Air Academy

The Project Air Academy was established to connect and support staff engaged in the Brief Intervention Clinics (Gold Card Clinics) across the state, and to provide a range of services and supports. The Academy was launched in Sydney on 1 September 2017. 

The Academy, organised on a hub and spoke model, is served by a central coordinating service at the Project Air Strategy headquarters, and engages with the Ministry, Local Health District (LHD) senior executive, service managers, clinical directors, coordinators of Gold Card Clinics, and clinicians. The Academy works to ensure the initial rollout of the Project Air Strategy across the State is sustainable, ongoing, and continues to deliver leadership and support to ensure best practice. 

The Air Academy helps to:

  1. Maintain strong links between the Project Air Strategy team and local brief intervention (Gold Card) clinic coordinators;
  2. Provide an opportunity for coordinators to meet each other, share their expertise and local solutions;
  3. Provide access to training and train-the-trainer resources to support local staff development and training needs within the clinics;
  4. Provide updates on evidence-based practice, scientific findings, and opportunities for consultation and professional development; and
  5. Motivate staff to maintain compassionate care for consumers and their families with personality disorder and complex needs. 

Project Air supports Academy Fellows in the 6 core strategies and 12 implementation approaches of Project Air across all LHDs and affiliated services. 

Example activities supporting the core strategies include:

  • Providing professional development and consultation to individual LHDs including provision of core booster training (3hr and 6 hr) and consultation services to ensure LHDs are well supported;
  • Providing professional development specific to Academy Fellows, including train-the-trainer resources, to ensure local implementation teams have the resources to support their teams on the ground;
  • A clinic consultation service providing complex care reviews of clients of the health service as requested by the Service Director or Clinical Director of the LHD;
  • Targeted training and support in specific areas (e.g. family and carer interventions, parenting interventions, peer support programs, group therapies, working with youth and early intervention, schools’ interventions, justice health and drug and alcohol programs);
  • Workshops, conferences, and cross-LHD professional development, to ensure efficient use of resources, including use of online platforms to facilitate reach of training across the State;
  • Developing and hosting e-learning professional development, webinars and online resources through the Project Air Strategy website; and
  • Ongoing research to inform service development and evidence-based practices. 

At the second meeting of the Air Academy in June 2018 Dr Murray Wright said the formation of the Project Air Academy represents an important point of maturity in the State's goal of improving services for people with personality disorder. He cited evidence from the Project Air Strategy and internationally which shows that typical savings from implementing specific care can be substantial - not only for hospitals and governments, but also more importantly for the consumers and carers with lived experience. 

You can read Dr Wright’s full speech below.

Membership is currently open to clinic coordinators of personality disorder treatment programs. 

If you are interested in becoming a member of Air Academy please email Project Air.

The following speech was delivered by the NSW Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Murray Wright, on the occasion of the opening of the second meeting of the Project Air Academy, at the Sydney Business School Circular Quay, on Friday 8th June 2018.

“Welcome. I’m here as a representative of New South Wales Health, the senior clinical representative within the Ministry and with the Minister’s Office. I can say with great confidence that we really notice the difference that has happened with the rollout of Project Air across the districts and we are very appreciative of the value that this Project has brought to our services. I think it is a really important initiative and it is transformative. A lot of things that we call transformative or innovative are not, they are just a re-packaging of something we already knew or that we ought to have been doing. But I think Project Air is actually a real model of translational research. So, all of us in the room and all of our services are actually part of the Project Air Strategy. The idea is that anyone who has a role in mental health, in our public sector services, or deals with people who have mental health issues, ought to know something about Project Air and personality disorders. It is all about getting better outcomes for the consumers who use our services, for their families, and for the communities that they live in. The formation of this Air Academy represents an important maturational point for the Project. People who suffer from personality disorder in our services have been either neglected or downright rejected from our system over many years, and in fact it was sometimes grounds for exclusion from services other than short begrudging crisis services. This Project has re-defined the boundaries of our services and our responsibilities.

The Air Academy is a "brains trust" of experts from the university and clinical leaders in the health districts. It is really important that the clinical leadership is here, because translational research does not happen if you have clinicians saying “That’s all very well in terms of your literature and your research, but that’s not actually going to help us; it doesn’t match with the realities of what we’re doing.” It is absolutely critical that the clinical representatives, who are the main people that I represent, really engage in a forthright manner with this Project. We support stepped care. Stepped care for me is about identifying a particular person’s needs through a careful assessment and careful negotiation with an individual, and helping to develop a plan with that person which meets their actual needs. So the goal is for there to be a better, smoother, and more effective journey for people accessing mental health care and I think Project Air gives us, not just the guidelines, but it gives us a framework to work within our resources and within our services. The Gold Card Brief Intervention Clinics play an important role in transitioning people from acute care services to longer properly planned and targeted services in the community. It is not just about saving money, it is about delivering better care. The evidence is that if we do this properly, we reduce the instances of people requiring our emergency services, and we also reduce the incidence of all the comorbidities that occur to people who have an unmanaged mental health problem in their teens and twenties.

It gives me some pleasure to note that my previous job was as the Director of Mental Health at South-Eastern Sydney and when I started in that job in February 2012, one of the first clinical council meetings that I had was an introduction to Brin Grenyer and the initial roll out of Project Air. So I saw first-hand as I was settling into that role what a huge difference it made from my perspective to the confidence of the clinicians. And I think that is really important, as a lot of what was previously bad practice was out of fear, ignorance, and stigma. I watched it give confidence to the clinicians and I watched that then spread over to the emergency departments and actually change the way in which people engage with consumers in crisis.

Project Air is actually quite a cultural influence in emergency environments, and it is also pleasing to see that it is being picked up in Justice Health, in our Drug and Alcohol services, the non-government sector and also into our schools to help people to have the skills earlier. This is what it means to be a whole government and a whole of community approach. You have all become ambassadors for Project Air, I congratulate you for your interest, and wish you well for a productive second meeting of the Air Academy. Thankyou.”