30 September 2008

UQ’s School of Social Work and Human Services and Queensland Health today announced a joint Chair in Mental Health at a ceremony at the University's St Lucia campus.

The event comes within months of another major joint chair announcement involving the school.

In June this year, Professor Jill Wilson was announced as the UnitingCare Chair in Social Policy and Research, at a special ceremony at Customs House.

That chair represented the first time the UQ School of Social Work and Human Services had established a joint Chair with a non-profit organisation.

Head of School Professor Howard Karger said the establishment of two joint Chair appointments in 2008 recognised the importance of collaborative engagements between the University and key agencies in both the private and public sectors.

A foremost social work authority, Professor Robert Bland has been announced as the first holder of the Queensland Health and UQ Joint Chair in Mental Health.

Professor Bland is well-known throughout the country as a pioneer and leader in the mental health field.

His special interest areas in research and teaching focus on mental illness and social work practice.

One of his long-standing, primary interests has been the welfare of family caregivers in coping with long-term mental illness. Professor Bland has researched the importance of hope in the experience of mental illness and process of recovery.

Professor Bland has also completed a major consultancy to develop practice standards for social workers in the mental health field.

Professor Karger said both joint Chairs would help form an important bridge between the School and the agencies for which UQ provides personnel.

“Social work has always worked at the intersection between the University and the human service community and these Chairs help solidify that relationship. The two Chairs reinforce our commitment to quality human services in Queensland,” he said.

“Both appointments will be responsible for not only raising the profile of social work, but also leading the way in terms of research and evidence-based practice in the mental health and social welfare policy fields.”

The recently launched Queensland Plan for Mental Health 2007–2017 outlines Queensland Government’s initiatives focused on developing workforce capacity to deliver mental health programs.

Professor Bland will play a leading role in implementing this aspect of the Plan. He will also help lead and drive Queensland Health’s endeavours to improve mental health service delivery by contributing to the design, development and delivery of improved training and education of social workers who are core members of mental health clinical teams.

As Mental Health Chair, Professor Bland will help strengthen UQ's profile in mental health nationally and internationally. “Professor Bland is making a very welcome return to Queensland where he is well known and highly regarded in the tertiary education and mental health sectors,” said Dr Aaron Groves, Director of Mental Health, Queensland Health.

“I am delighted that this industry partnership between Queensland Health and UQ has been forged. We are very excited about the real benefits the joint Chair will bring to delivering safe, quality mental health care to some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable Queenslanders,” said Dr Groves.

• Also launched at today’s ceremony will be UQ’s new Master of Social Work Studies.

Professor Howard Karger said the new program would help address a growing need for qualified social work practitioners in Australia.

“Queensland is experiencing a severe shortage of social workers and it is expected to worsen in the next few years. Queensland Health alone is expected to need a large number of new qualified social workers in the field of mental health in the next three to four years. Child safety is experiencing even more profound staff shortages. The shortage of social workers will reach crisis proportions unless more qualified people are recruited into the field,” he said.

“The innovative new program satisfies the academic requirements for admission to the Australian Association of Social Workers and enables graduates to practice social work in Australia after two years of full-time study. For the first time in Australia, those with an approved human service degrees can complete the program in 18 months. Part-time routes are also available.”

Media inquiries: Helen Battle (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences) on 3346 9279 or Shirley Glaister (UQ Communications) on 3365 1931.