A mental health workforce that provides culturally safe and inclusive care by supporting internships and scholarships for Indigenous people who want to work in the sector will receive state government funding.

Over five years, $5.6 million will be invested to support the Indigenous Social and Emotional Wellness Scholarship Program, which provides training courses and professional development opportunities for Indigenous people who wish to work in the mental health sector.

The state government said the program is offering more than a dozen scholarships to students at RMIT and Deakin universities in the first semester of this year.

“A mental health and wellbeing system that provides culturally safe and inclusive care ensures the best possible support for every Victorian with mental illness,” said Minister of Mental Health and Treaties and First Peoples Gabrielle Williams.

“Our dedicated mental health workers are the backbone of our reformed mental health system – supporting them through study and work is the best way to support every Victorian who needs help.”

The program also enables our mental health services to learn from interns about Indigenous culture and gain knowledge and perspective, so they can develop more holistic and informed care and support programs for all Victorians.

The state government said the first graduates now take up permanent positions with the health department where they completed their internship or as an Indigenous social and emotional welfare worker with a local health organization controlled by the indigenous community.