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Embracing a lived experience workforce

Embracing a lived experience workforce

Sonder embraces lived experience across all levels of the organisation, including within its Executive Management Team and Lived Experience Advisory Groups, as well as within its service delivery workforce with Senior Peer Practitioners, Peer Practitioners and Outreach Workers.

Currently, 10% of Sonder’s workforce operate in designated Peer Practice roles across youth services, adult mental health & AOD, community services, disability services and Aboriginal health services.

Sonder has worked with the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia’s Lived Experience Workforce Program (LEWP) since the establishment of its first Peer Practice roles in 2018.

The organisation has since identified the LEWP’s Lived Experience Standards & Guidelines as a strategic priority. Co-design, co-implementation and co-evaluation have been central to implementing a range of new processes to ensure adherence to the set of Lived Experience Standards and Guidelines.

In February 2021, Sonder hosted a 2-day consultation with 20 staff members representing the breadth of the organisation’s range of services and lived experience workforce. The group worked collaboratively to complete a self-assessment of the Standards & Guidelines and develop an action plan.

A Project Team, comprised 50% of staff with lived experience, was tasked with the implementation of the action plan.

Speaking of the partnership with LEWP, Project Lead, Pru De Garis commented –

We are incredibly grateful for the advice and consultation from the LEWP throughout the stages of design and implementation. Their wisdom and support have played an integral role in the development of our organisation’s knowledge and approach to this workforce.

Whilst Sonder acknowledges continued work is required to achieve adherance to the National Lived Experience Standards, the organisation is proud to highlight some of the key achievements from the Lived Experience Standards & Guidelines Action Plan to date:

  • Commitment at Executive and Board level to the development of the Lived Experience Workforce.
  • Recruitment of Sonder’s first Senior Peer Practitioner in the organisation’s Youth Services stream.
    • A Senior Peer is responsible for peer supervision, recruitment, and training of Peer Workers. They also assist in the orientation and training of non-Peer Practitioners with the purpose of increasing knowledge of disciplines, promoting confidentiality practice and embedding of the Peer Practitioner role across the organisation.
    • Within Sonder’s Youth Services stream, the Senior Peer represents the Lived Experience workforce on the Youth Services Strategic Leadership group and Youth Services Operational Leadership groups.
  • Development of the Peer Upskill Program – including financial contribution and time commitment to undertake the Certificate IV in Peer Work; and commitment to career pathways for Peer Practitioners such as Peer Supervisor and Senior Peer.
  • Commitment to lived experience supervision – as part of the Peer Upskill Program, Sonder supports Peer Practitioners to undertake supervision training and provide peer supervision to their colleagues. Peer Practitioners are supported to attend group supervision facilitated by an experienced Peer Practitioner.
  • Change of role title from Peer Support Worker to Peer Practitioner to better reflect the skillset and knowledge brought to the role.
  • Lived Experience representation across Sonder committees and project teams, such as the Clinical Governance Committee, Reconciliation Action Plan Project, and Quality Improvement Committee.
  • Engagement with Professor Nicholas Proctor of University of South Australia to establish Trauma Informed Practice Training across the organisation.

As a result of the Lived Experience Action Plan:

  • The organisation has observed an increased understanding for the value and scope of practice for Peer Practitioner roles in service delivery roles across Sonder.
  • Lived experience representative are involved in more meaningful consultation and decision-making.
  • Peer Practitioners have reported to feel better supported, have a clearer understanding of their roles at a service delivery perspective and an improved sense of wellbeing at work.
  • There has been an improvement in retention rates of Peer Practitioners. In 2019/20, the turnover rate for the Peer Practitioner role was 24% compared to 6% in 2021/22.
  • Seven Peer Practitioners have been supported to successfully complete Certificate IV in Peer Work and a further six are currently being supporting to undertake the study.

Sonder is committed to continue to work towards the National Lived Experience Standards in collaboration with LEWP.

The consultation, targeted advice, and generosity of LEWP’s time has had a strong influence over the success of the project.

Sonder remains committed to the development of a lived experience workforce in South Australia, including the co-facilitation of the Lived Experience Community of Practice hosted by LEWP.


For more information about peer practice at Sonder, contact Sonder’s Lived Experience Workforce Standards Project Lead, Pru De Garis pdegaris@sonder.net.au

Interested in a career in peer practice at Sonder? Visit our Careers webpage to view our current vacancies sonder.net.au/careers

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