PACFA responds to Higher Education Reforms

PACFA has made a submission in response to the Australian Government’s Job-Ready Graduates Package draft legislation, to voice our serious concerns about the potential impact of the proposed higher education funding reforms on the future of Australia’s mental health workforce.

The Job-Ready Graduates Package draft legislation proposes sweeping reforms to Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding clusters which are intended to streamline tertiary funding and provide target investment in a sustainable and skilled future workforce. However, the reforms take an inconsistent and potentially damaging approach to funding classifications across mental health professions which will result in significantly higher course fees and create a significant disincentive for enrolment across a range of mental health professions, including Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Under the proposed reforms, the out-of-pocket cost for a range of social science and welfare studies disciplines including Counselling, Social Work and Psychology will more than double, from $6,804 to $14,500 for a year of full-time study. Meanwhile, the Government contribution to these courses will drop from just over $11,000 per year of full-time study to only $1,100, signifying a major disinvestment in the future mental health workforce.

PACFA’s submission assesses the impact of the proposed funding reforms on Counselling and Psychotherapy and other mental health professions, provides context for the dangers posed by these funding changes within the broader reform agenda for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and makes two key recommendations:

  • The Australian Government must prioritise amendments to the Higher Education Reforms Package to ensure a sustainable, diverse and multi-disciplinary mental health workforce through a consistent approach to funding across all mental health professions.
  • The Higher Education Reforms Package should be informed by the broader Mental Health and Suicide Prevention agenda, with a particular focus on the Higher Education sector’s capacity to respond to increased demand for mental health workers, including the costs of training, future workforce training requirements and integrated approaches to training.

Download and read the full submission from the PACFA website.