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Service wins award

Wednesday, 22nd September, 2010

Trainee Joel Meharg, program co-ordinator Verina Crawford, and trainee Sharlene Cruickshank are pleased with the award-winning program. Trainee Joel Meharg, program co-ordinator Verina Crawford, and trainee Sharlene Cruickshank are pleased with the award-winning program.

The area mental health service won two national awards recently.

The service won the Gold Achievement Award for rural services for its Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program at a ceremony in Sydney. The award recognised the contribution this program made in supporting Aboriginal people to obtain a university degree in mental health, and to work in the service asfully qualified mental health workers.

Clinical Leader Aboriginal Mental Health, Verina Crawford, said she was very proud of the award. “What we want to do is . . . to give people accessto services,” Ms Crawford said. Ms Crawford started as a trainee in the program ten years ago, and said that graduates and trainees were very important to the continuation of the program.

“We have to keep our program sustainable,” she said. “A lot of graduates continue to work through the service (after they finish).” There have been 13 graduates since the program started ten years ago.

NSW Aboriginal Workforce Co-ordinator Tom Brideson said the award also recognised the program’s contribution to making mental health services in more culturally appropriate and accessible to Aboriginal people.

This is the 4th award the program had won over five years. Since 2005, the program has won awards such as a Premier’s Award and a NSW Aboriginal Health Award, this year. The area health service also won a silver award at the recent Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Services conference for innovation andpartnership.

This award was for the establishment of the National Centre for Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid in Orange. Graduate Sharlene Cruickshank said the Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program gave her the opportunity to be close to her family after previously working in Victoria as an Enrolled Nurse.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to be (involved) in the community.” She said she had gained a lot of experience during the course, and within 8 to 12 months, was working as part of the community mental health acute crisis team.

Joel Meharg is a trainee who speaks highly of the program. “(There is) good support in the work place, and going to uni and learning (is great). You’ve got to have your support.” He said being taught in different communities and by different people added to the experience.

“Having the opportunity to sit in with different people (is great).” 

There are currently 19 trainee positions in the program, with eight of those in the Broken Hill and Dareton region. 

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