As we get ready to head back to the United States, we are left with many new ideas to implement back home. From what we saw during our agency visits, Australia’s mental health and child welfare services are both similar to and different from these services in the United States. Australian social service agencies tend to receive adequate funding from government programs and typically do not rely on philanthropic funding or payment by consumers. This means that access to these services is not limited by high healthcare costs and inadequate funding like it so often is in the United States.
Some of the facilities we visited were brand new and had state-of-the-art technology, whereas in the United States social services agencies often make do with inadequate facilities. This reflects the emphasis of Australian values on mental and physical health and wellbeing rather than the United States’ focus on money.
At the same time, there were definite similarities between agencies and services in Australia and the United States. For example, the process of responding to allegations of child abuse or neglect is very similar in both countries. Agencies in Australia also use the DSM-V diagnostic codes and many of the same evidence-based interventions as agencies in the United States.
Australia and the United States both are guilty of responding to people of color and indigenous populations in different ways than European-descended populations. Some agencies like the Bouverie Center made a huge effort to include dolls, artwork and family structures that were inclusive of all individuals of Australia; but most of the others that were predominately run by white or European descended individuals lacked an inclusive atmosphere and staff. In the United States, the same unbalanced service delivery can be seen.
Ashley Casey and Sarah Leonard