PACFA welcomes expansion of mental health support in Victorian schools 

5 July 2022

PACFA has welcomed the Victorian Government’s new funding for mental health in schools and expansion of the ‘mental health practitioner’ definition in the new Victorian Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill

The inclusion of counsellors as mental health practitioners within the Victorian mental health legislation follows years of PACFA advocacy to the Victorian Government. As ‘mental health practitioners’ are employed in Victorian secondary schools and the Victorian Government is currently recruiting for these positions, the expansion of the definition of ‘mental health practitioner’ within the Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill to include counsellors is welcome news. 

Mental health practitioners provide short term intervention for students with mild to moderate mental health needs and liaise with the relevant internal and external services where students need more intensive support. 

New mental health legislation was a recommendation of the Victorian Royal Commission into the Mental Health System and will come into effect approximately a year after it passes Parliament. The Bill was introduced to the Victorian Parliament in June 2022.  

On 21 June Victorian Government announced a $200m investment in expanding the Mental Health in Primary Schools program to every government and low-fee non-government primary school in Victoria – 1800 school campuses. By 2026 every school will employ a Mental Health and Wellbeing Leader to implement a whole-school approach to wellbeing, the government said. 

The Victorian Government has contacted PACFA about consulting with our organisation regarding regulations that will support the Bill, including the qualifications counsellors will need to be 'mental health practitioners' and policy for implementing for the Mental Health and Wellbeing Leader program in primary schools.

‘Children and adolescents in Victoria have endured long periods in lockdown over 2 years due to the Covid pandemic, so PACFA is delighted about this additional funding to mental health services in schools and an expanded definition of ‘mental health practitioner’ that will support the recognition of the counselling workforce,’ PACFA President Dr Di Stow said.