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Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce

The NSW Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce is a key initiative of NSW Health. It provides a framework for strengthening the NSW Aboriginal mental health workforce, contributes to NSW Health's goals of growing the Aboriginal workforce across the state and salary bands, and increases the culturally safety and accessibility of mental health services.

The Statewide Coordination Unit, NSW Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce supports the Aboriginal mental health workforce and undertakes strategic projects to enhance and grow this critical component of Aboriginal mental health.

Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Training Program

The Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Training Program provides Aboriginal people an opportunity to gain a clinical qualification with the skills to support Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people experiencing mental health issues.

Trainees undergo supervised workplace training and clinical placements over three years, while concurrently completing a Bachelor's degree, and are provided with full-time NSW Health employment for the duration of the traineeship.

Djirruwang Program

The preferred degree for trainees completing the traineeship is the Bachelor of Health Science (Mental Health) Djirruwang Program The degree is run by Charles Sturt University at Wagga Wagga and is open specifically to students of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent or both.

In 2020, the Djirruwang Program won the Engagement Australia Award for Excellence in Community Engagement: Closing the Gap. More information about the degree is available from Charles Sturt University


Yarnin Together

Learn about the program by reading Yarnin Together, with program updates published in:

Implementation review

The Implementation Review, conducted one year after the program commenced, was published in January 2009.

An independent evaluation of the program was completed by ATRD Consultants in 2013. The Executive Summary of the evaluation was published in November 2013.

Walk Together, Learn Together, Work Together

Walk Together, Learn Together, Work Together: A Practical Guide for the Training of Aboriginal Mental Health Professionals in New South Wales, (NSW Health, October 2010) is a resource-rich guide to program implementation, developed following extensive consultation. The guide is undergoing review, as at October 2014. Supporting Resources will be progressively updated as required. Throughout the guide the term Area Health Service should be read as Local Health District

Artwork guidelines

For further information about the program please contact Kristen Ella, Statewide Coordinator, Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program, email: Kristen.ella@health.nsw.gov.au

Aboriginal Mental Health Leadership Group

The Aboriginal Mental Health Leadership Group consists of clinical leaders, coordinators, district coordinators and managers in all local health districts and Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health. This group plays a vital role in supporting the rapidly emerging Aboriginal mental health workforce. Their roles:

  • support Aboriginal mental health trainees
  • Supports their Aboriginal mental health workforce
  • promote mental health service use by Aboriginal people, and provides clinical services
  • assists services to provide culturally appropriate care to Aboriginal communities.

The Statewide Coordination Unit for the Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce provides support and guidance to this group.

Stepping Up

Stepping Up is an online recruitment resource that has been specifically developed to support Aboriginal people interested in a career in public health in NSW to start their health journey and to support managers recruiting to positions.

Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellbeing Forum

The Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Forum is an annual event organised by the Ministry of Health in partnership with local health districts, specialty health networks, and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council. The forum is an information sharing, learning and networking opportunity for the Aboriginal mental health workforce.

Past forums

  • Due to the impact of COVID-19, the 2021 Forum was transitioned to an online format, making it the first 'NSW Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellbeing Webinar Series'. The Series was held in February 2021 and hosted by the Statewide Coordination Unit, Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program.
  • Due to COVID-19 the 2020 Forum was cancelled.
  • The 2019 Forum, hosted by the Justice and Forensic Mental Health Network, was held in Sydney.
  • The 2018 Forum, hosted by Western NSW Local Health District, was held on 2018 in Dubbo.
  • The 2017 Forum was hosted by South Eastern Sydney Local Health District on 14-15 June at Brighton Le Sands.
  • The 2016 Forum, hosted by Hunter New England Local Health District, was held on 22-23 June 2016 in the Hunter Valley.

Accredited Persons Program

The Accredited Persons program was introduced 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 issues.

Accredited Persons are empowered under the NSW Mental Health Act 2007 (the Act). Under section 19 of the Act, Accredited Persons are able to write Schedule 1 Certificates in order to detain and transport a 'mentally ill' or 'mentally disordered' person to a declared mental health facility for assessment. Accredited Persons can also perform an initial mental health assessment when a person presents to a declared mental health facility (i.e. a Form 1 assessment) under s27A of the Act.

Accredited Persons are senior mental health clinicians who have at least 5 years' experience of direct mental health consumer care. Accredited Persons are appointed in specific public health organisations (i.e. Local Health Districts/Specialty Health Networks (LHD/SHN). LHD/SHN's nominate clinicians to complete a two-day training workshop run by Health Education and Training (HETI), where they receive specialised training about the Mental Health Act. Once qualified they are appointed as an Accredited Person for three years. Accredited Persons are required to complete a reaccreditation course every three years in order to be reappointed as an Accredited Person for a further three years. Please see the Accredited Persons Program page on the HETI website for more information.

Eating disorders

The InsideOut Institute website contains information and resources on the evidence-based treatments currently available for eating disorders. This website includes a range of resources available for people with a lived experience of eating disorders, families and carers, clinicians and researchers.

Through the InsideOut Institute website, health professionals can gain access to a range of e-learning modules including introductory modules, training on inpatient management, dietetics specific training and how to conduct meal support. Health professionals working with patients with an eating disorder can access the Essentials Core Competency Training and a range of resources to support the delivery of evidenced-based treatment.

In addition, the InsideOut Institute website provides access to e-therapy, with online screening tools and assessments as well as a treatment services database to assist with building treatment pathways.

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.

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, email: idhealtheducation@unsw.edu.au

Mental Health Nursing Scholarships

For more information, refer to the Nursing and midwifery scholarships.

For more information about mental health nursing, please visit the Nursing and Midwifery, Mental Health Nursing page.

Mental Health Professional Online Development (MHPOD)

Mental Health Professional Online Development (MHPOD) 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.

For more information and access to MHPOD, please visit the MHPOD eLearning Portal.

Peer Work Scholarships and Training Program 2020-2022

NSW Health, in partnership with the Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC), offer a scholarships program for peer workers to complete a Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work.

The course is a nationally recognised qualification designed for people with a lived experience of mental illness to learn the skills needed to use their experience to support others on their recovery journey.
Scholarships are now available for the Cert IV Mental Health Peer Work qualification through the MHCC website.

Further information on NSW Health Peer Work initiatives can be found here.

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.

The Older People's Mental Health HETI Scholarships

Scholarships are available for clinicians and managers employed by NSW Health working with older people with mental health issues.

The Health Education and Training Institute (HETI) offers a number of post graduate courses speciliasing in older people's mental health under the umbrella of Applied Mental Health Studies. These courses/subjects are underpinned by recovery oriented care and include leadership, clinical care, therapeutics, research and clinical supervision.

Further information and application process, please refer to Older People’s Mental Health Scholarships.

Current as at: Monday 19 February 2024
Contact page owner: Mental Health