NACCHO News Alert : Australian-first degree training Indigenous students to treat Indigenous mental health


The Indigenous Clinical Mental Health (Practitioner) Major is designed to provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to work as an Indigenous mental health practitioner. It aims to empower and strengthen the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach that encompasses traditional healing practices in the context of mental health best care and treatment.

This course will provide you with comprehensive mental health strategies, skills, knowledge and treatment methodologies to engage and interrelate with Aboriginal community mental health patients who may be suffering with a mental health illness. You’ll learn how to demonstrate and apply clinical skills when conducting a health assessment of a mentally unwell patient, identify intervention strategies, and apply health restoration and health reorganisation skills during an acute phase of the client’s disease.

This course will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to work in clinical registration and as a mental health practitioner within a mental health clinic, hospital and/or facility.

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Australian-first degree training Indigenous students to treat Indigenous mental health full story

ELEANOR HALL: A new university degree that will train Indigenous students to become specialist mental health practitioners is drawing praise from health and suicide prevention experts.

The Curtin University in Western Australia is running the course, as Lucy Carter reports.

See details of course here

Australian-first degree training Indigenous students to treat Indigenous mental health

LUCY CARTER: The death by suicide of a 10-year-old girl in Western Australia’s Kimberley region earlier this month shocked Australia.

The suicide rate among Indigenous Australians in that state has spiked recently, with 19 reported deaths since Christmas.

It’s hoped a new degree from Curtin University will change that. The course will train indigenous Australians to treat mental health issues within their communities.

Trish Hill-Wall is the university’s course coordinator.

TRISH HILL-WALL: The degree was implemented through an [inaudible] and engagement in consultation with the Aboriginal community, specifically to address the mental health issues of Aboriginal people who were basically being cared for by family and were undiagnosed.

LUCY CARTER: The program will run through the university’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies.

It aims to prepare students to work within a mental health clinic by allowing them to spend a significant amount of time in practical placements.

TRISH HILL-WALL: Students can go before the clinical registration board and become clinical registered practitioners, rather than just working as a rehab worker or not being able to refer or treat or medicate Aboriginal people in the community. That’s the big difference.

LUCY CARTER: Mrs Hill-Wall says students will graduate armed with cultural understanding as well as clinical know-how.

TRISH HILL-WALL: I think it’s very important. One, because we know the kinship ties. We also understand the social systems, the socialisation practices, the cultural anomalies and norms and beliefs of Aboriginal people.

LUCY CARTER: Professor Pat Dudgeon is a professor at the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia, as well as a commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission.

PAT DUDGEON: Given that it is being offered through the Centre for Aboriginal Studies, and I know that the people involved are very good Aboriginal academics, and I’m sure they’d be working across different departments to gather the best of clinical practice, but also to round that into Aboriginal cultural knowledges and ways. So I’m quite excited about that news.

LUCY CARTER: She says it could save lives.

PAT DUDGEON: We had a look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest release on Indigenous suicide, and that is increasing. And that’s just part of the picture.

There’s a whole lot of other mental health issues and social determinants that we need to address, so this program and others like it are an important initiative to start turning that all around.

LUCY CARTER: Josephine Cashman, from the prime minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, is also excited about Curtin’s course.

JOSEPHINE CASHMAN: Having the capability build on the ground with community people is the key to solving this issue. We need capability build or local service providers and Aboriginal people who understand the dynamics about community.

It’s fantastic because they’re learning the practical and theoretical skills, but then they can apply their cultural capital from living and working in an Aboriginal community to solve their own problem.

LUCY CARTER: She’s pleased the course is also open to up to 10 non-Indigenous students a year.

JOSEPHINE CASHMAN: It’s also important to have the option for Indigenous people. They might want to see a non-Indigenous professional, and I’m glad to see it’s also offered in a limited degree to some non-Indigenous people.

It’s actually meeting the needs… and see, sometimes you have Aboriginal workers who, you know, they’ve got all the cultural capital, they understand the dynamics, but they don’t have the theoretical and practical training because they’ve lived in remote Australia.

So it’s really, you know, it’s so good that this investment’s been made in those people who have that, you know… and we’ve got to look at them having specific understanding of their community.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s Josephine Cashman from the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council ending that report from Lucy Carter.

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