Peer Work in Australia – A New Future for Mental Health. Ed. by Janet Meagher et al. , 2018

This book is a work of intense dedication, with an imperative and belief that we must document the current situation and focus on developments into the future for peer work in this country. It’s development and production has been a triumph of collaboration; co-produced and written by 29 leading ‘lived experience’ peer workers, lived experience advocates and allies from across Australia.

It consists of a collection of evidence and perspectives collated to reflect and inform the mental health and broader human services and disability sectors on current thinking, practice, literature, activities and challenges of lived experience peer work in this country.

Some of the writers and contributors (plus over 40 other people who workshopped some of the material) have pioneered peer work in Australia. Others have focused on researching and reporting about the efficacy and experiences of peer workers and services. Further perspectives are from the point of view of those allies who opened doors to enable persons with lived experience and peer workforces to take their rightful, respectful place in services. The publication’s development has been financially supported by a collaboration between Mind Australia and Flourish Australia.

Very few realize that the development of peer work in Australia has a thirty-year history. It has evolved from being a disruptive consumer-led practice to being accepted as an important element of good recovery. People with mental health issues, families and service providers now expect peer work to be a part of the mix of support offerings that are available. This book, a world first, seeks to articulate the need for further development of more specialized elements of contemporary peer work practice.

Readers will develop a new understanding of the powerful and deeply meaningful work that peer workers undertake, including being a vital component of a multifaceted team and being agents of culture change. They will see the empathic way in which peer workers walk alongside people who have experienced similar distress and support them without trying to ‘fix’ their situation; rather they support the person to believe in themselves, so that they discover their own solutions, self-agency, self-advocacy, strengths, capabilities and possibilities. Peers achieve this by using their personal lived experience purposefully and their professional experience in ways that no other profession can replicate. Peer work bridges the gap between people accessing services and people who treat, support and care about them.

The book helps explain why Australia has seen phenomenal growth in the peer workforce over the past five years. However, peer work is still a comparatively under-utilised approach to service delivery, and formal peer supervision, career development opportunities and evaluation has lagged behind implementation of peer workforce roles.

“Peer work in Australia” is a valuable resource for decision makers, service providers, policy writers, funders, people accessing mental health services, carers and family members, peer workers, managers, researchers and academics, clinicians, students and lecturers in human services and related areas.

Photo by AlishaV

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