Issue 17 – February 2021
I have been really proud to see registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners utilised to a fuller scope of activities in their work helping keep our communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Board acted swiftly in June last year to establish a sub-register offering 12 months of registration to eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners to help with a COVID-19 surge workforce. I thank those practitioners who rose to the challenge and opted in. If you opted in, look out for an email from Ahpra asking if you want to renew your registration again before June this year.
Although it’s looking like 2021 will be ‘different’ − like 2020 − I wish you all the best in your work and studies and look forward to seeing more examples of the vital roles the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner workforce plays in our health system.
Chair, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia
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National Board Chair Renee Owen has some advice for practitioners wondering about what their role might be in the forthcoming COVID vaccination program.
Renee says, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners have already played a key role in keeping our communities safe from COVID-19 and they will be vital in helping get everyone vaccinated, whether through clinical or non-clinical work.
‘People ask if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners can give vaccinations and, while there are lots of regulations to be met, the short answer is yes, we can. Although we are not trained specifically in this clinical work when we graduate, as registrants we can do further training in whatever field we or our employers wish and become qualified and competent to work in a wide range of clinical settings. That is the beauty of how we regulate health professions in Australia by protecting the use of the title, rather than what we do in our everyday roles.
‘Remember, you don’t have to do clinical work to be registered. Wherever you use your knowledge, skills and attitudes you learned when you did your training, that is considered practice for the purposes of registration,’ Renee emphasised.
Congratulations to Aboriginal Health Practitioner Stuart McGrath for receiving the 2021 NT Young Australian of the Year award and being a finalist for Young Australian of the Year.
The Young Australian of the Year Awards began in 1979 and recognise those aged 16 to 30 who are considered exceptional young Australians.
Stuart McGrath is an Aboriginal Health Practitioner at Galiwin’ku Community, Elcho Island. On graduation from his Bachelor of Nursing degree, he will become the first Yolngu registered nurse. At age 28, Stuart has already been exposed to experiences which give him special insight into the needs of different community groups – from his nomadic upbringing in remote Indigenous communities, to schooling in Canberra and studying in Darwin.
Stuart has overcome significant challenges to follow his dreams, including completing his first year of a Bachelor of Nursing degree remotely while working full time and being a father to two young girls. He helped produce the ‘Ask the specialist’ podcast, with the Menzies School of Health Research, to improve communication between health professionals and patients.
A natural leader, Stuart is committed to closing the gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. His passion for helping his community will inspire other First Nations young people to participate in the health workforce.
Other 2021 NT Young Australian of the Year finalists included an educator and mentor, a community champion and a medical practitioner and co-founder of Health Start Darwin.
‘These extraordinary Territorians are hugely inspirational for their contributions and achievements, they reflect the richness of life in the territory and the importance of community,’ National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand said.
What’s it like to be a member of a National Board? How much work does it entail? What are the time commitments?
A video compilation from two recent Q&A webinar sessions, featuring National Board members discussing what is involved and what life is like as a Board member, is now available on the Ahpra and National Board websites.
Board member applications are now open for 35 community member positions (open to everyone) and 65 practitioner member positions (for people who are registered in the relevant profession).
More than 230 people attended the two live webinars which were held in January and February 2021, hosted by Nick Lord, Ahpra’s National Director of Engagement and Government Relations.
The video explores what the National Scheme does, the role of Board members, the makeup of Boards, how a typical board meeting runs, the need for diversity on our National Boards, and the application process.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board Chair Renee Owen is one of the seven panellists on the two webinars. She said became a Board member as she wanted to be ‘part of something that could be a driver of change and progress for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health profession’.
‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board members can provide a cultural lens through which to see Board functions and actions. They can break down some of the barriers to understanding, stigmas and stereotypes that affect perceptions of Aboriginal people’, she said.
Please watch the video if you are interested in applying for a Board position.
Are you interested in regulation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner profession?
You are encouraged to apply for current vacancies on either the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia or its Accreditation Committee (ATSIHPAC).
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia is made up of practitioner members and community members. The current vacancies are for a practitioner member from WA and one from Qld.
Practitioner members must hold current registration as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner.
