Evaluation of the Bringing them home and Indigenous mental health programs
11.3.2 Actions to address workforce issues
Requiring minimum skill levels for Link-Up and BTH workersConsideration should be given to requiring Link-Up and BTH services to meet one or both of the following requirements:
- Only employ workers with certain minimum skill/ qualification levels, including both formal qualifications and cultural sensitivity skills. This could be tied to standard awards in relevant fields, such as employment standards for the industry. In relation to BTH Counsellors, consideration should be given to the role of formal mental health qualifications, bearing in mind that: it is desirable to have Aboriginal staff members, but Aboriginal people are less likely than non- Aboriginal people to have these qualifications; and those with formal mental health qualifications such as psychology may be more prone to adopting a narrower, more traditional clinical model of practice than is desirable here.
- Where not all staff have all of the skills/ qualifications ideally required, ensure that the team as a whole possesses all of these skills, and seeing that there are processes in place to ensure effective skill-sharing within the team (eg a non-Aboriginal BTH Counsellor with mental health qualifications works closely with an Aboriginal BTH worker who has cultural sensitivity skills but no formal qualifications).
- Providing timely introductory training for new employees who are new to the Aboriginal SEWB sector and/or the Link-Up/BTH Counselling services.
It would also be beneficial for the standard contract with Link-Up and (particularly) BTH services to specify the maximum amount that can be retained by the service to cover management/administrative costs. This decision should be made in consultation with the State/Territory OATSIH offices, other government agencies which fund Aboriginal services (eg FaCSIA) and other stakeholders with expertise relating to Aboriginal health/SEWB service delivery.
It should be noted that two new packages will complement and support the development of skills in relation to the four programs:
- The Health Training Package recently endorsed by the National Quality Council. As noted in Appendix B, the community care stream of the Aboriginal health certificate to be provided under this package will include Aboriginal SEWB issues.
- The Council of Australian Governments mental health package, which is currently being rolled out. This $1.9 billion package (over five financial years) includes a measure 'Improving the Capacity of Workers in Indigenous Communities' (funded at $20.8 million). Aboriginal Health Workers, counsellors and clinic staff in Aboriginal health services will be trained to identify and address mental illness and associated substance use issues in Aboriginal communities, to recognise the early signs of mental illness and make referrals to treatment where appropriate. Support staff, such as transport and administration staff, will be trained in mental health first aid. The measure also provides an additional ten mental health worker positions. Top of page
Actions to improve the pool of potential workersTo increase the potential pool of suitable applicants for Link-Up and BTH positions, OATSIH could:
- Establish scholarships and traineeships for Aboriginal people wanting to undertake suitable education and training courses which would qualify them to work as Link-Up or BTH workers. A condition of these could be working as a Link-Up or BTH worker for a certain minimum period (eg two years) following completion of the education/training course. This could be part of the planned OATSIH initiative (as part of the COAG mental health budget) which will create 25 scholarships under the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme for Aboriginal students to undertake studies in the mental health discipline.
- Liaise with other Commonwealth and State government or non-government organisations which provide scholarships for Aboriginal people to undertake education/training courses, to assess whether any of these organisations could earmark some positions for applicants wishing to undertake the suitable education and training courses mentioned above. For example, the Department of Human Services in Victoria has an 'In Train' scholarship program for Aboriginal people to conduct study in fields relevant to the work of the Department, including counselling and psychology, and some BTH Counsellors have participated in this. The Department of Justice in Victoria also has a similar scholarship scheme.
A complementary measure which might have greater impact in a shorter timeframe would be to require one or more of the SEWB RCs to develop, and for all the Centres to deliver an accredited training program which can be undertaken by Aboriginal SEWB workers preparing them specifically for undertaking employment as Link-Up and BTH workers. Top of page
Actions to ensure BTH and Link-Up workers have access to regular training and professional support
- Requiring in the contract with Link-Up and BTH services that all new Link-Up workers and BTH Counsellors receive timely induction training into the sector and the work they are required to undertake.
- Developing a training guide/textbook for use by Link-Up and BTH services.
- Requiring in the contract with Link-Up and BTH services that all workers to undertake a certain minimum amount of training annually (eg according to a standard 'points' system), and reporting this to OATSIH on an annual basis. This is a system used for various other professions, such as lawyers, market researchers and financial planners. It would be particularly beneficial for all BTH and Link-Up staff to undertake the Muramali program or similar, which concerns Aboriginal SEWB with particular reference to the Stolen Generations.
- Requiring in the contract with BTH services not only that all BTH Counsellors receive professional supervision and debriefing from a qualified mental health professional (as currently), but also that the services report annually to OATSIH on the frequency and source of the supervision received by each Counsellor. This should be provided by an external professional on either a one-to-one or group basis where a qualified mental health professional is not available within the auspice organisation.
- Requiring SEWB RCs to provide professional supervision and debriefing to staff of the Link-Up and BTH services where services cannot provide this themselves, or facilitating access to this through brokerage arrangements.
- OATSIH providing separate line items in the standard Link-Up and BTH funding contracts for
- supervision by an external mental health professional, where such a person is not available in-house
- training for workers
- back-filling of positions to cover workers attending training.
- Requiring that all SEWB RCs be registered as RTOs, so that all the training they conduct can be officially recognised and accredited. This will make it more appealing for workers to attend the training, and help justify it to their managers.