How can we meaningfully embed and enhance peer leadership in Australia’s response to HIV and hepatitis C?

Stream: Communities and Leadership
Date: Friday, 1 April 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.45 pm


Improving the health of communities affected by HIV and hepatitis C typically involves peer-led responses for people who use drugs, gay men, sex workers and people living with HIV or hepatitis C navigating highly stigmatised contexts around sex, sexuality and drug use. Peer leaders from these communities are expected to advocate for the needs and experiences of an increasingly diverse and dynamic group of people within a policy system that is constantly changing and contested.

Governments are increasingly looking at ways to increase the value and impact of their investments in such peer-led programs. However, traditional program logic design struggles with the complexity of environments that are constantly changing and adapting. How can we increase the valuing of real time peer insights, build trust in peer leadership, and demonstrate effectiveness?

The What Works and Why (W3) Project piloted the application of a participatory complex systems approach to understanding the role of peer-led programs and leadership at a state and national level. The project developed a framework which identified four key system level functions that are required for peer-led programs to: demonstrate the authenticity of their peer and community insights; influence health, community, and political systems; adapt to changing contexts and policy priorities in tandem with their communities. We argue that if funders, policy-makers and researchers are not drawing on and gaining strategic benefit and insight from peer-led programs and leadership, then the sector is not maximising its assets.


Graham Brown (Presenter), Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
Dr Graham Brown is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. Graham has worked in community based health promotion and research for 20 years, with a particular interest in the role of community based organisations and peer-led programs, building long term collaborations with state and national research centres and community organisations in Australia and Europe. Graham has adjunct appointments at the Burnet Institute and the Centre for Social Research in Health, and close links with the Australian HIV community sector.

Daniel Reeders, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Annie Madden, Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League

Rob Lake, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations

Aaron Cogle, National Association of People Living with HIV Australia

Janelle Fawkes, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Worker Association