Crucial funding for rural and regional mental health workforce missing in today’s budget

Despite hopes for funding to bolster mental health workforce in rural, regional and remote Australia, psychiatrists say today’s budget has failed to address the shortage and uneven distribution of mental health workers.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists President Dr Elizabeth Moore said the rates of suicide, self-harm and emergency admissions for mental illness increase with remoteness in Australia.

“Over the past few months, we have reached a national consensus on the workforce crisis within our mental health system. Not only are there not enough psychiatrists, but they are also unevenly distributed. 

“This critical and chronic shortage disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and those living in rural, regional, and remote areas.

Today’s budget announced $29.7 million over three years for 61 Medicare Mental Health Centre, at least 30 of which will be in rural and regional Australia. But psychiatrists are deeply concerned that without an available workforce, these initiatives will fail to make a real and lasting impact on the mental health crisis happening in rural and regional Australia. 

Dr Moore said the demand for mental health services in the bush continues to outstrip the capacity of the rural and regional mental health system to provide care and support.

“Only 14% of Australian psychiatrists work rurally, but 29% of the population – around 7 million people – live in regional, rural and remote areas.

“For some of the most vulnerable people in the bush, accessing essential mental health care can even be impossible. Help is too far away, costly, delayed due to long wait times or simply unavailable.”

“Despite glaring evidence that communities in the bush are at higher risk of suicide and mental health disorders, per capital spend on mental health services in regional and rural communities is significantly lower than in the cities.

“The workforce, the community and the government all know that there is a serious shortage of psychiatrists in regional and remote Australia, and rural communities are paying the price.

“Today’s budget is a missed opportunity to invest in substantially growing the mental health workforce in country Australia and placing them in areas of the greatest need.”

Previous AIHW data has indicated that there are as few as zero psychiatrists in many very remote parts of Australia, causing a big gap in mental health service delivery for rural communities.

“We need targeted investment in the rural and regional mental health workforce, funneled towards areas of greatest need and backed by data that psychiatrists have been calling on the government to collect.

“Without this investment, rural and remote Australians will continue to miss out on life saving and essential mental health care and treatment.”

“Funding for new facilities is always welcome. But without enough specialists to treat complex, chronic and severe mental illnesses, hospitals are merely buildings, and clinics are just rooms.

“Investing in the rural mental health workforce is a lasting solution that addresses the core problem we have at hand.

“We want to work with the Government to bridge the gap that currently exists and ensure that every Australian, regardless of their postcode, receives the timely and affordable care they need,” Dr Moore said.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Dishi Gahlowt on +61 437 315 911, or email

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or

In New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or











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