Up to 20 jobs and decades of mental health research are set to be lost with the closure of a dedicated facility in western New South Wales.

Key points:

  • The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health is to close after 20 years in Orange
  • Twenty jobs will be lost and a research library will close
  • The NSW government says the change is the best use of taxpayers’ money

The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH) is shutting its doors on Friday, December 17 after 20 years at Orange in the state’s central west. 

The organisation was unsuccessful in securing ongoing funding when it lost a tender for a government-funded contract. 

“Our core contract finished on December 30 last year; we had a six-month extension and a three-month extension, so staff have basically had 18 months of uncertainty.”

Work moves to Wollongong

The centre has been responsible for coordinating the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program, which has a team of 20 staff based across NSW. 

That contract has been awarded to the not-for-profit Grand Pacific Health, which works across the state’s south east. 

Man looking at camera, standing in front of a shelf of books

David Perkins says it is “enormously disappointing” that 20 years of work and 20 jobs will be lost from the centre.(ABC Central West: Mollie Gorman )

A $5 million grant for mental health training and research has gone to the Peregrine Centre in Wollongong.

The Orange-based centre was specifically located in rural NSW to ensure there were close links with country people and an understanding of the particular challenges they face such as drought, plagues, and floods.

The NSW opposition said it was the latest example of the government shutting services in country areas and relocating them to metropolitan centres. 

“Those living in remote and rural New South Wales have a very different, distinct set of challenges compared to those of us living in the large metropolitan cities,” the opposition’s health spokesman Ryan Park said. 

“I need government to outline exactly what is going to be continuing, what services will remain in place and how programs and initiatives and organisations in rural NSW will continue to access these evidence-based programs.”

Library books stacked on a table

Some books from the research library at the centre will be donated and others will be thrown out.(ABC Central West: Mollie Gorman)

But the Mental Health Minister, Bronnie Taylor, has defended the change, saying the tender process was fair and transparent.

“Had we just kept awarding the same thing, with the same tender and not going out for probity and not testing that as to what could be delivered, that’s not a responsible use of taxpayers’ money anyway,” she said. 

A white board with writing on it

A whiteboard is the only means to communicate with staff because the internet has been switched off ahead of the centre’s closure.(ABC Central West: Mollie Gorman)

The centre’s closure is leading to the loss of 20 jobs, mostly held by women. 

Professor Perkins said they were seeking philanthropic donations to allow seven positions to be retained, with those employees to work from home in Orange. 

The research library is being dismantled, with some books being donated to the likes of the Solomon Islands, while others are being thrown out. 

Despite this, Ms Taylor said no research would be jeopardised and the people who had lost their jobs could apply for other positions elsewhere in NSW. 

“The research will continue, the program people will continue and what happened in that centre is the administration of a program.” 

‘Enormously disappointing’: Rural mental health experts to lose their jobs following centre’s closure
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