Designing for Mental Health in Rural Australia

Making Change & Changing the System:

A One Hour Design Sprint on systems change for improving mental health and suicide prevention in regional and rural areas.

This design sprint was held as part of The Big Reach – presented by The Big Anxiety*, a two-day festival held at QUT’s Garden’s Point Campus filled with creative engagements, in-depth conversations, sideshows and workshops, reimagining the future of mental health and emotional wellbeing through a creative lens, held during May 2022.  

*The Big Anxiety is an initiative of UNSW founded in 2016 with partners from the community, arts, and health sectors, which applies a creative and cultural approach to mental health in the form of a Mental Health & Arts Festival.

Design Process

Step 1: Context | Case Study & Personas





















In the first 5 minutes of the workshop, participants were invited to familiarise themselves with the fictional town of Falls Creek in regional Queensland using the following description. 

Falls Creek is a small town in Central Queensland which services the surrounding coal mining and rural activities. It has a population of 1,900 people, which mostly comprise of farmers, growers, and miners, and their families. It is located 44 mins drive from Biloela–the largest township (pop’n of 5,700) in the Banana Shire – inland from Gladstone. Buses travel from Moura to Biloela three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the journey takes approximately 1.3hrs. Tickets cost $7-$14.

Their biggest industries are coal mining, beef, cotton, and cereals. The town has a variety of services and amenities including  range of shops, a state primary and high school, a public library, post office, GP, sporting clubs, and a video store. Their major attractions include a museum of the town’s agricultural and industrial history and Falls Creek. Every year Falls Creek hosts the Muddy Water Classic – a fishing competition on the creek, as well as the Coal and Country Festival which has events like coal shoveling and professional rodeo.









Emma is 17 and in her final year of school. She was born in Gladstone and moved to Falls Creek when she was 5 and is an only child. Emma’s family own the local video store, and her mum is a cleaner. Their family does not have the internet so Emma uses the internet at school of the public library to do her assignments. Emma experiences anxiety and has panic attacks, and lately has been questioning her sexuality and gender. But she is afraid to talk to anyone about it, including the GP which she has known since she was 5yrs old.

Allen is 67 years old. He used to work at one of the mines but stopped after an injury in his back. Now he earns money doing odd jobs on people’s houses or farms. His wife passed away 5 years ago, about a year after he injured his back. Since than, Allen has been struggling with depression. Most days he has dinner at the pub with a few pints and goes home and falls asleep on the couch.

Step 2: Empathise 








In the next step, participants had 10 minutes to work in groups to select a persona (either Emma or Allen) and complete an Empathy Map for this person, writing their name in the circle. 

Step 3: Ideation 



















Step 3.a Rapid Idea Generation 

Continuing to work in their groups, participants were invited to idea solutions based on the following How Might We question:

How Might We reimagine the experience of living in Falls Creek for Emma or Allen? 

Thinking about their chosen persona and this question, participants were challenged to come up with as many ideas as they could in 5 minutes on post-it notes.

Step 3.b Share your Ideas | Stick’Em to the Wall! 

In the second part of this activity, participants were asked to share their ideas by sticking their post-its on the relevant sheet of paper on the wall – each representing a different category: Technology, People, Place, Policy/Systems, Other. Everyone in the room gets a chance to go around and look at the different ideas.









Back in groups, each person shares their favourite idea that they found. Groups must then select one idea to progress with in Step 4.

Step 4: Prototype









Step 3.a News Headline

In groups, must now develop their idea as a news story in the ‘Headline Activity’ using the template for ‘FallsCreek News” worksheet. Using the template, workshop participants wrote a headline of their newsworthy idea, a description of their idea in the content of the article, and drew a picture of their idea.

Step 3.b Pitch!

Finally, each group was given an opportunity to present their ‘idea for change’ to the rest of the room.


Project Team



Professor Evonne Miller – Design Sprint Facilitator, Director of the QUT Design Lab

Dr Sarah Johnstone – Resource Designer & Design Spring Facilitator, Research Member of QUT Design Lab

Professor Lisa Scharoun – Design Sprint Facilitator, Head of School – School of Design, Faculty of Creative Industries, Education, and Social Justice, QUT


If you would like to run this workshop yourself – feel free to use the following Presentation Slides (editable – click to download) and the worksheets.







Click on a worksheet to download the PDF copy. We recommend printing at A3 size.