Background on the Recovery Bus


Remember: recovery is the journey not the destination.

The Recovery Bus image evolved from the Mental Health Outcomes Assessment Tools (MH-OAT) Consumer Consultative Committee (MH-OATCCC). In May 2001, the then Director of NSW Health, Centre for Mental Health Professor Beverly Raphael invited 38 Consumers from across NSW to participate in a statewide forum called the MH-OATCCC.

The aim of the MH-OATCCC was to provide consumers with a forum to discuss MH-OAT implementation and to share local experiences and discuss consumer views of services. It met 4 times a year with Professor Raphael in North Sydney.


During the November 2001 meeting, a working group was established called the MHOAT CCC Education and Training Working group. Members worked together to produce sample educational material around the type that could be produced and distributed to consumer coordinators involved in the MH-OAT process. Unfortunately when Professor Raphael left the department so did the meetings and the majority of the resources were never used.

The working group was a regular agenda item on MH-OAT CCC meeting and gave feedback on progress with the consumer-training package. During the February 2004 MH-OATCCC meeting Professor Raphael asked the group to talk about what recovery meant for members. From this discussion we developed the concept of the recovery bus which was an analogy of a journey that reflects the individuals’ rights and responsibilities as the agent, conductor and which passengers are invited to board the Recovery Bus, as with a holiday journey. These include:

  • The right to set one’s own itinerary for the journey – developing a wellness plan or other early intervention strategies; participating in care plans
  • The right to stop the bus and set off in another direction – choice of service provision and participation in treatment plans
  • The right to speak with someone to get advice and assistance along the journey – access to appropriate and respectful care; access to peer support services
  • The right to make a complaint if the service provided is not delivered as stated – access to peer advocacy and responsive services to a fair complaint process
  • The responsibility to respect passengers and tour guidesto participate in care and life affirming processes as best as one can on any given day; life is about finding our purpose within our communities, a meaningful contribution, finding a balance (mental health) with social relationships (family and friends), rest & recreation, physical health and spiritual awareness
  • The responsibility to meet own legal and social responsibilities

Why the ‘Recovery Bus image?

Remember the Recovery journey is a process; the human life cycle is designed for its ups and downs. A balanced life is important as too much play is just as bad as not enough. Sometimes the Recovery Bus needs to be parked for the motor to cool down and servicing to be undertaken. Relapse prevention strategies, such as wellness plans (regular services) assists us to be aware of possible triggers for stress or problems that can occur and provides directions for care and assistance to keep us on the journey. They remind us of our strengths, hopes, plans and resources (including support people) that can encourage, assist and guide us when needed on our journey.

Paula Hanlon designed the original Recovery Bus image using the colours of the first National Standards for Mental Health Services (1996) reflecting the importance of these Standards in Australian mental health reform. The 2010 National Standards for Mental Health Services includes additional colours, perhaps reflecting the extension to the non-government organizations and private sector services, the importance of partners and sharing the journey. If you would like more information about the Recovery Bus contact Ossie Rights on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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