Peer support program promotes wellness at work for juvenile justice employees

Ms Alison Tibbey1, Ms Janet Bels, Ms Vicki Geach, Ms Donna Young, Ms Jodi Rigg

1NSW Department Of Justice, Juvenile Justice, , Australia

Mental Health conditions affect one in five employees in Australia and present substantial costs to organisations.  A 2014 PWC report identified every dollar spent on effective mental health initiatives will, on average, have a positive return on investment of $2.30. The single most critical success factor is employee participation.

The Peer Support Program started in Corrective Services 22 years ago and has grown to include Juvenile Justice, Victims Services and the Pride in Justice Network.  Staff volunteer as Peer Support Officers (PSOs) to assist colleagues who are experiencing challenges at work, or in their personal life, particularly in times of stress.

The officers receive training and access support from a Peer Support Coordinator, fellow PSOs, local management, an annual conference and the Employee Assistance Program.

Following the program’s 2016 launch in Juvenile Justice, it has since grown to 33 PSOs across the agency, 49% are located in Northern NSW.

The rural and remote nature of Northern NSW is a key driver in the concentration of PSOs where access to other support services is not always readily available. The program has also been an effective way to address the impact of vicarious trauma which can develop as a result of caseworkers engaging empathically on an ongoing basis with their clients’ traumatic experiences.

The PSO initiatives in Northern Region help strengthen community connections and contribute to the creation and sustaining of positive and supportive work environments for staff. PSOs from Northern Region will share examples of these initiatives during the presentation.


Alison coordinated the Peer Support Program for Corrective Services NSW staff for 10 years.  In 2015, her role was expanded to include Juvenile Justice, Victims Services and Pride in Justice Network.  Alison’s passions include promoting resilience, supporting people and providing skills to staff to support others

Janet is based in Lismore and has been with Juvenile Justice (JJ) since 2011 and a Peer Support Officer (PSO) since 2017. Janet believes self-care is fundamental to the wellbeing of staff providing trauma informed interventions for young people.

Vicki is based in Glen Innes and has been with JJ since 2011 and a PSO since 2017. Vicki says she enjoys assisting staff and in turn seeing her colleagues support one another.

Donna is based in Tamworth and has been with JJ since 2006 and a PSO since 2017. Donna says the group activities she organises encourage staff to focus on their wellbeing and build a supportive team environment.

Jodi is based in Grafton and has been with JJ since 2010 and a PSO since 2016. Jodi enjoys being able to assist in building a positive workplace morale and her fundraising initiatives support local organisations who assist young people when they leave custody.