Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia - April 2023
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April 2023

Issue 23 – April 2023

Chair's message

I am very proud to include in this month’s newsletter, stories about our registrants being utilised to their full scope of practice. This comes as mainstream health services realise the potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners. First, the Aboriginal Wellness Hub, Central Adelaide Local Health Network at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. When the Board met in Adelaide last month, we toured the facility and saw illustrated perfectly, what can be achieved by integrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners into the hospital system.

We also feature the great work of Ash Munro at the Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, who is setting up clinical placements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner students in the hospital setting. This work also shows what can be achieved when hospital management gets behind our profession and realises the benefits to the health outcomes of our communities.

Renee Owen

Chair, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia 

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Priority news

Your professional obligations throughout the year

Another successful registration renewal period closed in December. Thanks to everyone who renewed on time and especially to those who got in early. While renewal is an annual reminder, it’s important to know that under the National Law, you have obligations throughout the year.

In addition to renewing your registration every year, the following professional obligations apply to all registered health practitioners:

  • Notify Ahpra of changes to your principal place of practice, name or address within 30 days.
  • Meet the Board’s registration standards, codes and guidelines.
  • Maintain recency of practice.
  • Participate in and record continuing professional development activities.
  • Comply with audit requirements to check your renewal declarations.

There are also some obligations that hopefully won’t apply to you, but it’s important to know about them in case they do:

  • Make a mandatory notification (required in some limited circumstances).
  • Notify Ahpra in writing within seven days if you’re charged with an offence punishable by 12 months’ jail or more or if you have been convicted of, or are the subject of a finding of guilt, for an offence punishable by any term of imprisonment.

There are forms to help you make these declarations when required − see the Common forms page on the Ahpra website.

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Board news

South Australia takes action on integration of services

ATSIHP Board and CAHLN meeting in Adelaide 2023

In South Australia, the Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) is one of the largest health service providers for a significant proportion of the Aboriginal community, caring for patients from Adelaide, regional and remote SA, and areas across SA and the Northern Territory border.

In striving to meet the needs of these communities, CALHN not only works from outstanding facilities at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, where the Aboriginal Wellness Hub is at the front door and directly linked to services most needed by Aboriginal people, it has also established an Aboriginal consumer group that helps CALHN achieve better outcomes.

CALHN, like Bairnsdale, is taking tangible action to integrate Aboriginal people into the services it provides to Aboriginal people and as a Board, we are delighted to see our registrants’ skills and abilities being utilised to their full potential as was intended when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice profession became nationally regulated in 2012.

Image: ATSIHPBA members and CALHN staff enjoying their meeting in Adelaide.

Bairnsdale clinical placements for our students

Bairnsdale ATSIHP Ashleigh Munro

Aboriginal Health Practitioners are beginning to be integrated into the Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, Victoria, thanks to the tireless efforts of Gunai Kurnai woman, Ashleigh Munro.

Ash, as Team Leader in the Aboriginal Health Unit at the Bairnsdale Hospital, is developing all the necessary supports for the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner students and Aboriginal Health Workers into clinical placements there. Finding clinical placements can be very difficult for our students, often because employers do not understand the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners and what we can do in the hospital setting.

Ash is working in conjunction with the district’s Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), the education provider of the approved training program for registration purposes in Victoria. The clinical placements will not only offer career progression and upskilling opportunities to Aboriginal Health Workers, they will allow our students to successfully complete their studies. In addition, it means our students will have jobs to go to when they finish their studies, and career progression opportunities within mainstream healthcare provision.

Bairnsdale has a vast catchment area for Aboriginal people, from the NSW border across to Sale in eastern Victoria. Starting with the inclusion of traineeships for Aboriginal students, the biggest achievement is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners will be integrated into mainstream health services, not only district nursing and allied health.

For integration to succeed, Ash says that she is very fortunate to have the vital support and willingness of the hospital management, who realise the potential of Aboriginal Health Practitioners and the enormous benefits of having Aboriginal Health Practitioners working in ACCHOs across the region and also in the hospital as an integrated part of the broader healthcare team.

Challenges and opportunities

One of the biggest challenges mentioned by Ash is the need to explain to the rest of the health workforce what Aboriginal Health Practitioners are, and what they can do. A new aged-care wing catering for Indigenous people at Bairnsdale Regional Health Service is being established that will be staffed by Indigenous people for Indigenous people of the region. At present, the closest culturally safe aged-care facility is miles away in Collingwood, Melbourne.

Another important aspect of integrating the Aboriginal health workforce into mainstream hospital services is ensuring that succession planning is enshrined in workplace policies, particularly those workplaces that take an holistic approach from the Board of Directors and CEO to the community, so that the up and coming leaders are nurtured to keep the Aboriginal Health Unit as active and vital as it is under Ash’s care.

