The Djirruwang Aboriginal Mental Health Worker Education and Training Program

Impact: Cultural Impact, Public policy Impact, Quality of life Impact, Social Impact

Impact story summary

The Djirruwang program began in 1993 as a pilot Indigenous Mental Health Outreach Workers Training Program, initiated by Indigenous health professionals. By 1998, the Djirruwang program was delivered through a partnership between the state government health authority (NSW Health), the Djirruwang Steering Committee (which includes industry professionals and Indigenous leaders) and Charles Sturt University.

The program trains a specialised workforce to address Indigenous over-representation of people with depression, psychotic disorders and high suicide rates. The program incorporates mainstream clinical mental health-care with cultural elements. This approach provides increased understanding of mental ill health and distress and its negative impacts on Indigenous peoples social and emotional wellbeing through the lens of the ongoing impact of colonisation still confronting Australia along with current health and social circumstances.

The program was developed and refined by clinicians, Indigenous communities, NSW Health and Charles Sturt University working in close partnership and reciprocal learning to produce a national award-winning curriculum and delivery (the program won the: NSW Premier’s Award for Excellence in 2010; Australian Learning and Teaching Council Awards in 2008 and 2009; Mental Health Association Award for Mental Health Matters in 2007; NSW Health Aboriginal Health Award for Innovative Aboriginal and Career Development Program in 2005). The course developed from an Associate Diploma in the mid-1990s, to a Diploma in 1998 and then became a Degree program in 2000. In 2002, the curriculum was revised and underpinned by the National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce (the program was the first university course in Australia to embed the National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce into the curricula). The Degree is available to Indigenous people across Australia, but the original partnership with NSW Health endures with approximately one third of current Djirruwang students being NSW Health trainees.
Impact date19932020
Category of impactCultural Impact, Public policy Impact, Quality of life Impact, Social Impact
Impact levelBenefit

Countries where impact occurred

  • Australia

Keywords

  • Mental health
  • Indigenous
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • Cultural knowledge