Report shows significant growth in the community mental health workforce

A new report from Mental Health Coordinating Council finds the community mental health workforce is growing at pace, and demand for a larger and more skilled workforce is set to continue.

The Mental Health Workforce Profile: Community Managed Organisations Report 2021 launched in September 2021 collects much needed data on the people driving community managed mental health services.

The report shows the workforce in the community managed mental health sector is growing at 6.5% each year, outstripping other workforces in the mental health system.

By comparison, the total mental health nursing workforce is increasing by around 1.5% per year and the psychiatrist workforce at 1.9% per year.

These figures confirm the sector’s significant contribution to mental health services in New South Wales, with the sector accounting for just over one-quarter of the total mental health workforce in NSW.

Key findings
Quarter of all

Data shows workers in the community sector represent just over one-quarter of all mental health workers in New South Wales. The size of the overall paid full-time equivalent workforce is 3,911 workers.

Peer Workers on the rise

Peer Workers have increased in both numbers and proportion of the workforce since 2019. They now make up 14% of the NSW community mental health workforce.

Female dominated and young

More than 70% of all workers at community managed organisations are female. Nearly two-thirds of the workforce (64%) are aged under 45 years.

Workforce composition changing

More than half of all workers in the community managed workforce are Mental Health Support Workers (55%). This is down from 2019 when they made up 63%. Along with Peer Workers, the other job category seeing growth is Support Coordinators, now at 12% of the workforce.

Casual and contract

Almost half the workforce in the sector is employed on a temporary contract or casual basis. Many organisations surveyed expressed concerns this high rates of contract and casual employment could undermine future recruitment goals.

Well educated

Overall, the mental health community managed workforce is better qualified than the general Australian workforce. Recovery Coaches and Support Coordinators tend to hold the highest levels of education. Almost a third of all Mental Health Support Workers hold a degree, a further 59% a VET level qualification.

Future growth

A larger and more skilled workforce in the future is forecast in the report. Organisations surveyed identify future demand coming from primary health networks commissioning mental health services, alongside ongoing demand from the NDIS.

MHCC carried out the first landmark workforce survey in 2019 to quantify and characterise people who work in the community mental health sector. Prior to this work, little workforce data existed for the sector.

Community mental health organisations support thousands of people in NSW experiencing mental health concerns. The non-profit sector specialises in practical social support to foster better outcomes for people.


Explore the Mental Health Workforce Profile 2021