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Start your own peer-to-peer support group

Peer-to-peer support groups are a powerful way to connect people with disability to information that can greatly improve their lives. They also play an important role in bringing the disability community together to advocate for themselves and others.

The best part about these groups? Anyone can start one. With the right tools and resources, you can create a safe space for people with lived experience of disability to connect with each other, access advice, learn skills and become more independent.

Read on to find out how to form a peer-to-peer support group in your community and what free resources and training SSI now offers for community organisations to upskill and run their own groups.

For more information on the Multicultural Peer Network, email community@ssi.org.au.

What success looks like: Multicultural Peer Network

In 2020, SSI created a successful model for running disability support groups in multicultural communities across NSW called the Multicultural Peer Network (MPN).

The MPN was a collection of impactful, peer-led support groups which promoted independence among people with lived experience of disability from multicultural communities, as well their carers and families.

The program was funded through the Department of Social Services (DSS).

During the MPN program, SSI found tailoring disability support groups to different cultures, languages and interests had a vastly positive impact on people with disability in these spaces.

Watch the project wrap video to learn more and hear from the facilitators

MPN Multicultural Peer Network is an initiative of NDIS to support communities to better understand NDIS. As the name implies, it’s a group of facilitators we were training for delivering those sessions and conversations to the CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) community, creating awareness about disability, the availability of disability services around for the community, and a bunch of tools to help them to get that access to the services as well. Being a facilitator is very fulfilling, having beautiful, beautiful ladies as my friends now because they become like part of my family and supporting them for each and every step and getting support from them as well. Well, I need support too because I have a kid with special needs and I break down sometimes, I need that support too. One of the really great things about the program is people from that community reaching out to people from their own cultural background, not people with a similar disability and having those conversations rather than just people listening to a presentation. I would say the impact that it’s had on the community meant people had a place to go. It provided a platform for people to meet and talk about a common topic, often ones that they didn’t feel that weren’t ever brought up just in a general conversation at home. I think 80% of them have had major breakthroughs, especially when it comes to breaking the barriers and the stigma with their families. It’s very important for someone with lived experience, as a person with a disability to bring their experience towards this project because not only that person is showing their experience, but also their knowledge about their daily life is and how to bring that knowledge towards others in the room. The Multicultural Peer Network was a great way to invite newly arrived people in to have a conversation, in language, in their own language. The most favourite part of the program, we learn together, we support together with the group. You can share your experience with other people to help them be more confident, more helpful, more useful to help support the family member.

Our results

71 +

community leaders

recruited and trained as peer group facilitators

1,000 +

program participants

supported across over 97 networks in 15 languages

92 %

of program participants

and 87% of family members and carers reported an increase in confidence

With a focus on guiding participants on advocacy and helping them gain new skills, 84% of participants agreed they were more knowledgeable about their rights and 85% felt they had new skills to help them achieve their goals.

With the resources from the MPN program now publicly available, community leaders and organisations can be empowered to start their own peer groups.

How to start your own peer-to-peer support group

What is a peer-to-peer support group?

Peer-to-peer support groups are an engaging way to help like-minded people with disability build their support networks.

The purpose of these groups is to bring the disability community together to talk about their challenges and goals. The groups meet on a regular basis to discuss chosen topics and skills, like finding employment or using NDIS services.

Each group is tailored to the needs of the people attending. They can be delivered in person or virtually, in varying languages or focus on a specific type of disability.

What is a facilitator?

Peer-to-peer support groups are usually run by a facilitator who helps guide the conversation and keep it flowing.

The facilitator also plays an important role in making sure the support group remains a safe space for everyone to share their thoughts.

There are no set rules for running a support group, but our facilitator guides provide useful information to help you get started.

What free resources are available for community organisations to learn about facilitation?

SSI offers its comprehensive facilitator training guidebooks for any organisation to use to train staff, members, or volunteers to run their own peer groups.

Guide Book 1 gives you the knowledge needed to set up a peer support group and develop the skills to take on a facilitator’s role.

Once you have set up a group, you can use Guide Book 2 as a template for running the conversations around important topics.

Guide Book 2 covers four suggested conversation areas with questions advice and examples to help the group learn more about each area. The topics include themes like ‘how to build a circle of support’ or ‘how to build your skills towards employment’ – all aimed at building capacity of the individual and group.

Download guide books

Multicultural Peer Network Facilitator Guide - Book One
Multicultural Peer Network Facilitator Guide – Book One

How to establish a group, basic facilitation skills, communication techniques, self-care and support systems.

Multicultural Peer Network Facilitator Guide - Book Two
Multicultural Peer Network Facilitator Guide – Book Two

How to help people learn about self-advocacy, circles of support, volunteering, and employment.

In this video, hear from the MPN Program coordinator Susie who gives an overview of the two facilitator guides and how best to use them in discussion groups.

The resources were developed in response to the community need to have a conversation. There’s two resource manuals. There’s a Facilitator Guide One and a Facilitator Guide Two. Our first facilitator guide is set out in six sections. First of all, we’re ready to start facilitating. How you set up your group, the logistics of the group, starting with work, how we do our acknowledgement of country to start with each group. We often set the group rules at that stage too around privacy and confidentiality and safety. The second part of that guide is basic facilitation skills. What is a peer? What’s the role of the facilitator? You’re there to listen and guide; we talk about communication next around what’s the foundation of good communication, listening. We talk about group dynamics and personalities for example, that can often be take up a lot of time in a group. We look at conflict resolution and different stages of the group development what to excpect in your group. It’s very important we look at the self care and support systems managing your own stress, your self care and again, we talk in that first facilitator guide, it’s really important to understand what the social model of disability is as well as social inclusion. So the second guide has the conversations and the conversations are carefully tiered to build capacity. Some people start with NDIS access, and then we go into self advocacy, circles of support, volunteering and employment. The second guide has got all the information that you will need as a facilitator. I hope that organisations continue to use the resources to build capacity with people who are marginalised and disadvantaged, people who live with a disability, it’s a really good way to collaborate and work alongside communities to support them to support themselves.

Free resources and facilitator guides

Facilitator training

SSI offers free facilitator training for community organisations and individuals interested in starting their own community peer groups deepening their facilitator skills.

To learn more about the resources on this webpage, facilitator training or other ways SSI supports community organisations, email community@ssi.org.au.

Facilitator guides

These facilitator guides are designed for community organisations to use as a handbook for workshop facilitation and to gain valuable skills in facilitating group discussion.

Book 1: This guide is divided into two sections. Part A is designed to train facilitators how to run peer led support groups on topics such as How to establish a group, basic facilitation skills, and communication techniques. Part B is a list of resources the trained peer leader can use to run groups. Once the groups have been set up, the contents of Part B can be used as a template for running conversations around important topics.

Book 2: This guide is a compilation of resources that can be used by peer facilitators to run a peer group, including how to help people learn about self-advocacy, circles of support, volunteering, and employment.

SSI disability support services

For more information about SSI’s disability support services in NSW, please visit our Local Area Coordination services page or email ssilac@ndis.gov.au.

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