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July 2018


Issue 11 - July 2018

Message from the Chair

It was very pleasing for me to attend the launch of the AHPRA Statement of Intent and Reconciliation Action Plan in early July. This landmark commitment was launched to help achieve equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap by 2031. You can read more in this newsletter.

The Board has been working hard this year to gather its stakeholders’ views on draft changes to the registration standards. The registration standards are the rules that people applying for registration, and those who want to renew their registration, must meet. The changes we’re proposing need to be approved by Australia’s Health Ministers and we have started that process now that consultation has finished.

I would like to remind everyone about the need to keep records of their continuing professional development in case they are audited. Below we highlight a presentation given by NATSIHWA CEO, Karl Briscoe, after the launch of the NATSIHWA CPD portal, which allows you to keep your CPD activities recorded for compliance.

The Board’s primary job is to protect the people in the communities that we work with. We do this by ensuring that only those people who are qualified and eligible are able to register and remain registered. The Board considers applications for registration and complaints made about registered Health Practitioners, in partnership with AHPRA. The Board’s job does not include promoting or advocating for the profession (this includes but is not limited to employment conditions, wages and/or classifications).

The Board has two more meetings scheduled this year – one in Adelaide in August and the other in Sydney in November.  

Renee Owen

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia

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News from the Board

Presentations at the Board meeting in Darwin: sharing insights and a new online portal for CPD

At our May meeting in Darwin, the Board was very pleased to meet and hear from three important stakeholders with insights and a great depth of knowledge in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health areas.

Three members of the Northern Territory Department of Health’s workforce strategy division, Iris Raye, Meredith Sullivan and Paul Burgess, attended the meeting and gave insights into the roles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners in the Top End. This was particularly interesting since this is where the bulk of these registered health practitioners come from.

Paul is the Clinical Director of Coordinated Care at Top End Health Services. His presentation highlighted the opportunities and challenges of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner services in the Top End and also the great work these practitioners do and the effect it has on their communities.

Janine Mohamed, CEO of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM), also met with the Board in Darwin, with strong messages of collaboration, showing how these three professions (nursing, midwifery and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners) can work in harmony, complementing each other’s roles, to contribute to closing the gap.

Karl Briscoe, from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association (NATSIHWA), gave the Board an update on the work being done for both the Aboriginal Health Worker and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice professions by that professional association.

We were pleased to learn of the new online portal which allows association members to record their continuing professional development (CPD), activities and receive reports suitable for use if audited (under the terms of their registration), and to help plan and make the most of the educational opportunities out there. Karl demonstrated the easy-to-use system, which makes recording of CPD simple and all in one place, getting rid of the need to retain paper copies of certificates and receipts.

NATSIHWA membership is free and makes the busy lives of Aboriginal Health Workers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners much easier and is a great place to swap information and learn from others.

You can search for NATSIHWA on YouTube and see lots of stories and other information about its work.

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Visit to Danila Dilba Health Service

After the Board meetings were finished in Darwin, the Board was hosted by Danila Dilba Health Service. The members were generously welcomed at the clinics they visited and were inspired by the services provided to the community there.

Danila Dilba visit

From left: Francette Baird (Rapid Creek Clinical Manager, Danila Dilba Health Service), Kim Schellnegger (ATSIHPBA), Bonny King (ATSIHPBA), Margaret McCallum (ATSIHPBA), Leanne Quirino (ATSIHPBA), Celia Harnas (ATSIHPBA), Renee Owen (Chair, ATSIHPBA), Amanda Grabyn (AHPRA), Malcolm Darling (Darwin General Manager, Danila Dilba Health Service).

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Review of registration standards – feedback and questions

At its May meeting the Board considered the welcome feedback it received from the public consultation phase of its review of registration standards in conjunction with the other National Boards that started under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (National Scheme) in 2012. The registration standards that are being reviewed are: 

  • professional indemnity insurance arrangements (PII)
  • continuing professional development (CPD)
  • recency of practice (RoP)
  • English language skills, and
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practice registration standard.

The Board was very grateful to have received so much thoughtful and considered feedback from a wide variety of individuals and entities. The public consultation period has now closed.

Issues of particular interest to stakeholders included the changes to the CPD registration standard, where it is proposed to simplify requirements to 20 hours of CPD per year which includes five hours of ‘interactive’ CPD.

