Aboriginal Mental Health Worker Program: The Challenge of Supporting Aboriginal Involvement in Mental Health Care in the Remote Community Context
Author: Harris, A., & Robinson, G.
Publisher: Advances in Mental Health, 6(1), 15-25.
The Aboriginal Mental Health Worker (AMHW) Program ‘Working Both Ways’ was established by the Top End Division of General Practice with the aim of funding the placement of one or two AMHWs in eight remote community health centres in the Northern Territory from late 2002 to 2005. The program was the first of its kind in Australia where general practitioners were provided with a cultural link to the mental health care of a patient via the locally based AMHW.
This paper examines key features of the program and the originating partnership, the degree of integration of AMHWs in health centre processes and the provision of support for the development of the AMHW role in community mental health work.
While there were examples in this program of AMHWs providing highly valued services within their communities, the evaluation showed that the program did not achieve clear commitments to develop mental health practice around the AMHWs' role. There was variability in levels of local managerial support for the AMHWs, vulnerability to staff turnover and other discontinuities, as well as tensions in views about what the role of the AMHWs should be. Together these factors undermined the sustainability of positive achievements within the program.
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