We Are A Peer Based Organisation

What is a Peer Based Organisation?

Peer based organisations are where members of an affected community (such as injecting drug users) are supported to develop and implement health promotion and harm reduction strategies for and with their peers.

Peer-based initiatives are based on the premise that people in marginalised communities will tend to discuss personal or behavioural issues with their peers rather than with health services or authorities as peers are often regarded as a more credible and non-judgmental source of information.

This approach has been proven to be highly effective way to reach marginalised people and other hard to reach populations who may face difficulties accessing main-stream health promotion, health care or support services due to social stigma, fear of judgment, and distrust.

Peer Based programs have been shown to significantly increase access to other health services, empowering peers to overcome barriers and access trusted health services.

Peer based approaches also provide a key resource for the rest of the health sector as the program’s close connection to the target community means they are often aware of important issues and trends long before they become evident through research or epidemiology, and can assist the sector to develop effective and relevant responses early.

Why They Work

Peers already know where to find other drug users, and understand the street-terminology, etiquette, and social mores of their own peer group.

Peers are familiar with the motivations, and issues or concerns, of their own peers.

Drug users are more trusting of peer-workers than non-peers to be non-judgmental and confidential. This is particularly significant in Western Australia, which has no significant “open” (street) drug markets, but an extensive network of “closed” markets. Peer workers and volunteers recruited from specific at-risk or hard-to-reach populations can gain privileged access to environments and individuals that no mainstream health worker can visit.

The majority of illicit drug users are distrustful of drug information from authorities, and typically view the same advice delivered by their peers as more credible, because it is supported by their own life-experience. This confidence extends to trusting peer workers for assistance in accessing drug treatment and broader health services.

Unlike health workers, who may only have one opportunity to “briefly intervene” with any individual, peers typically move within limited network(s) of social circles, and frequently are in a position to reinforce messages to the same audience or individual over time.