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Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program

The NSW Aboriginal Mental Health and Well Being Policy 2006-2010 identifies the Aboriginal mental health workforce as a key area that requires strengthening.

The establishment of the Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program therefore aims to build an Aboriginal mental health workforce across NSW which is capable of supporting the mental health and well being needs of Aboriginal communities throughout the state.

Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Training Program

The Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Training Program uses a unique approach of growing a workforce in which Aboriginal trainees are recruited from local communities as permanent NSW Health employees. Using a traineeship model the trainees undergo workplace training and clinical placements over 3 years while completing a university degree.

The program aims to improve the mental health and well being of Aboriginal people by increasing:

  • the number of qualified Aboriginal mental health workers in the workforce
  • the number of Aboriginal people accessing mental health services
  • knowledge of mental health services staff about the health beliefs and needs of Aboriginal people
  • responsiveness of mental health services to the needs of Aboriginal consumers
  • effectiveness of prevention, early detection, intervention and treatment services for Aboriginal people and communities
  • awareness of local issues affecting the local community
  • opportunities for local Aboriginal people to undertake supported practical and theoretical training in mental health.

More information about the Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program and Training Program.

Aboriginal Clinical Leadership Program

The Aboriginal Clinical Leadership Program sees the establishment of clinical leaders in Aboriginal mental health into key local health districts. These clinical leader positions play a vital role in supporting the rapidly emerging Aboriginal mental health workforce. Another important role they play is to promote service utilisation by Aboriginal people, and assist services to provide culturally appropriate care to Aboriginal communities.

Aboriginal Mental Health Workers Forum

The Aboriginal Mental Health Workers Forum held annually is an opportunity for Aboriginal mental health workers across the state to develop and sustain support networks across the workforce.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

Aboriginal people also access mental health services through the NGO sector via Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS). Therefore as part of NSW Health’s Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program, funding has been provided to the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AHMRC) to employ a State-wide Coordinator for Aboriginal Mental Health in ACCHS. This position advises and represents the AHMRC, ACCHS across NSW, and the NSW Aboriginal Health Partnership on issues relating to mental health and the social and emotional well being of Aboriginal people in NSW.

In another critical link underlying the workforce program, an additional 10 Aboriginal mental health worker positions were allocated to ACCHS across NSW during 2009, bringing the number of Aboriginal mental health workers in ACCHS funded by NSW Health to 25.

Accredited Persons Program

This program was introduced into the Mental Health Act in response to concerns that a scarcity of medical practitioners in some areas were hampering or delaying the initiation of treatment for people with mental health problems and associated risk factors.

Senior mental health clinicians who have at least 5 years experience of working with patients are able to be nominated by the local Director of the district mental health service for training as Accredited Persons. These clinicians undergo a two day training workshop carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry where they get specialised training in the Mental Health Act and in the assessment of those suffering from psychosis. Once qualified they are then registered as an Accredited Person for a period of three years. At the end of that three year period they are required to undergo a refresher course in order to become qualified again for another three years. The Accredited Persons are able to write Schedule 1 Certificates in order to transport patients to hospital as an involuntary patient where they are assessed again by a qualified psychiatrist.

Disaster Mental Health Training Program

A centralised Disaster Mental Health training program has been developed. The program is supported and endorsed by the NSW Health Emergency Management Unit (HEMU) and is held annually as part of its annual NSW Health Emergency Management Education Program. More information about the Disaster Mental Health Training Program.

Eating disorders

The Centre for Eating and Dieting Disorders (CEDD) website contains information and resources on the evidence based treatments currently available for eating disorders. Through the CEDD website, health professionals can gain access to the course The Essentials: Online Learning in Eating Disorders for Health Professionals. Read information about the Service Plan for People with Eating Disorders 2013-2018.

Family Friendly Mental Health Services

The development of the Family Friendly Mental Health Services component of the NSW Family and Carer Mental Health Program is focused on supporting local service improvements by enhancing the skills of mental health service staff to work with families and carers as partners in care. District mental health services now employ staff to provide local workforce training and development and provide access to specialist clinical advice. They are also developing structures to allow families and carers to have input into service delivery. Some local variations will occur in what is available, dependent on staff capacity and local need.