As explained in the draft, revised registration standard, ‘interactive’ does not necessarily mean leaving home to attend a course. Some feedback received thought there may be an impact to service delivery if staff had to leave for periods of time to attend formal CPD events. Interactive CPD may be online, or it may be conducted with other practitioners (not necessarily from the same profession) at work.

The main thing is that practitioners choose CPD that relates directly to the jobs they are employed to do – whether clinical, administrative or something different. The Board does not define your scope of practice. What you do as a registered practitioner is generally determined by what role you are employed to do.

Other feedback focussed on concerns about the removal of the (currently required) first aid certificate in the RoP registration standard. As the Board does not define scope of practice for registrants, it knows that not everyone works in a job where the first aid certificate is required. If it is, it is generally provided by the workplace/employer.

While it’s good for everyone to have a current first aid certificate, the Board must be careful not to put an unintended barrier in place by establishing requirements that are not necessary for all.

The next step in the process for changing to the new registration standards is to send the draft revised registration standards to the Health Ministers, through the Ministerial Council, for their consideration for approval.

We’ll keep you up to date on the timing of the changes. In the meantime, the currently published registration standards remain in force.

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Call for applications for appointment to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Accreditation Committee

The National Scheme regulates more than 700,000 registered health practitioners and over 150,000 registered students across 14 health professions. It also accredits over 740 approved programs of study delivered by over 330 education providers.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia (the Board) is calling for applications for appointment to the Accreditation Committee (the committee).

The role of the committee is to exercise accreditation functions under the National Law assigned by the Board. The functions are to:

  • develop accreditation standards
  • assess programs of study
  • monitor approved programs of study and education providers to ensure they continue to meet the accreditation standards, and
  • advise the Board of issues in education and practice which may impact upon Aboriginal and Torres Islander health practice and the conduct of programs of study.

The Board is seeking applications from registered health practitioners, educationalists and accreditation experts with current or recent experience in:

  • Education  ̶  preferably with experience working in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector and in delivering training in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care (Practice)
  • Accreditation  ̶  preferably within the health sector.

Applications will be assessed by a Selection Advisory Panel. Appointments are for up to three years, with eligibility for re-appointment, and are expected to begin in late 2018.

For more information visit the Accreditation Committee page.

More information about the role, eligibility requirements and the application process can be found in the Candidate information pack.

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Talking with….Associate Professor Gregory Phillips, Co-Chair, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy group

Gregory PhillipsThe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group has been brought together to develop the National Scheme’s first ever Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health strategy.

Associate Professor Gregory Phillips, CEO of ABSTARR Consulting, is Co-Chair of the group and has worked for over 20 years in healing, addiction, youth empowerment, medical education, health workforce and Aboriginal affairs. He is from the Waanyi and Jaru Peoples, and comes from Cloncurry and Mt Isa in North-West Queensland. Gregory was recently awarded the IAHA Allied Health Professional of the Year Award.

We spoke to Gregory about the group’s main areas of focus.

A critical focus of the strategy is building a culturally safe registered health workforce and being leaders in achieving workforce outcomes to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. What progress have health professions made to date?

Nationally we’re seeing some great development in some professions. Some have done quite a bit of work in accreditation and their education standards, while others have done a bit, and some very little. What we need to do is create consistency and clarity about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety across all professions, at all levels of accreditation, education and registration. We’re using a definition of cultural safety that includes learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Peoples and their cultures and historical experiences (‘the other’), learning about critical race theory, racism and reflexive self-awareness (‘the self’), and learning about the institutional power relations that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.

How can we increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ participation in the registered health workforce?

AHPRA and the National Boards have a lead role in influencing accreditation and education standards. What are the barriers we can remove? That involves a practical discussion about merit and entry standards, and the criteria for excellence. That doesn’t mean reducing standards, we want to improve them, but we need to understand cultural safety is a critical part of clinical safety and patient safety, not an addition to it.

Health professions can understand and influence change in the workplaces in which practitioners work. The next discussion is engaging health service providers, professional associations, unions, and employers who are often operating in systems that are under strain. If we get the connections right, it will have a better flow-on effect for all Australians in delivering patient-centred care, and it will affect Aboriginal Australians markedly.

