Above: Hisashi-san addressing the PreEmploy Recovery Day (photo by Warren Heggarty)
Flourish Australia had a special visitor from Japan Recently, Mr HISASHI HIGA, who is Care Manager at a mental health welfare service in Okinawa City, Japan. He is interested in introducing peer work to the mental health system in Japan, so he embarked on a study tour of three countries – Denmark, Italy and Australia – in order to observe how other systems do peer work.
Hosted by Janet Meagher AM (Flourish Australia’s former General Manager, Inclusion) Hisashi-san travelled extensively along the east coast of Australia, visiting places in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. Accompanied by Fay Jackson (our current General Manager, Inclusion), he visited our operations in the Hunter area, where we have our highest concentration of peer workers due to the NDIS pilot program. He also went to Brook Red in Queensland, which is a service familiar to many of our peer workers.
“In Japan, the medical approach is still dominant,” says Hishashi-san. “My colleagues are very well trained and good at what they are doing, but I feel that there is something missing. I think that peer work has a lot to offer.”
His own lived experience has pointed him in this direction.
“I said to myself, Hisashi, you have an experience. Are you going to use it?”
His friends have also motivated him to take this path.
In Sydney, Hisashi-san visited PreEmploy, had lunch at Buckingham House’s Restaurant, saw some of the work being done in Prestige Packing and Enterpraise at Marrickville, spoke with Panorama staff, looked at Figtree Conference Centre, and even had a little bit of time left to speak to our General Manager of Human Resources, Tim Fong.
“What I have learned about peer work does not translate directly into the Japanese situation. So I will need to modify it.”
Hisashi-san’s study tour was very hectic and demanding. There was very little time for sight seeing.
“They told me there were lots of Japanese people here, but I have seen very few!” he lamented, probably feeling a little home-sick, with only one day to see the sights of Sydney Harbour. That shows you his dedication to concept of peer work!
It is wonderful that we are able to share our experience –including our LIVED experience- with people in other countries in the hope that what we have learned can improve the lives of people with mental health issues all over the world.
-Article and photos by Warren Heggarty