“Peer Work in Australia: A new future for mental health” book launched

book launch.jpgAbove: Hon Greg Hunt, Minister for Health at the launch as Anthony Stratford and Fay Jackson look on. PHOTO COURTESY OF JANET MEAGHER AM

The best way to understand the future, they say, is to understand the past. When you read through the 350 page book Peer Work in Australia, you will realise that the development of peer work has been a tough struggle. Having passed successfully through many trials, peer work is now in a strong position for the future. 

At every turn in its development there were obstacles. The traditional view of people with mental health issues has been centred on weaknesses, vulnerabilities and inadequacies, and maybe some of those opposed to the rise of peer work thought that such people would just drop the idea. 

Some people in the mental health sector even saw peer work as a kind of threat. But the people who championed this approach (‘Legends’ as pioneering peer worker Lilly Wu described them) would not be deterred. So today, having a growing peer workforce is something to boast about- it is a selling point. It has become the future of Mental Health Services. 

‘Peer Work in Australia’ is a new book edited by people from both Mind and Flourish Australia. It was the brainchild of former Flourish Australia General Manager Janet Meagher AM and former Mind CEO Dr Gerry Naughton.  The book was launched in Canberra on 12 September 2018 by the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health.

“The book is the culmination of months of amazing work’ said Flourish Australia CEO Mark Orr, “undertaken by an Editorial Working Group made up of Janet Meagher AM, with Anthony Stratford and Erandathie Jayakody from Mind Australia; and Fay Jackson, Tim Fong and Kim Jones from Flourish Australia. The group provided leadership and guidance for this project, as well as contributions to the book, on top of their day to day work.”

It contains a very ‘eclectic diversity of voices’ Mark says. The book is a great contribution to our reputation in the mental health sector.

The first three sections look at the overall scope of peer work in Australia with overviews of how peer work has changed the culture of Mind Australia and Flourish Australia. 

There follows a review of the experience in four states and territories. Section five has three chapters on values and peer work (there’s even a chapter on Peer Work and climate change, by Tim Heffernan!). 

Section 6 looks at the specialised developments within peer work, like ‘peer supervision,’ youth peer work. Also in this section Michael Burge discusses the shaping of a national qualification for peer workers. Flick Grey tells the story of the ‘roller coaster ride’ of Intentional Peer Support. 

The seventh and final chapter ‘A force for change’ looks into the future. Its two chapters relate to the peer worker workshop reported in June 2018 Panorama (Heggarty, 2018). On 23 March 2018,  41 peers gathered to thrash out the question of the future of peer work in Australia. Leanne Craze and David Plant distilled the proceedings into their final chapter, “A force for change” (Craze & Plant, 2018) .

All of the authors and editors are people who have personally taken part in the story they tell. This is what we call being experts by way of experience. 

You can buy a copy of the book here:

https://www.flourishaustralia.org.au/peer-work-australia

References

Craze, L., & Plant, D. (2018). A force for change. In J. Meagher, A. Stratford, F. Jackson, E. Jayakody, & T. Fong, Peer Work in Australia: A new future for mental health (pp. 297-332). Sydney : RichmondPRA and Mind Australia.

Heggarty, W. (2018, June). Lived Experience has come a long way. Panorama, p. 51.

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