I’m a blog, I’m a blog, oh the blog is back

Now that I’ve hopefully got at least some of you humming Elton John…

Greetings, everyone!

Yes, we are back, and we are coming back with a vengeance. It has been busy since the last time we checked in with you. We have a lot to share about what we learnt while we weren’t blogging!

But first, allow me to introduce myself: My name is Petrina. I came on board in January as the W3 Project’s new Research Officer. Suffice to say, it’s been a steep learning curve and I am very excited about the W3 Project’s work.

Part of that learning curve has been taking on responsibility for managing this blog. And, as I said, we are coming back with a vengeance. We have big plans, including staying up to date with regular posts from here on.

We will, of course, be sharing with you what we are doing and learning. On top of that, we are keen to share as many of your stories and insights as we can.

We hope to build the W3 Blog into a community space. By that, we mean a space where peers and their partners and allies can all share and learn together.

But for now, back to what we’ve been up to while we weren’t blogging…

We wrapped up Stage 2 of the W3 Project and have been busy planning new W3-related projects.

We learnt so much from piloting the W3 Framework with our partners during Stage 2… So much that we are writing a W3 Implementation Guide! In fact, over the coming months, the whole W3 Website is getting a facelift to help accommodate the new information. We will let you know on the blog as we add to the website and share stories from peer workers.

We are starting work on Stage 3 of the W3 Project. Once again, we are teaming up with national and state peer-led organisations working in HIV and hepatitis C. This time, we hope to learn more about the overall impact that they have on the Australian blood-borne virus response. We are very excited about this work, but I will leave it to Graham (our lead investigator) to share more with you about that in a future post.

And, like just about everyone else in the country, we’re figuring out how to work together while working apart

Before I go any further, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that 2020 has been — and continues to be — a tough year. All of us on the W3 Project Team wish all of our communities strength. We stand in solidarity with you during these difficult times. We are all in this together, doing our best to adapt to living, loving, and working as the world rapidly changes around us.

Who could possibly have imagined almost exactly a year ago when we published our last post how different the world we’re working in now would be?

But it’s also shown how some of the most important things stay the same

In that last post, guest authors Charles Henderson and Annie Madden reflected on a journal article from the W3 Project about the nature of the policy influence of peer-based drug user organisations.

Reading back through their post now, this statement really struck me as so relevant right now:

[P]eer-based drug-user organisations in Australia have been connecting successfully with their community for 3 decades and counting…. [T]hey constantly strive for change and fight to maintain their place in decision-making arenas. They make visible the invisible and voice their outright opposition to shoddy thinking. But it remains difficult.

As a new virus emerges that threatens our communities, peer-based organisations face even more challenges — some new and some that simply exacerbate the old.

Sex workers, for example, were among the first to be targeted with new lockdown penalties, had little to no access to financial support as lockdown regulations decimated their livelihoods, and their occupation was conspicuously absent from the Government’s post-lockdown reopening plans.

But, as always, peer-led organisations were there, standing up for their communities and successfully advocating to change harmful policy — working to ‘maintain their place in decision-making arenas, make visible the invisible…’.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is how resourceful, creative, and innovative our communities are.

Organisations have had to find new, ‘physically distanced’ ways of connecting and engaging with their communities. Once again, in the face of adversity, peer and community organisations are stepping up and finding opportunities amid the challenges.

For example, traditionally face-to-face direct client support has had to move online. While this is not without its limitations, there are silver linings. Moving online has opened services up to some of our most marginalised community members who were previously unable to attend in person. Peer-led organisations are keen to make sure that these gains are not lost once we return to life as ‘normal’ (whatever that will look like).

So, we thought it appropriate to relaunch the W3 Blog by taking a step back from our work and focussing on yours. After all, your ability to adapt is a huge part of how you create positive change — and understanding and sharing what works and why is what the W3 Project is all about!

The image shows a white sign on a small wooden stool in front of a bright orange background. The sign is held up by a hand and reads, "Not today #covid19".

To that end, our next few blogs will share and celebrate some of the amazing and innovative ways that peer and community organisations have adapted in response to COVID-19.

Coming up soon…

We have some interesting posts already in the works. Over the next few weeks, we will post reflections from peer-led organisations, W3 Project staff, and other collaborators about:

  • How the blood-borne viruses sector has been adapting over the past few months
  • The valuable contribution to the hepatitis C response of peer knowledge within organisations led by people who use drugs
  • How people with HIV are maintaining community connection while physically distancing
  • Challenges for peer distribution of injecting equipment and access to harm reduction resources during COVID-19 for people who use drugs

If you have any stories or posts you would like us to publish, please get in touch.

This is your story — we’d love to hear it from you!

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