Introduction: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be vastly over-represented in mental health services in Australia. In Queensland, Indigenous people comprise 4.3% of the population yet make up 7.7% of people hospitalised for a mental illness. These statistics together with high rates of traumatic entry and seclusion suggest current service models do not meet the needs of Indigenous consumers. The Way Forward Project involves practice changes to the Indigenous Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs (IMHAOD) workforce in ways which enhance existing models of care to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members in two metropolitan hospital and health services in Brisbane, Australia. The project aims to provide culturally secure services at optimal times through enhancing and supporting the IMHAOD workforce within the Queensland public health system. It is proposed that changes in governance and reporting, workforce education, and modified, culturally appropriate care pathways, will result in a more effective utilisation of the IMHAOD workforce, with concomitant improvements in service user outcomes. This paper reports on the evaluation of the workforce component of the project.
Method: Thematic analysis (Bazeley, 2008; Ryan & Bernard, 2003) was used to analyse in-depth interviews with the IMHAOD workforce and their team leaders. Two researchers (one Indigenous and one non-Indigenous) independently read each interview and developed initial codes that represented individual pieces of data. Then three researchers (one Indigenous and two non-Indigenous) conducted a theming workshop in which categories of data were aggregated into higher order themes.
Data Collection: Data was collected over April and May 2016 with IMHAOD workers (n= 17) and their team leaders (n=12) exploring the experiences and opinions of staff in relation to the IMHAOD worker role, and the Way Forward implementation.
Results: Results indicated that the IMHAOD workforce has many strengths, however the role is complex and challenging. Moreover, there is a lack of cultural safety for the Indigenous workers, and limits on practice, which create difficulty for the Indigenous workers and undermine their effectiveness. The role of the Way Forward programme in enhancing cultural safety for the Indigenous workforce was highlighted.