Despite regular annual growth in the profession, there are a significant number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners who do not renew their registration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia each year. Both the Board and Ahpra understand there can be challenges with both obtaining and maintaining registration, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. In response, Ahpra has established an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement liaison team to provide registration support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners across all health professions, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners. This special support network will hopefully enable more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners to become, and remain, registered to provide care to their communities.
The Board participated in the ongoing cross-professional reviews of registration standards and continues to routinely review and update other published materials to ensure they are up to date, clear and accurate.
The Board acknowledges the excellent ongoing work of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Accreditation Committee and the accreditation support team. The committee continues to engage with its key stakeholders, including education providers, around a range of topics relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice education and accreditation, and this is an important pillar in the effective work of the committee. The committee developed and endorsed guidelines for risk-based accreditation decision-making in conjunction with the Chinese medicine, medical radiation practice, paramedicine and podiatry accreditation committees. These guidelines were supported by the Board and took effect on 1 July 2022.
In April, I had the privilege of attending the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in my role as Board Chair. The Permanent Forum serves as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with a mandate to discuss Indigenous issues relating to economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights. Attending this auspicious event and sharing my experiences with Indigenous peoples from across the world was fantastic. It reminded me that this profession is the only dedicated and regulated Indigenous health profession in the world and that being part of this profession is something we should all be very proud of.
The Board continues to optimise Board meeting times with stakeholder engagement activities across the jurisdictions where each meeting is held. This includes visits to local communities and health services, which also helps with cultural immersion for non-Indigenous Ahpra staff as well as Board and committee members.
The Board continues to engage widely with employers and stakeholders to inform them of the potential that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners have to enhance the care provided to their communities. The Board acknowledges the ongoing support of local and regional health networks in its work, particularly in facilitating high-quality, hands-on clinical training for student practitioners.
As Board Chair, I must offer my personal thanks to all Board and committee members whose efforts and contributions enable the Board to continue its important work. On behalf of the Board, I thank Ahpra for the continued support it provides to our work and, on the occasion of her retirement from Ahpra, special thanks must go to Ms Jill Humphreys, the Board’s Executive Officer, for all her hard work and dedication over the years.
Ms Renee Owen, Chair