Research aim: Little is known regarding the pressures of working within dementia care units, as the majority of literature has focused broadly on long-term care rather than the provision of specialised dementia care. This study aimed to explore the perceptions of staff in relation to their capacity to manage behaviour and care needs of people with dementia living within the dementia-specific environment. Individual interviews were conducted with 35 care staff from three dementia care units in Brisbane, Australia. Major findings: Four themes were identified: role definition, relationships, workplace environment, and workforce issues. Although the findings highlight the importance of peer support for staff when managing difficult situations, questions regarding the quality of peer support and its impact on care provision were raised. Conclusions: Dementia units are complex systems with well-motivated and educated staff contributing to the effectiveness of the care. An understanding of care staff, perceptions of their role and its effects on care practices can help to identify appropriate support structures and training strategies, thereby improving job satisfaction for staff and quality of life for the residents with dementia.