PROGRAMS | Programs Overview

Service Development

The Service Development Program aims to improve the quality and effectiveness of mental health services and to encourage access by people from diverse cultural backgrounds. This involves the establishment of active partnerships between consumers, carers, ethnic communities and mental health service providers for sustained change.

The core functions of the program are to:

  • Develop, pilot and evaluate models of service which enhance the quality of mental health services to those from backgrounds culturally and linguistically distinct from the wider Australian community;
  • Identify resources, systems and processes to implement such models and to improve work practices;
  • Facilitate partnerships between mental health services, thnic communities, consumers and carers.


The Community Program aims to improve the work undertaken with consumers, carers and families from different cultural backgrounds by mental health services. This can be achieved by enhancing the partnerships between ethnic communities and mental health services. The VTPU is in a position to facilitate consultation processes identifying priority needs for various ethnic communities and to assist ethnic communities and mental health services to develop appropriate responses to those needs. VTPU also work collaboratively with ADEC to raise awareness among ethnic communities of the mental health issues and services.

Consumer and Carer Issues

The VTPU has part time Consumer and Carer Advocates who are available to provide their perspective on issues confronting consumers and carers from different cultural backgrounds in the mental health sector. They are available to provide advice to government, policy makers and mental health service providers on how the mental health service system can better serve those it was designed to assist.

Education and Professional Development

The education of mainstream mental health professionals in transcultural mental health assists staff to reflect on cultural issues and integrate cultural competence skills into their everyday practice. The VPTU offer a six module course titled 'Culturally Competent Mental Health Service Provision for a Multicultural Society'. VTPU also convene a monthly seminar series.


The VTPU is recognised within Australia as one of the leading research units investigating transcultural mental health.

In collaboraton with specalist mental health services, research is initiated to determine how they can be made more responsive to the needs of CALD communities. Interventions are evaluated and integrated with the mental health service’s quality improvement framework. The goal of the VTPU’s research program is to partner with services to establish a firm foundation for planning changes and implementing new, more appropriate and flexible services systems.

VTPU research is distributed to specialist mental health services and published in peer-reviewed academic journals, as well as VTPU publications. The Unit also provides consultation/supervision to those undertaking research in transcultural mental health.

Bilingual Case Management Program

The Bilingual Case Management Program was established in 1996 with Inner West, Mid West, North West and South West Area Mental Health Services. It was a response to a client consultation which identified the employment of bilingual staff as a strong preference of clients. Its aim was to overcome deficiencies in mental health service delivery to NESB people.

The bilingual case management program is no longer extant. The Department of Health replaced this program with the Cultural Portfolio Holder Network (CPH). For some time the VTPU supported a bilingual case manager support network which continued to diminish in numbers.  The remaining bilingual case managers have been absorbed into the CPH network which remains active. Information regarding this network can be accessed on this here.


Service Outcomes

Rates of contact with the services per head of population increased over three years for all groups, by 18.8% for the Australian born, 16,8% for the language groups and by 12.3% for other ethnic groups.
Cost savings have been estimated at $57,000 per year for reduced hospital stays for Vietnamese clients.
Program outcomes are documented in "Evaluation of the Bilingual Case Management Program" Ziguras et al (2000) which is available from the VTPU.

Ongoing Developments in Bilingual Case Management

Due to the success of the Bilingual Case Management Program, the VTPU is engaged in facilitating the expansion of this program to other Adult Area Mental Health Services - both statewide and interstate as well as to Child and Adolescent and Aged Mental health Services who have identified a need for this model within their services. If you are interested in developing a similar program, please contact the VTPU Service Development team.