Australia’s mental health workforce’s size and skills will be bolstered with hundreds of scholarships for health professionals to complete further training.
The scholarship program will support 126 nurses to do post graduate courses in mental health and 152 allied health practitioners to do tertiary, vocational and continuing professional development courses.
The program will also give priority to health care workers who live and work in rural and regional areas.
The roles come in response to a mental health workforce that is “stretched, particularly during the pandemic”, federal health minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Monday.
The $5.15 million for the the scholarships are part of $2.3 billion investment in mental health and suicide prevention in the 2021–22 budget.
“Providing opportunities for health care professionals to access appropriate training in mental health and suicide prevention will increase the numbers of skilled professionals to meet demand for services now and into the future,” Hunt said.
David Coleman, the assistant minister to the prime minister for mental health and suicide prevention, said investing in mental health training for health care professionals would strengthen the career pathway.
“The program will provide 126 postgraduate nursing scholarships for courses related to mental health and suicide prevention,” Coleman said.
“It will also support up to 152 allied health practitioners including psychologists working in mental health and suicide prevention for related tertiary, vocational and continuing professional development courses and clinical placements.”
Regional health minister David Gillespie said the program aimed to address mental health workforce pressure nationally with a focus on rural and remote areas.
“Access to skilled mental health workers shouldn’t be dependent on where you live,” Gillespie said. “Upskilling health workers who are already living and working in rural and remote Australia is a great way to expand their skills and meet their communities’ needs.”
A minimum of 5% of scholarships will also be available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants as first priority. Applicants can express interest from November through the Australian College of Nursing.