Launch of Connections peer supporter eLearning
By Rachael McMahon, APSC
The APS Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Unit (the Unit), in partnership with the Department of Home Affairs, have launched a new capability-building eLearning program, Connections: Core capabilities for workplace peer supporters. Connections provides workplace peer supporters with the foundational knowledge and skills they need for their role. It teaches peer supporters how to set up safe spaces that support their peers to connect, share stories and feel heard through evidence-informed learning.
The number of workplace peer support programs are growing across the APS and there are a wide variety of workplace peer support roles including mental health first aid officers, Indigenous liaison officers, disability, diversity, and bullying, harassment and discrimination contact officers.
The Unit developed Connections for APS peer supporters with subject matter experts and peer supporters themselves.
“Connections supports the direct link between building the skills and capability of workplace peer supporters at the individual and team levels, and achieving an overall uplift in the peer-to-peer and relational capability of the APS workforce. This program is the first of its kind in the APS”
Rachael McMahon, Principal Psychologist and Director of the Unit
Improving the skills and capability of peer supporters has the potential to achieve far-reaching benefits for all APS staff. Rachael adds, “The APS is committed to its valued peer supporter cohort. The learning outcomes in Connections support all workplace peer supporters to have access to the knowledge and skills they need to build meaningful connections with colleagues.”
The interactive eLearning program is inclusive, user-centric and accessible. It features four skills-focused modules to support individuals to improve their skills and perfect their craft. New or experienced peer supporters can enrol in Connections today on APSLearn.
Continuous learning is important to peer supporter success
Connie Galati, Senior Clinical Psychologist from the Unit and project lead says during the project’s design phase they listened closely to feedback from peer supporters across the service: “Peer supporters told us they take their learning and peer support role seriously.”
Peer supporters asked for a peer supporter capability journey, continuous learning opportunities and to connect with other peer supporters.
“With this in mind, we developed the Connections activity workbook to extend peer supporter learning. They are supported to broaden their learning circle and to foster their own connections with other peer supporters.”
Peer supporters can use the Connections activity workbook to support learning at individual and group levels. The workbook contains case studies, role playing activities and topics for group discussions.
“Engaging in regular continuous learning activities supports our workplace peer supporters to provide safe and effective peer support,” says Connie.
Connie notes a skills-led learning approach supports Connections. This approach aligns with the learning principles outlined in the APS Learning Quality Framework (APS Academy, 2022).
“The program uses reflective, observational and active learning strategies. This helps participants learn and apply the content in the workplace. Connections unlocks the learning potential of our workplace peer supporters and empowers them to build their skills and capability.”
Hands-up for hands-on support
Agencies should contact the Unit to get tailored guidance on developing and maintaining workplace peer support programs. They can also get practical support to roll-out Connections to their peer supporters.
Human Resources (HR) teams and corporate areas can access a Connections promotion pack. This includes an implementation guide, content and resources to promote the program at their agency. The Unit has also developed a guidance video for managers to provide better support to employees in peer support roles.
- More information about Connections is available from the APS Academy.
- Workplace peer supporters can sign up to Connections now on APSLearn.
- Agencies can contact the APSC’s APS Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Unit for further information on the MHSP Unit and to access implementation resources and a promotion pack.
 APS Academy. (2022, May). APS learning quality framework and design standards. Australian Public Service Commission. https://www.apsc.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/learning-and-development/learning-quality-framework