Last night’s 2023-24 Federal Budget was a mixed bag for the psychology sector. The dedicated mental health budget totalled $586 million, with $91.3m to increase the future of the psychology workforce.
While more funding is always welcome, when compared with the $5.7 billion committed to increased access to doctors, the investment into mental health care doesn’t even register as a blip.
AAPi has a seat at the table with government and will be continuing to advocate for increased mental health accessibility, including to increase the rebate and recognition for all psychologists.
- AAPi is pleased to see the $91.3m announced in the Federal Budget to increase the future of the psychology workforce, with a focus on additional psychology postgraduate places, internships and supervised training sessions for provisional psychologists. This additional funding will help to slowly increase the number of psychologists available across Australia.
- Much-needed mental health support is also being prioritised for First Nations people, workplaces, children and young people, people with eating disorders, refugees and migrants, our LGBTIQA+ community, those bereaved by a suicide loss, and individuals and communities impacted by natural disasters.
- The budget included an increase in funding for some additional psychology university places, 500 internships and 2000 supervisor training sessions, which AAPi fought hard for.
- Medicare rebates will increase at higher indexation levels- but not to the extent necessary for psychology. We will provide further information on this in the coming days.
- Significant Medicare reforms are coming, including digital updates and multidisciplinary care.
- $300,000 to redesign psychology higher education pathways in partnership with the sector to support longer-term reform.
- The Government has provisioned funding for future mental health priorities in response to the Better Access evaluation. AAPi will play a key role in this.
- The government has failed to action AAPi’s Better Access request for a $150 client rebate for all psychologists across the board, something that would very quickly increase the accessibility of psychologists for Australians. It is unfathomable that 70% of psychologists in Australia are on a lower-level rebate, and the public and private sectors mostly prioritise only one area of practice endorsement.
- The good news is that AAPi is part of this ongoing discussion, and is already in conversations with relevant Ministers and department staff about this pressing issue. As the budget notes, funding has been provisioned for future mental health reform priorities in response to the Better Access evaluation. AAPi is urging the government to direct this towards abolishing the two-tier system, raising the rebate, rural and remote access to psychologists, and supporting future psychologists to enter the profession.
- This Budget did not address psychologists' key concerns regarding chronic underfunding of pivotal services such as Medicare, public mental health, rural and remote services and school psychologists. Action is needed now, not at a further unspecified date.
- AAPi is also concerned about the potential for reduced access to psychologists under the NDIS. Psychologists play a vital role in supporting NDIS participants and people with a lived experience of disability. We will continue to implore the government to ensure that psychologists can continue to help these clients live full and meaningful lives.
We continue to be a loud voice, calling the government to help psychologists, help more. And we have a receptive government that is heeding this message - but this must come with a sense of urgency.
Thank you for adding your voices to this call for change as we join together to make it possible for more Australians to access a diversity of psychologists.
Executive Director, AAPi