Research Proposal

Mental Health in Australia

In Australia, each of the five states and territories has their legislation on mental health. The federal government plays a major role in the planning of healthcare. As part of their responsibilities, the federal government has a subsidized insurance program that covers mental health patients’ visits to specialists and physicians, including specialized mental care services in acute and psychiatric hospital settings (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016). In addition, the states and territories are expected to provide mental health specific services within the community settings as social housing programs and accommodation allows. Along with that, the Australian government also funds several mental health-related services to provide essential support for people with mental illness. Similarly, according to a report by the Mental Services in Australia evidence indicates that the number of mental health patients who seek patients has considerably increased due to the introduction of subsidized mental health treatment. Unfortunately, amidst the government efforts in ensuring efficient delivery of mental health services, the mental health sector is under a lot of pressure as workers are overly overworked and underpaid. Concerns remain that women in the mental health sector have continually been underpaid, amidst the fact that Australia is pioneering approaches to ensure high-quality mental health care is delivered to the whole population.

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Underpaid Women in Mental Health Sectors

Mental health workers support and offer care services to individuals and families of people experiencing mental health issues. For many reasons, the number of women working as mental health workers outnumbers the men in the sector. The women work as nurses, nurse aides, dietary aids, clerks, cooks, cleaners, administrators, and laundry workers among other duties. As Newman (2014) pointed out, gender discrimination is a particularly important aspect in the health workforce. Research shows systematic gender bias and inequality in health services and employment systems. Perhaps, this explains the rationale behind the high number of women working as mental health workers. Additionally, the mental health sector is sustained under pressure as people working in mental health are often overworked, underpaid, and have to deal with a high number of patients amidst few resources. Ideally, in Australia, the government forced unions to exempt mental health workers to allow care and disability support workers receive settlement pay (Radio New Zealand, 2017). While it was expected that it was the only way that mental health workers would get a pay, instead it created a huge discrepancy in the sector. Currently, staff doing mental health work receives far less than what care providers supporting the aged and the disabled receive when working for the same employer.

Overrepresentation of Women in Mental health Sector

Several scholars and researchers have analyzed the relationship between women and their overrepresentation in mental health care. According to Dysvik  & Sommerseth (2010), different countries all over the world have a high number of women in mental health care. Perhaps, as Dysvik & Sommerseth note, this is attributed to the feminine emotional and manipulate power; in essence, the ability of women to be caring and supportive of others. The basic purpose of the paper was to examine the strengths and weaknesses of men and women when caring for mental health patients. The findings of the study helped us make an informed understanding of why there is a high percentage of women in mental health workers. Ideally, the research findings show that men health workers are not as caring as women. On the other hand, women believe that they have the greatest power in providing close care, understanding patients, and interpreting emotions. In fact, it appears that women health care providers are inclined to behave in a personal way towards patients as they try to provide the motherly care to them. In light of this, mental health sectors experience a gender imbalance, as women are more prominent in providing care as compared to their male counterparts.

Objectives of the Study

The mental health sector is a female dominated industry. The sector sustains pressure from all fronts as people working in mental health are often overworked, underpaid, and have to deal with more patients amidst limited resources. The purpose of this study seeks to understand why women in the mental health sector are often underpaid. Is the excuse to continue underpaying staff linked to the fact that the sector is female dominated? The study will also focus on establishing the factors behind the high number of female workers in the mental health sector. Similarly, it is evident that the government has played a major role in the continued underpaying of mental health workers, what are the factors behind this fact? Lastly, women have been underpaid and undervalued for a long time now; the study will consider various steps that should be taken to ensure that pay equity among mental health workers is achieved. 


Based on the available literature, it is clear that gender inequality in healthcare workforce has contributed to the high number of females working in mental health sector. It was also evident that the mental health workers have been discriminated, continue to be overworked and underpaid. According to Radio New Zealand (2017), the government created this problem when they forced unions to leave out mental health workers to allow pay settlement for aged care and disability care providers to take place. Based on these findings, the following hypotheses were framed. Firstly, female health workers are over-represented in the mental health sector due to the contributing factor of gender inequality in healthcare. Secondly, women who represent a high percentage of mental health workers are underpaid because of the government policy that discriminated mental health workers when they excluded them from the unions.

Data Collection Methods

A general community of sample participants from five mental health facilities will be targeted. Research questionnaires will be forwarded to them, and they will be required to fill in the study questions. The survey targets at least 100 respondents. The sample population will be required to indicate their pay per hour and their gender. Respondents will also be required to give some information about the health facility they are working with. The study will also consider participants from aged care and disability health care providers. The participants will be provided with a sample questionnaire, where they will fill in their pay per hour and gender. The purpose of the two groups of participants is to help compare the wages each received per hour and determine if women workers received less pay even in other sectors. Gender will help in establishing whether men in mental health sector received more pay as compared to their women counterparts. This way, the study will be able to determine if women health workers are underpaid because of their gender or it is the whole mental health sector that has been discriminated. A review of ways in which government contributed to women mental health workers being underpaid will also be included. The study will also consider the efforts that have been made by various sectors to push the government to consider reviewing the salaries and wages of mental health workers. The review will help come up with the different recommendation and ways in which the government can make current the mistake they made when they excluded mental health workers from the unions.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2016). Overview of mental health services in Australia. Retrieved from:

Dysvik, E., & Sommerseth, R. (2010). A man could never do what women can do: Mental health care and the significance of gender. Patient Preference and Adherence, 4, 77–86.

Newman, C. (2014). Time to address gender discrimination and inequality in the health workforce. Human Resources for Health, 12(1), 1-11.

Radio New Zealand. (2017). Union ‘totally shocked’ at mental health pay equity warning. Retrieved from:

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