The key functions of the Board are to:
The Board meets face-to-face four times a year for a full day in various state and territory Ahpra offices. These meetings usually take 2-3 days each, given the necessary travel for some members.
Registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, educationalists and accreditation experts are encouraged to apply for vacancies on ATSIHPAC.
ATSIHPAC is appointed by the Board to perform the following accreditation functions for the profession:
Commitment includes three full day face-to-face meetings in Melbourne each year and via teleconference as needed. Travel to assess programs of study delivered in Australia is required (subject to COVID restrictions).
Members of the Board and ATSIHPAC are paid for attending meetings and for travel expenses.
More information about the roles and the application process is included in the application form and guide. These can be downloaded from the Vacancies page on the Ahpra website. You can also contact Jill Humphreys, Board Executive Officer, on 03 8709 9066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Board releases quarterly updates on registration figures. As at 31 December 2020, there are 872 practitioners on the register. For more details, including registration by age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page.
Registration type by principal place of practice (PPP)
*Total figure includes 22 practitioners on the pandemic response sub-register. For more information go to the COVID-19 page on the Ahpra website.
A key objective of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 is to embed cultural safety in the National Scheme and the health system. A new, online and face-to-face education and training program for all Ahpra staff, board and committee members is about to begin state by state, starting in our Tasmanian office in Hobart.
The Moong moong-gak cultural safety training program is designed to provide members of the National Scheme with the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and apply culturally safe work practices as these relate to their role as part of the National Scheme.
The program gives participants an opportunity to hear and learn from the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and to reflect on their own behaviours, and their conscious and unconscious beliefs. Upon completion of the program, participants will be better prepared to engage in culturally safe practices, communication and behaviour, in order to contribute to more effective service delivery and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
The cultural safety training will contribute to Ahpra employees’, Board members’ and practitioners’ ongoing critical reflection on their knowledge, skills, attitudes, practising behaviours and power differentials in providing safe, accessible and responsive healthcare free of racism.
We want all our people to embrace the training with an open mind and the ability to learn and unlearn!
Ahpra’s Taking care podcast series has two new episodes.
In a special Taking care episode, Ahpra brings you an important conversation about the meaning of January 26 as Ahpra and the National Boards strive to embed cultural safety in the health system.
We recognise that 26 January is not a date for celebration for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Many consider it a day of mourning, referring to it as Invasion Day, or Survival Day. It is a date that marks the beginning of deliberate, systemic and catastrophic racism and violence against Indigenous Peoples. For others, it is also a day to mark the survival of ongoing traditions and cultures.
To deepen this conversation and re-educate ourselves as we strive for cultural safety in healthcare, Aphra hosted a conversation between three leaders working to bring equity to the system. Join Ahpra Chief Executive Martin Fletcher as he discusses the significance of the day with Aboriginal and South Sea Islander GP and Associate Professor at the School of Medicine at Griffith University, Shannon Springer, Chair of the Podiatry Board, Cylie Williams and Co-CEO PricewaterhouseCoopers Indigenous Consulting, Jodie Sizer.
Listen to the full episode.
In a second new podcast, we hear about the journey of GP Dr Katie Gault, and the work that she does with the community in the Kimberley, in Derby, Western Australia.
Dr Gault explains the diversity of everyday medicine in Derby. After trekking from Melbourne to remote Western Australia, she found herself working with an Indigenous community who face a very different and complex array of health issues. As a GP in a remote community, she often finds that seemingly simple issues such as school sores might have broader implications and require a holistic approach to healthcare, citing that ‘the biggest challenge is not just treating the disease but treating the person and the background that comes with that. Most of the challenges of health come with the intergenerational trauma,’ Dr Gault said.
Spending plenty of time with patients both in the clinic and community has helped Dr Gault gain patients’ trust and improve her own understanding of life in the Top End. She’s also well supported by many other health professionals including Aboriginal Health Workers. However, gaps in healthcare remain, for example, ‘there’s not enough trained psychologists [nor] trauma-based counselling’.
Mental health challenges are rife and affect many of those delivering the care. Dr Gault has found a number of ways to manage her own stress and shares her tips for other professionals considering working in remote healthcare.
Ahpra releases a new Taking care episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.
Call Ahpra on 1300 419 495 or 08 7071 5647 if you:
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@example.com.