The Albanese Government, along with all state and territory governments, have developed and endorsed a plan to build Australia’s mental health workforce.
The 10-year National Mental Health Workforce Strategy will guide coordinated action over the next decade to ensure Australians can get the mental health care they need where and when they need it.
With demand for mental health services outstripping supply and a workforce unevenly distributed across the country, the Strategy sets out a clear plan to attract, train, maximise, support, and retain a diverse workforce that can meet the current and future needs of all Australians.
This includes opportunities to grow the rural and remote workforce and increase the representation of First Nations people and other priority populations within the mental health workforce.
The Albanese Government has funded some priority initiatives under the Strategy as part of the $586.9 million investment in mental health and suicide prevention in the 2023-24 Budget.
This includes $91.3 million to address acute bottlenecks in the psychology training pipeline, including:
- creating 500 new postgraduate psychology places
- funding 500 one-year internships for provisional psychologists
- providing 2,000 fully subsidised supervisor training places, including 1,000 refresher places.
- redesigning psychology higher education pathways to support longer term reform.
$17.8 million is also being invested to upskill the broader health workforce in mental health, including undergraduate nurses, midwives and allied health students, as well as develop national standards for counsellors and psychotherapists.
This builds on other mental health workforce investments, including:
- $18.3 million for the National Mental Health Pathways to Practice Program Pilot
- $32 million for the continuation of National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health.
Comprehensive mental health reform is contingent on having an available workforce.
The independent review of the Better Access program that provides Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions found that supply constraints in the workforce are impacting the equitable distribution of mental health services, with low-income households and people in rural and regional Australia missing out.
Improving the availability of the workforce will help build equity and availability of mental health services, while laying the foundations for longer-term reform.
The National Mental Health Workforce Strategy 2022-2032 is available online.
Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:
“The quality of the mental health system relies on its workforce. Australians deserve a mental health care system where people can get compassionate help from highly skilled professionals.
“This Strategy and investments cement the Albanese Government’s commitment to delivering a more equitable and sustainable mental health and suicide prevention system – one where no-one is left behind.
“The Strategy is a first step in the Government’s long-term goal to ensure our mental health care system has the workforce in place to care for Australians needing mental health support.”
Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister McBride:
“The backbone of our mental health care system is the dedicated professionals who work in it, but recent challenges have stretched our systems of care, and the mental health workforce.
"The National Mental Health Workforce Strategy outlines how we will get the right mix of professionals in the right place to support the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians no matter where they live.
“The Strategy is critical as we improve care to make mental health support affordable and more accessible.”