The lead agency in establishing the Centre of Excellence in Peer Support was ARAFEMI Victoria, as a member of Victoria's Mutual Support and Self-Help Network (MSSH) and lead for the CEPS project consortia. In December 2013, ARAFEMI Victoria merged with Mind Australia, and the CEPS project is now housed by Mind. Below, you will find information about the history of ARAFEMI and its peer support services, which still inform the CEPS knowledge base, as well as information about Mind's services and work in the peer space.
ARAFEMI was set up by a group of families/carers in the 1970s, in response to the deinstitutionalisation which was occuring in mental health services. They lobbied for appropriate mental health care in the community (including accommodation and employment opportunities for consumers), family/carer support and increased community awareness about mental illness.
Today, ARAFEMI facilitates a range of peer support groups in Victoria, including specialist groups for consumers and family/carers. Consumers or family/carers facilitate these sessions using an open peer support model for delivery. Groups also provide some psycho-education and are co-facilitated by a heath professional.
ARAFEMI also employs peer workers who provide one-on-one peer support, advocacy and education. Positions include Carer Peer Workers based in acute mental health settings, Carer Peer Helpline Workers, a Carer Advocate, a Carer Peer Educator and PHaMs Peer Support Workers (working with consumers who are diagnosed with a mental illness and experiencing homelessness.) All positions have structured supports and protocols and are supported by underpinning service delivery and philosophical models.
ARAFEMI offered a range of specialised knowledge, skills and experience through a number of services, including:
Mental Health Carer Helpline 1300 550 265
Information about mental illness, health services and referral
Victorian Carer Peer Advocate
Carer Peer Support Workers available
- at Eastern Health (COPES) and at Northern Health (Caring Together)
Family Services Education Service: Professional Development and Carer Education Sessions
A range of Monthly Carer Support Groups including specialist groups for carers
Respite for mental health carers - in-home, cottage style and recreation respite
Housing support and accommodation for people with a mental illness
Intensive outreach for people with a mental illness, homelessness and dual diagnosis (drug and alcohol / mental health)
Prevention and Recovery Care services (PARC)
PHaMs (Personal Helpers and Mentors) program
Carer Helpline: 1300 550 265
Promoting and improving the well-being of people affected by mental illness