The non-government alcohol and other drug workforce in Australia: Findings from a national survey

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Introduction: There is growing interest in the role of the non-government sector in the alcohol and other drug (AOD) service delivery system. This study examined the demographic profile of AOD workers in the non-government (NGO) compared to government sector, to ascertain their professional development needs, job satisfaction, retention and turnover. Methods: This study utilised cross-sectional data from an Australian AOD workforce online survey that assessed participants' demographics, employment profile, professional development needs and barriers. The sample comprised 888 workers in direct client service roles. Results: Binomial logistic regression analysis indicated that NGO workers were more likely to be younger (<35 years), have AOD lived experience and have an AOD vocational qualification. NGO workers were more likely to earn below the national average salary and report job insecurity; but nonetheless were more likely to feel respected and supported at work, believe their work was meaningful and be satisfied working in the AOD sector. Their top professional development barrier was personal financial cost. NGO workers were more likely to report employer financial costs as a professional development barrier, whereas government workers were more likely to report staff shortages. Discussion and Conclusions: AOD services in Australia rely increasingly on the NGO sector. Quality services and care pivot on the size, capability and maturity of the workforce. This study highlights the need for systemic interventions addressing structural issues, and the professional development and ongoing support needs of the NGO AOD workforce. Without such support, Australia's AOD services will be potentially jeopardised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1012
Number of pages10
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Issue number6
Early online date16 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • capacity building
  • health workforce
  • non-government sector
  • professional development need


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