As part of the Family Friendly Mental Health Services component of the Family and Carer Mental Health Program, the Mental Health Branch also funded the then South East Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service to run the Working With Families Stage 3 State-wide Training Project (WWF). In 2007, the WWF team developed the Connecting With Carers is Everybody’s Business handbook and DVD. This resource is designed for use by mental health workers across the state to train mental health staff in the basic skills required to connect with and assess family and carer needs and to build strong partnerships between the mental health service and family and carers, with the aim of working towards a better health outcome for consumer of the service.

General Practitioner (GPs) Mental Health Workshop Program

This scholarship program is available to GPs where funded places exist in the studies of mental health for GP postgraduate training, the Graduate Certificate, the Graduate Diploma, and the Masters course. An annual NSW Government sponsored GP mental health workshop program is also delivered at rural sites in NSW. For more information on these general practitioner programs please contact the NSW Institute of Psychiatry.

Mental Health Care for People with an Intellectual Disability: Online Training

People with an intellectual disability are at increased risk of developing a mental disorder, compared to the general population. In the past, mental health professionals have often not had access to specific training to respond to this vulnerable group. The University of New South Wales is providing free online training in intellectual disability mental health, in partnership with NSW Health, Ageing Disability and Home Care and the Health Education and Training Institute.

The e-Learning website is a practical, free resource for health and disability professionals with a focus on the fundamental skills and knowledge needed for clinical training this area. This includes communication, assessment and management of mental disorders. For more information, contact idhealtheducation@unsw.edu.au

Mental Health Nursing Connect Initiative

The Mental Health Connect Initiative is a Government initiative designed to attract nurses currently not employed in nursing or in mental health nursing back to the public mental health system. The initiative is boosting the numbers of mental health nurses by providing four weeks salary replacement and $1000 teaching support for every nurse recruited. These funds enable nurses who are new to mental health to receive intensive orientation and support in their first weeks in the role.

Mental Health Nursing Scholarships

Mental health nursing scholarships are also available for mental health innovations, post-graduate and enrolled nurse to registered nurse. For further information, refer to the Nursing and midwifery scholarships.

Mental Health Professional Online Development (MHPOD)

Mental Health Professional Online Development is a learning resource for people working in mental health. Based on the National Practice Standards for Mental Health, it draws on the evidence base for mental health care and contemporary practice wisdom. Aims include supporting the mental health workforce, and improving access to evidence-based educational programs.

If you are already registered for MHPOD, login to the MHPOD eLearning Portal. If accessing MHPOD from your home computer please check that you are using a recent version of software and that your pop-up-blocker is off.

For any queries or to register to access MHPOD, please contact your local health district/specialty network coordinator. If they are unable to assist, please email it@nswiop.nsw.edu.au.

Non Government Organisation (NGO) Workforce

The Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC) were allocated $1.2m over three years to increase the capacity of the mental health non-government sector for workforce development, policy planning and effective service delivery. In addition, the MHCC were also allocated $1.56m over three years (2009-2012) to establish and run a professional Development Scholarships Program to expand and support the NGO workforce further.

The funding allowed 465 eligible students to receive assistance to undertake mental health training in 6 identified training streams:

  • Certificate IV Mental Health
  • Diploma of Community Services (Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs)
  • Mental Health Connect
  • Clinical Pathways
  • Certificate IV Training and Assessment
  • Advance Diploma of Community Sector Management.

For more information on these scholarships and the MHCC program, please visit the Mental Health Coordinating Council.

The NSW Mental Health Workforce Program

To acknowledge the importance of workforce development, the NSW Mental Health Program Council established a Mental Health Workforce Development Sub-Committee specifically tasked to develop a Mental Health Workforce Development Strategy.

Initial emerging priorities for this strategy include the:

  • identification of priority projects that will provide immediate gains for the mental health workforce supply
  • development of a coordinated Education, Training and Support Plan for the mental health workforce
  • development of recruitment and retention strategies
  • linking to other Mental Health Workforce Development activities, such as Aboriginal Mental Health, Older People’s Mental Health and Child and Adolescent Mental Health programs
  • building linkages to broader health workforce initiatives both at State and Commonwealth levels.
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Page Updated: Thursday 13 December 2018
Contact page owner: Mental Health Branch