What needs to be done to better understand how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities access the National Scheme, and coordinate a consistent approach across the scheme in building access and participation?

There’s an engagement piece to be done so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples know about AHPRA and what it does. Then it’s a question of getting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples on state and territory boards, to have careers with AHPRA and within the National Scheme. A workforce development initiative would help Aboriginal communities see AHPRA is for them as well.

I think this is also about hearts and minds. An increase in cultural safety helps all Australians. If we had 700,000 practitioners upskilled in Indigenous training and cultural safety, that would have a huge flow-on effect on families and communities.

We are catching up, if you consider that very few people previously took part in Aboriginal studies in primary, secondary or tertiary study. Now we’re very slowly seeing it become the norm in the education system. And it can’t be sugar coated. German students learn about the Holocaust, it’s seen as part of being a mature nation. We need to have that deeper understanding and continue the conversation here too.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group publishes communiqués of its work. These are available on the Advisory groups page of the AHPRA website.

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National Scheme news

Closing the gap by 2031: a shared commitment

In conjunction with NAIDOC Week in Victoria, AHPRA and the National Boards launched a landmark commitment to help achieve equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap by 2031.

Launched at Melbourne Museum on Thursday 5 July, the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme Statement of Intent is a joint commitment between 37 health organisations, including leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations and entities, AHPRA, all National Boards and all accreditation authorities.

Leaders in health including Associate Professor Gregory Phillips (CEO, ABSTARR Consulting), Dr Joanna Flynn (Chair, Medical Board of Australia), Janine Mohamed (CEO, CATSINaM), Michael Gorton (Chair, Agency Management Committee (AHPRA)) and Narelle Mills (CEO, Australian Dental Council) spoke about the importance of this work.

Our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) was also launched with support from Reconciliation Australia. The RAP is an important document outlining what we, AHPRA, will do to start addressing the imbalance in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians.

Phillips Flynn Statement launch

Associate Professor Gregory Phillips and Dr Joanna Flynn at the Statement of Intent launch.

NAIDOC 2018: Because of her, we can!

To mark this momentous occasion in honour of the traditional owners of the land, Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Di Kerr performed a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre’s Milarri Garden.

This special ceremony was performed in parallel with the Museum’s exhibition for NAIDOC 2018 in the Birrarung Gallery – ‘Because of her, we can!’, an exhibition celebrating the extraordinary achievements of nine First Peoples women.


Aunty Di Kerr performing the Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony.

About the Statement of Intent

The work to develop the Statement of Intent and its associated work is being led by the National Scheme Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group and coordinated by AHPRA on behalf of the National Scheme. It has been developed in close partnership with a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and experts.

The group shares a commitment to ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have access to health services that are culturally safe and free from racism so that they can enjoy a healthy life, equal to that of other Australians, enriched by a strong living culture, dignity and justice.

To help achieve this, the group is focusing on:

  • a culturally safe health workforce supported by nationally consistent standards, codes and guidelines across all professions in the National Scheme
  • using our leadership and influence to achieve reciprocal goals
  • increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ participation in the registered health workforce
  • greater access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to culturally safe services of health professions regulated under the National Scheme, and
  • increased participation across all levels of the National Scheme.

Janine and ATSIHPBA

Fiona Stoker (ANMAC), Janine Mohamed (CATSINaM), Roianne West (Griffith University), Elaine Duffy (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia) at the Statement of Intent launch. 

Want to find out more?

Visit the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy page of AHPRA’s website for more information and access the Statement of Intent and RAP.  

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New research framework launched to improve patient safety

In January, National Boards and AHPRA published a research framework to help transform health practitioner regulation to improve patient safety.

A research framework for the National Scheme: Optimising our investment in research sets out the research priorities and principles for National Boards and AHPRA to focus their research efforts.

The framework includes the priority research areas of: defining harms and risks related to the practice of regulated health professions, regulatory taxonomy or classification scheme, risk factors for complaints and/or poor practitioner performance, evidence for standards, codes and/or guidelines, evaluating regulatory interventions, stakeholder satisfaction and engagement, work readiness and workforce capacity and distribution.

It has been published to provide a solid base to facilitate risk-based research and evaluation activities, with a clear focus on translating the outcomes of research into initiatives that will inform regulatory policy development and decision-making to maximise the public benefit.

