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Consumers lead design for Geelong’s CBD mental health hub

27 March, 2023
Consumers lead design for Geelong’s CBD mental health hub

Mental health services are taking on a retail edge as Barwon Health moves closer to launching its first hub in Geelong’s CBD shopping precinct.


Consumers had a key stake in leading the interior design of the project, which marks a new direction how people can access mental health services in the city.

The $28m project is a public-private partnership with developer Up Property, which has handed over the five-storey building at 181 Moorabool St to Barwon Health to begin the internal fit-out.


And the designs look amazing.

In her role as a project officer for the mental health hub, Leah Ingles represented the perspective of a group of 30 consumers with lived experience in mental health to push the interior design from a cold, clinical environment to a warm, welcoming home-like space where people want to come in and can feel safe.


“My moment of amazement was when we were reflecting on what we had (started with) to what we ended up with, which was a whole lot of squares and a jail-like feel and we’ve moved into curves and inviting spaces and waiting spaces,” Ms Ingles said.


“The consumers were in tears looking at the way the design had changed and were saying this is our legacy. This is where our darkness has bought light,” she said.


What could have been lines and squares, vinyl and cold, hard edges has become beautiful and warm, with a tree-like architectural structure in the middle where people can sit around, she said.


“We’ve bought in a local artist with lived experience who has designed wallpaper and glazing patterns in the building. It’s brought in some really cool elements.


“We’ve added in little waiting areas where you just sit and collect yourself after a session before you walk back out into the public,” Ms Ingles said.


Mental health, drugs and alcohol clinical director Professor Steve Moylan said the CBD location offered clear accessibility, after the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System found many people didn’t know where to get help.


“We’ve got a strategy of having clearly visible places so if you’ve got an issue, you can come here,” he said.


“It will be open seven days a week, extended hours. It makes it clear and easy, because if you’re in trouble, you need to know where to go.”


Barwon Health chief executive Frances Diver said the project was sparked by the need to relocate the city’s drug and alcohol service to make way for the redevelopment of the Geelong Arts Centre. The state government provided $16m for the project.

Instead of seeking a space to relocate, the health provider decided to co-locate all its mental health services in a prominent built-for-purpose location.

The procurement process put developer and health provider together, resulting in a 12-year commercial lease brokered by Gartland Geelong director Michael De Stefano.

“When we looked at where we could relocate that service, we looked at could we build something, could we buy something?” Ms Diver said.


“We really couldn’t find a building that was going to deliver our vision for an integrated service.”


This building provides 3269sq m of floorspace and is targeting a 5-star NABERS rating.


“We saw the site as an opportunity for Up Property to reimagine the building with an adaptive re-use and the addition of three storeys, enabling it to become the future long-term home for Barwon Health,” Up Property managing director Adam Davidson said.


“Three new levels added to the existing building are now complete, along with the flexible use space on the ground floor.”


Another three mental health hubs are slated for Corio, the Surf Coast and Colac.



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