the health system but for also helping create a group of friends who can share their stories and learn from each other. Thank you for introducing me to the world and role of consumer representatives and for championing our voices.”

We will miss Leonie but we know farewell is not goodbye. With our shared passion for the power of co-design, we are sure there will be many future opportunities to work alongside one another to improve the wellbeing of all Queenslanders.