Planning - Peer Support

LDATs may choose to link with existing alcohol and other drug peer support activities that have been shown to work.

Select an evidence-based Peer Support activity

Existing or new activity

You may find other activities through peak bodies for youth, local health services or by drawing on local knowledge and networks. There may be a number of existing peer support activities in place in your community (e.g. buddy program in the local secondary school) that you can support and build on.

A number of existing peer support activities in Australia are listed below:

  • Whitelion Peer Support Program is a peer support program focused on early intervention. Whitelion Peer Support Program links older students to younger students, and has run in Victoria for over 20 years.
  • Peer Support Australia is a peer-led, skills-based, experiential learning program with a focus on mental health that has been offered in schools for over 30 years.
  • IMPACT is a program supports young people from Year 10 onwards to become leaders in their communities. The program targets Indigenous youth in Western Australia and the Northern Territory and is delivered by the Foundation for Young Australians.
  • A directory of peer support programs in Victoria can be accessed at

Once you have found existing peer support activities, it may be useful to seek out further information directly from the organisation to find out if a partnership or delivery pathway is possible in your community.

Be mindful that there are numerous examples of peer support activities that focus on alcohol and other drug treatment and recovery, which is outside the scope of the LDAT Program and its focus on preventing alcohol and drug issues before they occur.

You might want to consider the following questions (some answers may be available online, others you may have to seek directly from the organisation):

  • Is the peer support activity available in your geographic area? If face-to-face delivery is not available, is remote access an option?
  • Has the peer support activity been shown to be effective at building positive peer relationships and reducing and preventing alcohol and other drug harms? What evidence is available to demonstrate this?
  • Does the activity focus on the prevention of alcohol and other drug harms (not treatment or recovery)?
  • Does the activity align with your community needs?
  • How are young people matched with peers?
  • What processes are in place to select and screen peer leaders?
  • What training and support is offered to peer leaders?

Due to the limited number of existing peer support activities available and the need for tailored approaches, many LDATs will work with partners to develop and deliver a targeted peer support activity in their community. See Resources required section below and Delivering peer support activities: Key Steps for insight into what is required when developing new approaches.

group of teens talking

What works and doesn’t work

Peer support activities can help to shape young people’s behaviours, knowledge and attitudes to alcohol and other drugs and whether and how they use them, but the way peer support is used makes a big difference.

What works

Alcohol and other drug peer support activities are most effective when approaches are based on principles of effective practice:

  • Empowers young people to support each other
  • Provides a range of different ways, and gives people a choice about how they participate
  • Provides authentic leadership opportunities for peer leaders
  • Delivered by peer leaders who are resourced adequately to deliver the activity
  • Delivered as part of a broader, comprehensive community approach to preventing alcohol and other drug-related harms
  • Provides a safe and supportive environment and positive peer relationship
  • Focuses on developing interpersonal skills
  • Supports positive cultural change
  • Provides factual and accurate information that is meaningful to the young person’s social network
  • Responds to local needs and is culturally appropriate.

What doesn't work

Alcohol and other drug peer support activities have been shown to be ineffective and increase interest in drug use when it is based on:

  • Scare tactics or ‘fear arousal’
  • A didactic (rather than interactive) delivery style
  • One-off, isolated activities.

Set your objectives

Setting objectives for your activity is an important part of the LDAT planning process.

Some example objectives for peer support activities are provided below. Groups can develop their own objectives, although you may find these a useful starting point:

  • Over the next six months, work with (xx) key partners of the (xx) community to:
  • Increase (xx) peer leaders’ knowledge of the harms associated with risky drinking and drug use
  • Increase (xx) peer leaders’ confidence to engage with young people as peer leaders
  • Through engagement with (xx) peer leaders, increase young peoples’ knowledge of harms associated with risky drinking and drug use
  • Through engagement with (xx) peer leaders, increase the number of young people feeling increased levels of self-confidence
  • Through engagement with (xx) peer leaders, increase the number of young people experiencing positive social connections in their community
  • Increase the number of interactions peer leaders have with young people as a result of ongoing engagement with the Peers Support activity.

Working with community partners

Whether you are linking in to an existing peer support activity or developing your own activity, strong partnerships will be critical to your success. Partners can support the peer support program in many ways, including promoting the activity, recruiting young people as participants and peer leaders, working with schools to facilitate activities, providing a venue for training, financial support, and much more.

How the peer support activity is structured and delivered may influence the type of individuals, networks and organisations that your group partners with.

Partners may include:

  • Local primary and secondary schools
  • Youth workers in community health agencies
  • Youth associations and groups in the area
  • Homework clubs and study groups
  • Major employers of young people
  • Sporting clubs
  • Community arts organisations (e.g. music, dance, drama)
  • Local council.

See also Working with community partners.

Resources required

All peer support activities need to be adequately resourced. Below is an indicative list of resources required to deliver peer support activities. LDATs may be able to provide some of these resources or work with partners who can provide additional support.


  • Activity participants, including the availability of suitable peer leaders
  • Basic administrative tools. Access to stationery and office supplies, printers, phones, printing, a workspace for administrative duties
  • Skilled personnel to manage the peer support activity
  • Knowledge/materials and/or funds to train, supervise and support peer leaders
  • Funds to cover costs/expenses of peer leaders (e.g. telephone, petrol, IT support, parking, public transport costs)
  • Venue for meetings – this may include in-kind use of meeting rooms from a partner organisation, local library, community halls (your local council will have a list of available places for community use), or schools. It is not appropriate for meetings to be held in people’s homes
  • Funds for catering at events and meetings
  • Design and publish promotional material, implement a media campaign to publicise the activity
  • Funds to undertake police checks/working with children checks where necessary
  • Insurance and liability coverage (where appropriate)

Consider measures of success

While you are planning your activity, it is important to consider measures of success for your activity. Determine how you will evaluate the success of your program linking your evaluation measures to your objectives (see Measure your success).

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