Research finds truly vexatious complaints are very rare

New independent research commissioned by AHPRA has looked internationally at vexatious complaints, finding these are very rare and that there is more risk from people not reporting concerns than from making complaints in bad faith.

The report found that the number of vexatious complaints dealt with in Australia and internationally is very small, less than one per cent, but they have a big effect on everyone involved. The research also confirms that the risk of someone not reporting their concerns is greater than if the complaint turns out to be vexatious.

Most of Australia’s 700,000 registered health practitioners provide great care, but patients also have the right to make a complaint when things don’t go so well.

The best available evidence suggests that truly vexatious complaints are very rare, and that under-reporting of well-founded concerns is likely a far greater problem.

There is a common misconception that a complaint must have been vexatious if it resulted in no regulatory action. However, a decision by a National Board not to take regulatory action does not mean that the complaint was unfounded or made in bad faith. For example, a risk to the public may have been adequately addressed between the time the complaint was made and when the investigation concluded.

The report will be used to inform best practice for reducing, identifying, and managing vexatious complaints and helps to identify opportunities to work with others to help reduce their frequency and adverse consequences.

The report is available on the AHPRA website under Published research.

Consultation paper on the draft guideline for informing a National Board about where you practise

The Board has published a consultation paper on the draft guideline for informing a National Board about where you practise.

In September 2017, the Queensland Parliament passed the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. The Bill contained a set of amendments to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law), as in force in each state and territory except Western Australia. Corresponding legislation has also been passed in Western Australia. These amendments include changes to the information a registered health practitioner is required to provide about their practice arrangements when requested by the National Board (referred to as ‘practice information’).

The draft guideline has been developed to help all health practitioners provide practice information in a way that meets their obligations under the National Law.

Public consultation closed on 25 May 2018. The consultation paper is available under Past consultations. Submissions will be posted soon.

700,000th practitioner registered

AHPRA and the National Boards have welcomed the 700,000th health practitioner to be registered in Australia since the start of national regulation in 2010, Victoria-based enrolled nurse Alison Tregeagle.

Ms Tregeagle graduated in March 2018 as a mature-aged nursing graduate. Her registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia was confirmed and published this month on the national Register of practitioners. While Alison was studying for her Diploma in Nursing, she was working in part-time and casual jobs at an aged care facility, a hospital and a pharmacy and is excited about embarking on her new career as an enrolled nurse.

Reaching the 700,000th registered practitioner milestone comes almost eight years after the launch of the National Scheme on 1 July 2010, when AHPRA and the National Boards for 10 health professions began their regulatory partnership governed by a nationally consistent National Law.

In 2010, the registration of over half a million health practitioners transferred to the new National Scheme, with a further four health professions joining in 2012 and growing the number of registered health practitioners to more than 590,000 for the year to 30 June 2013. This year the number will grow further as paramedics join the National Scheme in late 2018.

AHPRA’s first annual report showed there were slightly more than 530,000 registered health practitioners across Australia as at 30 June 2011 so hitting 700,000 represents significant growth over that time. It demonstrates that regulation is enabling the growth and mobility of a registered health workforce to support the delivery of health services to Australians.

AHPRA designated a WHO Collaborating Centre for health workforce regulation across the Western Pacific

AHPRA’s commitment to best practice and learning from others has received a boost, with an official designation from the World Health Organization (WHO) as a Collaborating Centre for health workforce regulation. This designation means that AHPRA, in partnership with National Boards, will work with WHO and its Member States in the Western Pacific to strengthen regulatory practice across the region.

Crucial to the work of the Collaborating Centre is establishing a network of regulators across South East Asia and the Western Pacific. The network is expected to work on improving regulatory standards.

The designation as a Collaboration Centre is timely, with the Australian Government Department of Health and WHO recently beginning a four-year Cooperation Strategy. Strengthening regulation in health services, health workforce, radiation, food safety and health products is an identified priority for the joint work in this Cooperation Strategy. You can access the Cooperation Strategy on WHO’s information-sharing site. Queries about AHPRA’s work as a Collaboration Centre can be directed to [email protected].

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Keep in touch with the Board

Call AHPRA on 1300 419 495 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 8901 8527.
To contact the Board, please call Jill Humphreys on 03 8708 9066 or send an email to [email protected].

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Page reviewed 2/05/2019