The Virtual Village

The Virtual Village provides peer-to-peer intensive support for regional families struggling to cope, feeling isolated or experiencing poor mental or physical health.

We pair families experiencing stress or trauma with trained family support volunteers with lived experiences of family stress, family violence or isolation.

The Virtual Village team on a Zoom call

What is The Virtual Village?

The Virtual Village gives rural and remote families access to peer support from a family who lives in another town. This helps families who want support from a peer rather than a practitioner, but also want to keep their story confidential without concern of being judged by others in their community. 

It all happens virtually, with no long waiting lists, and family support services and a support network is tailored for each family.

The Virtual Villager (peer family support volunteer) and their family have experienced similar stress, isolation and family crisis, but have managed to come out the other side and now have the capacity and insight to help others do the same.

The Virtual Village was a live, family support services prototype co-designed with families in collaboration with TACSI’s scaling innovation team, Uniting Communities, families from across SA rural communities from Whyalla to the Limestone Coast, and the South Australian Department of Human Services.

It’s informed by our over 10 years of experience and learning from co-designing, adapting and delivering various kinds of People Powered responses across Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

Why The Virtual Village?

The idea for The Virtual Village came from the need to support families who would be further isolated as a result of Covid-19.

Now that restrictions have eased, we are hearing from families and referrers that The Virtual Village still has a place in society post Covid-19, especially for the many regional families who continue to experience physical and social isolation pre-dating the pandemic. 

By helping us connect up families who live over 500km apart, we also know that the model can be a cost effective approach to supporting regional and remote families in crisis via online connectivity. System savings include travel, site rentals, and professional time, to name a few.

Jenny’s story

Jenny and her children were experiencing family violence and communication breakdown, and decided to work on the emotional regulation of the family. They participated in virtual activities with their connection, including pizza making nights and the ANZAC dawn service.

These positive family experiences have helped Jenny to see her kids smile, and her family now have opportunities to experience the joy of family life, and be able to see the positives in each other and build on this.

Jenny reports back on her and her family's engagement in the prototype saying, “...before the connection I was stressed… [there was] lots of conflict in the house. [Just 5 weeks in] there has been less verbal abuse, less family violence, less stress….”

By helping to remove some of the toxic stress in families and replacing this with experiences of joy and capability building, we are seeing families rewrite their family story.

What we’ve learnt

  • Families in crisis want support from a peer to see them through their crisis (crisis in this case includes active domestic and family violence and alcohol and drug misuse)

  • All families (both those seeking support and those volunteering) engaging in the prototype want to come out the other side of crisis stronger, with increased confidence, and thriving – they want to be more than just resilient

  • The Virtual Village provides a different kind of Intensive family support, meeting families on the platforms that work for them at a time and in a place that works for them

  • The prototype is presenting a cost effective approach to supporting families across regional, rural and remote locations.

  • Connecting families to volunteers who live in a different town or region offers confidentiality of the family’s story, which many families are finding invaluable

  • The digital nature of The Virtual Village is proving to be a great way to help families who are anxious to leave their home and is presenting a valuable first step in accessing external supports and build the confidence to leave the home in the future

  • Families and referrers are saying that the option of peer support is an invaluable addition to the re-preservation family support ecosystem and would value its availability beyond Covid-19 protective measures

First Nations First

The Virtual Village operates across a broad range of Aboriginal nations. Cultural safety is a priority of this work, and we actively build relationships within each individual community in order to create a trusting network of relationships and to make sure that the network is educated on the Cultural authority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their diversity across these regions. 

Virtual Village Volunteers receive cultural training that seeks to help volunteers to understand their role as allies. The training includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander timeline history, a deeper understanding of intergenerational trauma and its impact on families and communities, and trauma-informed approaches to support. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers are provided with specific cultural coaching support as well as access to peers from across the network. 

Families seeking support from the Village who Identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait are provided with choices: who they connect with, which coach will support them, and if they would like culturally specific support.

Read more

Meet the Virtual Village team

Want to be involved?

Are you an organisation or commissioner interested in delivering the peer based intensive family support model in your area, or are you keen to co-design, prototype and scale your own version of the model?

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Level 1, 279 Flinders St
Adelaide SA 5000

1/145 Redfern Street

Redfern NSW 2016

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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and Owners of the lands in which we work and live on across Australia. We pay our respects to Elders of the past, present and emerging. We are committed to collaboration that furthers self-determination and creates a better future for all. Please note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.
At TACSI, diversity and inclusion is more than a statement; equality and accessibility are guiding principles embedded in everything we do. We strongly believe that it’s the collective sum of all our communities differences, life experiences, and knowledge that enables both ourselves and our partners to come together to tackle complex social issues. That’s why we’re committed to having a diverse team made up of people with diverse skills from all backgrounds, including First Nations peoples, LGBTIQ+, mature-age people, and people with visible and non-visible disabilities, regardless of sex, sexuality or gender identity.