Presenting author: Liam Neale
Presenting author biography:
Liam is a peer harm reduction practitioner at Star Health, where he works on the PARTi Project, in the NSP and as a member of the FUSE Network.
Liam also pursues his passion for harm reduction and safer-using through volunteering with Harm Reduction Victoria's DanceWize program.
FUSE Network Consultations- Identifying systemic barriers experienced by PWU/ID peer workers in Victoria through peer-led networks
Liam Neale, Brittany Chapman, Baden Hicks
People who use/inject Drugs (PWU/ID) peer worker positions are innovative and do not easily fit into mainstream community health services. Since 2017, 6 AOD and community health organisations across Victoria have been funded by the Victorian Dept. of Health to employ a small number of PWU/ID peer workers. Many of these organisations were not prepared to employ other peer workers, provide appropriate support, team structures, policies, opportunities for training and advancement and rarely offered full-time employment. Employment of individual PWU-ID peer workers was also leading to workplace isolation and increased workplace stigma and discrimination.
FUSE Network Initiatives is a program of Harm Reduction Victoria and commenced in 2021 aiming to further develop the Victorian harm reduction peer workforce. Consultations with PWU/ID peer workers and their managers identified the need for organizational readiness training and training for PWU/ID peer workers. A peer-led network was also identified as imperative to overcoming systemic barriers PWU/ID peer workers face, by fostering a sense of community amongst PWU/ID peer workers facing isolation within their workplaces. Connecting PWU/ID peer workers creates a community of practice that facilitates information-sharing, expanded networks of living experience and enhanced service delivery. Similarly, FUSE Network allows a safe space for discussing challenges, and facilitates advocacy for PWU/ID peer workers.
Outcome: FUSE Network Consultations:
- A shared sense of community and support among peers within the network.
- Improved service delivery by increasing access to a variety of living experiences.
- Reduced the impact of some systemic barriers, such as workplace isolation and vulnerability, for PWU/ID peer workers in the FUSE network.
- Connected 20 PWU/ID peer workers in 10 services across 8 organisations, through monthly meetings over a 2-year time period as Fuse
- Identified the need for an Organisational Readiness Tool and Values & Principles for a Peer Workforce.