How do we improve psychology services for all Australians?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Australians are being urged to take part in a new study that aims to better understand the community's attitudes towards psychological health services, and the needs of people living in both city and country areas.

The new online survey, being run by the University of Adelaide's School of Psychology, has emerged from health workforce data that shows a greatly uneven distribution of psychologists across the nation.

With almost 30,000 practitioners, psychology is the third largest health profession in Australia after nursing and medicine.  More than 81% of Australian psychologists work in major cities, with the remainder in rural and remote areas.  In South Australia, more than 92% of psychologists work in the metropolitan area.

Psychology PhD student Carly Sutherland says there is a clear need to better understand the attitudes of people in city and country areas, including those who have had experiences with psychological services, and those who haven't.

"Through this study we hope to identify potential improvements in psychological health care for the entire nation, both from the point of view of the psychology providers and from the public perspective," Ms Sutherland says.

"An important aspect of this is to understand more about what’s required to work as a psychologist in the country, so we can help to address this gap in services.  Such knowledge may lead to improvements in recruitment and retention of psychologists in rural areas.

"Critical to the success of this study is the input of people from both urban and rural areas, so that specific issues and needs can be incorporated in our findings," she says.

As part of her research, Ms Sutherland has been interviewing psychologists who provide fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) and drive-in, drive out (DIDO) services in rural and remote areas.  "FIFO and DIDO work practices have been central to the resource and mining sectors in Australia for many years, but little has been known about the experiences of psychologists who provide these services, and community attitudes towards them," Ms Sutherland says.
Ms Sutherland's interest in this field originates from her own background, having grown up in Birdwoodton, just outside Mildura in rural Victoria.  "I plan to work as a rural clinical psychologist when I graduate, and I hope this research will also encourage other psychologists to consider working in the country, as well as supporting those who are already out there making a difference to rural communities," she says.

Australians aged 18 and over – from either city or rural communities – are needed to take part in a short survey about psychology services. To participate, visit the study website:


Contact Details

Carly Sutherland
PhD and Master of Psychology (Clinical) student
School of Psychology
The University of Adelaide
Business: 8313 3401

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762