The Board congratulates Ash, her team and the Bairnsdale Regional Health Service for their commitment and action towards improving health outcomes for Aboriginal people in that part of Victoria.

New-look website homepage

You may have already noticed the refreshed design of our website homepage, which went live in February. The vibrant colour and images are designed to make the homepage more engaging, and dropdown menus at the top of each page should make it easier for people find what they’re looking for. Any links you had bookmarked will continue to work because all addresses for webpages, documents and forms remain the same.

Your thoughts on this change are important and all feedback is welcome. Please tell us what you think via this quick survey

Registration news

Latest workforce data released

The Board’s latest quarterly registration data report covers the period 1 October to 31 December 2022. At this date there were 930 registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, including seven on the pandemic response sub-register and 15 with non-practising registration.

For more information, including data breakdowns by state and territory, age and gender, visit our Statistics page.

Students and graduates

Where to start? Try the Code of conduct

When you’re just getting started it may seem like there is a lot of information to get your head around. Knowing where to begin can be daunting.

With this in mind, we want to highlight and encourage you to familiarise yourself with the profession’s Code of conduct. The code is an important document for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners. It provides guidance about expected standards for practitioner behaviour and conduct. In defining these expectations, it helps to keep the public safe by supporting good patient care and delivery of services.

Download the Code of conduct and read the Resources to help practitioners including helpful FAQs.

What’s new?

How do we prevent trust violation in healthcare? And how do we tackle racism?

International guest Professor Rosalind Searle unpacks the impacts on patients when trust isn’t prioritised

Building trust is fundamental to safe healthcare, as is responding effectively when a practitioner breaches that core responsibility to a patient. In Ahpra’s first Taking care podcast for the year we look at building trust in healthcare, how do we keep it, how can patients be better supported if things go wrong?

Rosalind Searle is a Professor of Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology at the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow. She is inaugural director of the European Association of Work and Organisational Psychology (EAWOP) Impact Incubator.

Pointing to examples in Australia, Professor Searle provides a guide for strengthening processes and support mechanisms to boost trust in healthcare.

Ahpra Board member Associate Professor Carmen Parter takes on racism in healthcare

Our latest podcast is Racism makes us sick, with Associate Professor Carmen Parter discussing the impact of racism in healthcare. She points to her nursing days when there were almost no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander faces seen working on the hospital ward and very little time given to the health needs of Indigenous people.

She talks about the cultural safety work being done and the challenges to make these policies a reality in our healthcare system.

Assoc. Prof. Parter has also seen intentional and unintentional racism in the system, which she is committed to helping reform.

'Racism makes us sick. Discrimination of all forms impacts the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,’ she said.

'We've seen it. We’ve felt it. But now we actually have evidence to demonstrate that is the case, and it is now time for health policymakers and services to actually do something about discrimination or prejudiced practices in the workplace.’

In her work on Indigenous health and as a member of the Ahpra Board, Assoc. Prof. Parter is rolling out culturally safe policies across health and calling all to walk with her while tackling racism.

More podcasts available

Our Taking care podcast series covers a wide range of current issues in patient safety and healthcare in conversation with health experts and other people in our community. Listen and subscribe by searching for Taking care in your podcast player (for example Apple Podcasts or Spotify), or listen on our website.

New engagement and support team to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners with their registration

Ahpra has recently established a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Support team (the support team) to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants, registrants and stakeholders through the registration process.

The support team forms part of Ahpra’s commitments to providing culturally safe services to its applicants, registrants and stakeholders.

Who is it for?

The support team will focus on helping recent applicants and new graduates.

The team’s one-on-one services range from providing helpful tips and tricks for navigating the registration process to regular phone contact, updates and advice on disclosures made on application (for example, impairments or previous criminal history) that may require consideration by the National Board.

The team plans to expand its services soon, which will include helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners with the renewals process, starting from 2023.

What to expect?

The support team is committed to ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners get registered or renewed promptly so they can focus on their contributions to safe healthcare and to their communities. Keep an eye out for regular emails from the team or reach out for help at [email protected].

Members of the team will be attending community events and conferences relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, as well as all other regulated professions.

National Scheme news

Click on the image below to read the National Scheme newsletter. Our next issue comes out soon, and you can subscribe on the newsletter webpage.

National Scheme news banner graphic

Keep in touch with the Board

Call Ahpra on 1300 419 495 or 08 7071 5647 if you:

  • have any questions
  • need help filling in forms, or
  • are having trouble explaining to your employer about requirements. You can ask your employer to call this number.

The Board’s website has information on registration forms, registration standards, codes and guidelines, and news. If you have already lodged your application, you may call the registration officer responsible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner applications directly on 08 7071 5647.

To contact the Board, please call Jill Humphreys on 03 8708 9066 or send an email to [email protected].

Page reviewed 30/11/2023