Authors: Tom Brideson
Event: 2003 TheMHS Conference
Subject: indigenous, torres strait islander, Charles Sturt University (CSU). THE DJIRRUWANG PROGRAM
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: This paper is designed to complement the recent 2002 Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Position Statement, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Workforce. The Statement makes a strong case for the need to recognise and support the valuable contributions Aboriginal Mental Health Workers make in mainstream mental health services, and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector.
The paper focuses on the area mental health training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people offered at Charles Sturt University (CSU). The Djirruwang Program offers a Bachelor of Health Science (Mental Health) to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to gain the necessary skills and qualifications to work in the mental health field. The course has increased its quality by the inclusion of the recently produced National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce (2002) into the clinical experiences for students undertaking compulsory mental health placements. The program is attempting to create a critical mass of highly skilled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners to assist in dealing with the emerging mental health issues in their communities. Despite people being trained in mental health there is at times an attitude in the workplace that view a qualification obtained outside the five main mental health disciplines as less worthy. Whether this is real or perceived it has the potential to place limited recognition on the workers’ qualities. This is one of the main reasons the course has attempted to make significant links to the mental health industry. CSU is the first university in Australia to incorporate the National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce into the curriculum content and competency assessments.
The issues highlighted in this paper are related to the development of service responsibilities. There exist a multitude of documents that highlight the issues and policy documents at all levels of service provision that are essentially the guiding documents for implementation into practice. The First and Second National Mental Health Plans highlighted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health issues as areas of high need and generally these needs remain unmet and these issues are service responsibilities. The development of the Third National Mental Health Plan may make some inroads to addressing this deficiency and ensuring service responsibility to vulnerable populations.