Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Nursing


School of Nursing


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Advisor

Maxine Serrell

Second Advisor

Rhonda Marriot

Third Advisor

Dr. Nancy Hudson-Rodd


This descriptive• study discusses the development of community mental health (CMH) in Western Australia (WA) and describes the current practising population of CMH nurses. The study explores literature pertaining to the emergence of the CMH movement and the deinstitutionalisation of the mentally ill. A conceptual framework was developed by adapting Lewin's change theory. CMH nurses practising in WA (n= 130), were invited to participate in the study and were asked to complete a survey questionnaire. This resulted in a 66% response rate (n = 86). Quantitative data was analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). Open ended questions were analysed using Colaizzis steps. The study found that mental illness has been treated according to contemporary beliefs. In the 1950s multiple forces within society led to the movement away from institutionalisation of the mentally Ill toward deinstitutionalisation. The first community clinic was established in 1956 to manage the deficit between the ever expanding population needing mental health care and the paucity of available hospital beds. The need for follow up of clients in the community resulted in the development of CMH nursing. The study also provides a profile of the current practicing population of CMH Nurses in WA, demographic details, qualifications, the work environment, educational needs, work role and job satisfaction have been described. Recommendations have been developed from the findings and are directed towards, the dissemination of information, the need for role identification/development, staff development needs, future education needs, industrial issues, clinical practice issues and areas for further nursing research