“It will take about 10 years to get to the point of graduating our students to meet the demand that we have now. Another 200 places would bridge that gap more quickly,” she said.
However, the ACPA was more ambitious in its 2022-23 pre-budget submission, calling for a doubling of post-graduate psychology university places from 1000 to 2000 places.
Hunt said shortages were especially critical in parts of rural and regional Australia and incentives such as scholarships or wiping student debt, which have been used to lure doctors and nurses to the regions, should also be offered to psychologists.
Professor Allan Fels, chair of Mind Australia, one of the largest providers of mental health support services, said any efforts to address workforce shortages should not be limited to clinical psychologists.
“The workforce problems include emerging shortages of nurses, social workers, and psychiatrists, particularly in the public health system, and the issue is magnified in rural and regional Australia,” Fels said.
“My concern is that every few years, mental health rises to the top of the policy priorities but quickly is overtaken by other demands on the public purse. Currently, we’re seeing the demands of defence, aged care, disability and other areas of health have surpassed it as a priority,” Fels said.
Health Minister Mark Butler, who will host a forum on January 30 with key experts and advocates on how to make Medicare-backed mental health services more sustainable and equitable, said the government was committed to “expanding the range and supply of psychological services for everyone”.
He said this would involve “building the mental health workforce and developing new digital and direct models of service”.
Coalition health spokeswoman Anne Ruston said without addressing underlying workforce issues, the government’s decision not to extend the temporary additional Medicare subsidised psychology sessions would put more pressure on mental health practitioners.
“The Labor government should be providing tangible solutions to address the critical issue of workforce shortages in the mental health sector instead of cutting additional psychology sessions at a time when Australians are facing natural disasters, cost of living pressures, and household energy bills are skyrocketing,” Ruston said.
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