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The ASA+ FNA Conference Photo Competition for 30th Aeromedical Society of Australasia and Flight Nur

Peer Support for front line Aeromedical Staff


Matthew O'Keeffe

Welfare Director - Australian Federation of Airline Pilots



Matthew is the current Welfare Director for the Australian Federation of Airline Pilots, supporting Australian pilots.

He is a serving board member of the HIMS Australia Advisory group.


The last 8 years Matthew worked as a pilot for the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Adelaide. He currently fly's for a major Australian airline. He is passionate in supporting pilots to come forward rather than hide their illness.



When aeromedical front line staff suffer most enduring types of illness they become temporarily or permanently disqualified from holding the medical certificate that permits them to fly or the practising licence that permits them to provide care to others.

Health issues occur within this group, as in all occupations, and standards enforced by licensing authorities for medical certification mean that a diagnosis can be career ending if aeromedical employees do not know where to turn.
Mental Illness of any type or Addiction is a complex and multifaceted subject. Ways to assist afflicted persons who work in aviation are not well understood because of the misapprehension that these conditions are incompatible with working in safety sensitive fields. Peer support programs are a proven option that guides individuals to health and or sobriety through peer support, and it is being implemented in Australia. Awareness of Peer support options available is the focus of this presentation.


The aim of the presentation is to raise awareness in the community: first, that aeromedical frontline employees can and do suffer from physiological and behaviors that lead to addiction, and second, everyone can and should know the options in Australia to guide aeromedical employees to appropriate resources to get their health and careers back on track.
One strong support network already operating in Australia is the HIMS pathway for pilots which emerged in the 1970s in USA and has helped over 4,000 commercial/airline pilots recover their lives through peer support.

By the end of the presentation delegates should understand how the Peer Support model works, and how they can connect pilots and other aeromedical personnel with resources to assist them in their recovery and journey back to the cockpit.



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