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Release of landmark workforce study of ACT community-managed mental health workforce

Nearly two-thirds of people who work in mental health in the ACT are employed through charities and other community-managed organisations, according to the first comprehensive territory-wide study of the community mental health sector’s workforce.

The ACT community-managed mental health workforce profile 2023 , commissioned by the Mental Health Community Coalition ACT (MHCC ACT), details the findings from a comprehensive employer survey of 55 organisations across the ACT

“The findings of this report provide invaluable and unprecedented insights into the size, nature and context of the community-managed mental health workforce, demonstrating both the valuable contribution of the workforce and the myriad challenges it is currently facing,” said Corinne Dobson, acting CEO of MHCC ACT.

The report paints a picture of a diverse workforce operating across a wide range of roles and contexts, employing 2,051 paid workers, which equates to 1,231 full-time equivalent positions, in addition to 1,143 volunteer workers. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of the workforce are women, and almost 70% are less than 45 years of age.

The report also reveals disturbingly high levels of employment insecurity, with around half of all workers either in casual or temporary employment – a rate that is substantially higher than the rates of casual and temporary employment in both the wider Australian workforce and the ACT public sector mental health workforce.

“The precarious and insecure nature of employment across our sector threatens the sustainability of our workforce and is contributing to difficulties attracting, recruiting and retaining appropriately skilled and experienced workers.

“Nearly half of the organisations surveyed have had vacant positions in their mental health workforce in the past six months, and of these over half indicated vacancies were difficult to fill. Difficulties recruiting and retaining staff is contributing to stress and burnout among the existing workforce, along with increased service waiting lists and turn away rates”, said Ms Dobson.

The survey findings indicate workforce demand is only set to intensify as both the ACT and federal government seek to implement a range of reforms to the mental health system.

“This report points to the urgent need for a clear roadmap to ensure a sustainable and skilled mental health workforce in the ACT now and into the future.

“Historically, our workforce has not been a policy priority for governments, responsibility for it is fragmented nationally and locally, and the information governments need to better understand our workforce and plan for the future is lacking.

“We welcome the Mental Health Workforce Action Plan currently being developed by the ACT Government, but if this is to support a sustainable and skilled mental health workforce now and into the future it must be underpinned by funding and policy commitments that recognise the vital role of the community-managed workforce.

“The community-managed mental health sector has endured years of underfunding and upheaval. The pressures of increasing demand, complexity in people’s mental health needs, and chronic under-resourcing and understaffing are simply unsustainable.

“Our sector is experiencing unprecedented demand. We must recognise and address the challenges faced by those who deliver these invaluable services,” Ms Dobson emphasised.

“We hope this important report will underscore the vital contribution of the community-managed mental health workforce and the challenges it faces, and we look forward to working with all levels of government towards practical solutions.”

Key report findings

  • The community-managed mental health workforce accounts for an estimated 60% of the total ACT mental health workforce.
  • Approximately 61% of the workforce are female.
  • Nearly 70% of workers are less than 45 years of age.
  • The workforce encompasses a wide range of roles and occupations, with mental health support workers (26%) comprising the largest workforce category, followed by support coordinators (9%), counsellors (7%), consumer peer workers (6%) and social workers (6%).
  • Less than one in ten (7.6%) of the ACT community-managed workforce are in designated peer worker roles.
  • Nearly 20% of paid workers in the community-managed mental health sector are employed under fixed-term (non-ongoing) contracts, and another 30% are paid as casuals on an hourly rate (compared to 23% of the wider Australian workforce employed casually, and 3.4% of the total Australian workforce on fixed-term contracts; in the ACT public sector mental health workforce, 1.7% are casual and 15.7% are temporary).  
  • Rates of full-time employment are lower than the wider workforce; of those employed on a permanent basis, only 53% are full-time, and the full-time equivalent conversion factor across the workforce (0.60) is far lower than that of the wider workforce.
  • For organisations with difficult-to-fill vacancies, most were concerned about the wellbeing and levels of stress/burnout among staff, with 35% reporting being ‘Extremely concerned’ or ‘Very concerned’, and 59% ‘Moderately concerned’ (59%).

Please note an accessible PDF will be available in July.

Media contact: Rahni Orr Deas 0493 388 756 |

MHCC ACT is the peak body for community-managed mental health services in the ACT. Find out more about MHCC ACT at

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