Expansion of allied health student training placements to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Victoria

Rural, isolated, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in northeast and western Victoria will benefit from an expansion of allied health student training and placements thanks to a new project launched in Wangaratta by Federal Minister for Regional Health, the Honorable Dr David Gillespie MP.

The University of Melbourne’s ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing for Remote and Aboriginal Victorians’ project will help boost mental health expertise in several communities in the state.

The project is a partnership involving Gateway Health, Budja Budja Aboriginal Cooperative and the University of Melbourne’s Department of Rural Health, and Monash, Deakin and La Trobe Universities, funded through the Department of Health’s, ‘Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training’ program.

New student-led clinics will be established at Gateway Health in Wangaratta and Budja Budja Aboriginal Co-operative in Halls Gap to provide culturally safe and appropriate mental health services. Drawing on the skills of postgraduate psychology students and staff, the clinics will support a range of interprofessional service-learning placements in more remote communities working with local primary schools, sporting clubs, mother’s groups, men’s sheds, and other groups to deliver holistic mental health support programs. In total, there will be placements for 10 Masters of Clinical/Professional Psychology students and 44 allied health students by the second year of the program.

The Gateway Health clinic in Wangaratta student clinic will have telehealth facilities to support remote learning, increase access to student supervisors and, most importantly, provide referral, access and anonymity for high-risk individuals with mental health needs extending beyond the service-learning program.

As well as increasing workforce capacity in the region and providing additional services, training healthcare workers in the regions provides a workforce pathway and an understanding of the opportunities available for a successful career in regional and remote areas. The project also arms nursing and allied health students with mental health skills to use in future work with mental health patients and clients.