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Empowering better lives

For people with an acquired brain injury, a peer led program is changing their lives for the better.

The STEPS (Skills to Enable People and Communities) program empowers patients with an acquired brain injury to get the most out of life following their injury.

STEPS encompasses two key components, a six-week skills program and ongoing network groups in local communities across Queensland.

The skills program involves patient groups led by a peer professional workforce, comprising a service provider with an interest or background in disability, as well as a peer leader (someone who has lived experience of brain injury) who pair together, to provide patients with an opportunity to develop skills and gain information about getting back into life after an injury. The groups which run weekly for two hours also provide social connections with others with a lived experience.

People with an acquired brain injury are living improved lives thanks to the STEPS program which is supported by the PA Research Foundation.



The Network Groups of which there are 24 around Queensland meet monthly to maintain social connections and also develop self-management skills patients have learned in the six-week program, with a focus on creating independence and maintaining the progress patients have made as well as for ongoing support.

“Each week in the Skills program covers a different topic, the first couple of weeks are around helping to understand brain injury,” Steps Program Manager Sue Wright said.

 “It’s from an educational perspective about brain injuries and the types of brain injuries, even though patients have got some of this information while in hospital it’s often forgotten, and it’s also about helping them to understand their own challenges.

“We then look at things like goal setting, based on getting into the community because often the goals they talk about while in hospital are different once they’ve returned home. It’s about daily living and getting back into a routine but also challenges they may face in the community, like returning to driving or getting back into the workforce or volunteer work.

“It’s not specifically therapy based, it more from a community rehabilitation outlook, getting the patients to work out what skills they need, it is very much self-management driven as opposed to therapy driven. It is focused on what are the challenges they are facing and how can they support themselves to overcome them or best handle them.

“What we’ve found over the years is it’s really beneficial for them to learn from each other, rather than a therapist telling them something to do, they receive more openly from a peer who has been there and done that.”

With many of its south east Queensland based participants coming from the PA Hospital’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit, STEPS has received additional funding support from the PA Foundation since 2013.

The Metro South Health funded program uses funds from the PA Foundation to support their network groups and peer leaders with costs that are not covered by their existing budget, including the Potential Unlimited program which sends aspiring leaders to leadership and skills camps through a partnership with the Outward Bound organisation based in Canberra.

The Outward Bound program works with STEPS to help people with a brain injury to build self confidence and other positive attributes.


The purpose of participants taking part in the potential unlimited program is to: discover personal strengths and how to use these to live life and overcome challenges after an acquired brain injury, increase self confidence, motivation and determination to succeed and use teamwork and understand risk management to assist with goal setting.

“We have run three Potential Unlimited camps so far, two in Canberra and one in Uki in Northern NSW,” Sue said.

“We got a fair bit of support from the PA Foundation for the most recent Potential Unlimited camp. We partner with the outdoor education service Outward Bound who adapted a program specifically for us.

“Outward Bound work with kids at risk and women from domestic and family violence but they created the potential unlimited program specifically for people with a brain injury.”

With the Foundation recently providing funding for more brain injury patients to benefit from the potential unlimited camps, Sue said STEPS will look to work more closely with the Foundation through its annual Giving Day.

“It is not just going on the camp, it’s a process which includes a fundraising component, a component about attending and then there is a review and reflection. This ensures it is a very purposeful process for the peer leaders,” she said.

“They have to have a strong interest in becoming a leader and developing leadership skills. The fundraising component is important because it helps with the process of self-management that’s reflected in our program, and also peer support and networking because they’ve got to go out and fundraise and be motivated by the desire to participate.

“In the past we’ve done sausage sizzles and raffles and that sort of thing which are useful but a hard way of raising money. PA Giving Day will enable our participants to share their fundraising goals out to their networks to raise much needed funds that will go to the larger group as a whole.

“Money we raise from Giving Day will help pay for the potential unlimited courses, but upcoming Giving Days will help us pay for flights and accommodation and even clothing because sometimes people with acquired brain injuries are on disability pensions and can’t afford warm clothing required for colder climates like Canberra.”

You can support STEPS and the people it helps here.





18 July 2022
Category: Patient stories
Tags: #braininjury, #STEPS,
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