Why is peer support important?

December 2017

“We know [peer support] is the most fantastic way to get advice and tips and ideas.”

View all our stories about peer support.


Voice: Why is peer support important – filmed at the Defiant Lives event in Newcastle, July 2017.

Cath: We’re all about peer support. We know it’s the most fantastic way to get advice and tips and ideas. If I have to summarize it, it’s the ‘I get you’ factor.  It’s where we value lived experience, where we recognise ourselves as the experts in our own lives, and it’s a pretty amazing space to work in and be part of.

Voice: Cath speaking beside Dave.

Cath: I think for both of us, when we got involved in working as part of the peer movement, where people with different disability come together, we’ve talked before about how we had a bit of a different sense of our own identity and what it means for us to be part of that community, that broader community of people with disability.

Voice: Dave speaking beside Cath

Dave: Yeah absolutely Cath. But also seeing other people with different types of disabilities sort of, as you said, sort of enriches your understanding of disability, and what-you know-what can be achieved as well.

Voice: Cath

Cath: So, we might have had some experience of advocating for ourselves, and thinking about what our needs were, but then we came across as people who were really committed to contributing and paying it forward and supporting and being actively involved in the lives of other people with disability. So while the experiences might be different, there was always a connecting thread. It’s always coming back to what we have in common.

Voice: Trainer, talking to participants

Trainer: Yes, so things will change, and I used to put ads in the paper…

Voice: Dave

Dave: Societal attitudes is probably one of the things where there is a constant expectation or low expectation of what a person with disability can achieve and can accomplish.

Cath: One of the things that people with disability have in common is being part of a minority group and a marginalised group within our community and society. And so to be in a peer group, all of a sudden you don’t have to do any of that. You can come as yourself and, often for the first time I reckon, you can have a sense of being part of the community. And so what is amazing about part of a peer group is that you’re all of a sudden out of that space of being the ‘other’ and the ‘different’.

Our vision for a peer movement…we often talk about wanting to be the first place that people  come, that peers come, when they need information or advice or an opinion or a sounding board. So traditionally people with disability have been more comfortable, or more used to, going to the expert, the medical person, the allied health person, the service provider, and we want to flip that so before you think of any of those people, you think ‘I can ask a peer. What would my peer say to this question?’

Voice: Dave

Dave: I think with the peer mentors you can really start to build proper advocacy for your issues. It’s you and your peers advocating for a single as a singular voice around the issues that a concerning for you. So I guess that, whilst there’s the support issue, which is incredibly important as Cath stated, I also think that there’s a larger issue which is, you know, changing of legislation, potentially and changing of societal concepts and ideas around what disability is.

Cath: When the peer movement is successful, when it’s come of age, and grown up. I think of people with disabilities and family members will have a place of connection and community. From that community, we will then feel more able to lead a more contributing, significant, as you said Dave, a less ‘tokenistic’ and a more committed and valued member of the mainstream community where actually whether or not you have a disability doesn’t even matter. We don’t have to-like who cares? We’re just working, living, being alongside our peers in the community, with or without disability. And then making the change happen that needs to change within our society.

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