peer worker cadet program grows peer workforce

Posted on 25th January 2022

This year, cohealth is taking part in Mental Health Victoria’s Lived Experience Peer Worker Cadet Program, along with EACH, Mind Australia, Neami National, Uniting Victoria Tasmania and wellways.

The program, in its first year, is a traineeship for people who are studying the Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work and offers them 12-months paid employment in a community health organisation.  

Shyna Johnson, cohealth’s Practice Excellence Coach – Peer & Lived Experience, says that during the program cadets will gain confidence, develop an awareness of what it’s like to work in a community health organisation, and benefit from supervised support.  

“You get an opportunity to be part of a wider community of practice across all of the organisations that are participating in the program. It’s a really good foundation.” 

cohealth’s participation in the program is part of the growth of its peer workforce, which is underpinned by a belief in the value of lived experience.

“There’s something about peer workers that gives a different level of connection,” says Shyna. “At cohealth it’s really important for us to have staff who are representative of the communities that we support and that we work with. This is one way we can elevate the community’s voice.” 

coheath’s mental health peer workers support clients using their experience, knowledge and empathy. Peer workers can help clients, especially those engaging with a mental health service for the first time, feel safe and comfortable. There is real value in being supported by someone who can say ‘I’ve been there before and I know what’s it’s like’.  

cohealth hopes to grow its peer workforce to provide even more of this valuable support to clients.  

“The program shows that we’re invested in our peer workers and we really want to grow that space,” says Shyna. “We hope that these sorts of programs will continue into the future and create a stepping stone for people to get into the peer workforce.”

Beyond the program, Shyna says the people interested in becoming peer workers should talk to people and make connections with those already working in the field so that they know what it’s like and can see if it’s something they’d enjoy.

‘It’s so important to have passion for mental health work. If you’ve got that, then you are definitely heading in the right direction.”

Applications for the Lived Experience Peer Worker Cadet Program are currently open until 31st January.

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