Word-of-mouth recruits trainees

The story of how word-of-mouth in a local community successfully filled trainee positions.


The Local Health District (LHD) had decided to partner with a local TAFE in providing several Youth Mental Health Worker Traineeships to Aboriginal people. This was a specific need in the area as there had been a consistent pattern of suicide and at-risk behaviour amongst local youth.

Originally the traineeships were going to be advertised in Aboriginal newspapers and local press as well as online.

After discussion it was clear panel members were strongly in favour of local youth accessing the traineeships.

It was agreed to place the wider, formal advertising on hold and to work closely with the Manager Aboriginal Workforce, Aboriginal Elders and LHD Chief Executives to get the word out.

Time was allowed for this process to occur as there had been a number of recent funerals which meant that key stakeholders and community leaders were unavailable.

As a result of this process a number of clear priorities were identified:

  • Local youth were the priority but there would be a limited pool of people who were ready and willing to undertake the traineeship
  • There was a need to develop a local support system for trainees including clinical and cultural supervision and mentoring
  • Working in the area of suicide in Aboriginal communities can be extremely sensitive
  • Community engagement is necessary to build trust and respect among Aboriginal community members prior to any effective work being done with local community Elders
  • This requires trainees to complete all components of the NSW Health Respecting the Difference cultural training to understand the knowledge of the variety of local Aboriginal traditional rituals and protocols such as "Sorry Business"
  • There needed to be both male and female trainees

After a month or so a short-list of potential applicants for the traineeship was prepared. All of them had been spoken to individually to ascertain their interest, commitment and suitability.

This made the process one of choosing from a pool of quality and engaged local youth.