Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia - June 2021
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June 2021

Issue 18 – June 2021

Chair's message

Board members were very pleased to finally meet each other in person at our most recent meeting in May. We welcomed our three new Board members: Christopher O’Brien – practitioner member from NSW; Abbey Shillingford – community member from WA, and Kenton Winsley – practitioner member from NT. There’s more information about Board members under the About us tab on the Board’s website.

The Board’s Code of conduct has been released for public consultation: see the article below. It is a very important regulatory tool that sets the expectations for health practitioner conduct across 12 professions. It also explains the conduct that a person who goes to see a registered health practitioner can expect.

I encourage you to read the draft revised code and provide feedback to make sure the document is useful, understandable and fit for purpose.

Renee Owen

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

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Board news

Congratulations on how you are helping with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout!

The Board has been very pleased to hear about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners being utilised as they were first intended, doing clinical work where necessary, including vaccinating against COVID 19.

The way health practitioners in Australia are regulated, the National Boards do not specify what scopes of practice their registrants are limited to. We protect the titles (that is, you can’t call yourself an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner unless you are registered with the Board), rather than what people do in their everyday jobs

It is very exciting to see how our regulatory system allows the workforce to be as flexible as intended. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners vaccinating the community against COVID 19 is a great example of this.

See below for more information on the vaccination programs being rolled out across the country using our practitioners to do the job.

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Registered practitioners and students: What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccination

The National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) have published a joint statement to help registered health practitioners and students understand what’s expected of them in giving, receiving and advising on and sharing information about COVID-19 vaccination.

Key points

Registered health practitioners have led the remarkable public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, and we commend them for this sustained public health response. As the national vaccination program gets underway, registered health practitioners and students remain critical to this success by:

  • being vaccinated against COVID-19 unless medically contraindicated
  • being appropriately qualified and trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines if authorised, and
  • providing accurate information and advice about COVID-19 vaccination including in social media and advertising.

The statement should be read in conjunction with the standards, codes, guidelines, position statements and other guidance. The Code of conduct explains the public health obligations of registered health practitioners, including participating in efforts to promote the health of the community and meeting obligations on disease prevention.

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Promotion of COVID-19 vaccinations: further information

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Ahpra have released a joint statement about the promotion of COVID-19 vaccinations and responsibilities practitioners and others have under the National Law when advertising a regulated health service.

On 7 June 2021, the TGA issued updated guidance about the promotion of approved COVID-19 vaccines to clarify the way health practitioners and others can communicate to the public about COVID-19 vaccines.

This updated guidance gives health practitioners greater flexibility to openly discuss vaccination and allows offers of reward to be made to those fully vaccinated under the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Here are some key points that the statement helps to clarify:

  • All promotion of COVID-19 vaccines must comply with the TGA’s guidance, including where health practitioners and regulated health service providers offer rewards for COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Where promotion of COVID-19 vaccines involves advertising of regulated health services it must comply with both the TGA’s guidance and advertising requirements of the National Law, as explained in the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service.
  • The TGA’s guidance and the advertising requirements of the National Law do not apply to information about COVID-19 vaccines provided as part of a consultation or treatment.

When communicating about COVID-19 vaccines, be mindful of your professional obligations under the Board’s Code of conduct. All National Boards have issued a position statement to provide further guidance about how the Boards’ codes of conduct apply to COVID-19 vaccination.

The TGA, Ahpra and the Board support vaccination as a crucial part of the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners  have a vital role in COVID-19 vaccination programs and in educating the public about the importance and safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

More information

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Consultation on the review of the shared Code of conduct: have your say

Twelve of the 15 National Boards have a shared Code of conduct that sets out the standards of professional conduct the National Boards expect and which they use to evaluate practitioners’ conduct. Practitioners have a professional responsibility to be familiar with and to apply this code.

The shared code is also an important document for the public as it can help them understand what behaviour they can expect from a registered health practitioner and assess whether their care met professional standards.

National Boards and Ahpra are reviewing the shared code to ensure it stays up-to-date, relevant and useful for practitioners and to make it more accessible to the public. We have published a consultation paper that includes an overview of the review, case studies, proposed changes to the code and optional questions that may help frame your feedback.

The consultation is open until 6 July 2021 and we’re keen to hear from practitioners, the community and health system stakeholders. See our Consultations page for the consultation paper and more information.

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Are you interested in joining the Board’s Accreditation Committee? Apply now

Are you involved in teaching the Certificate IV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice (HLT40213)?

Are you involved in accreditation in the health sector?

The Board is calling for interested people to apply for appointment to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Accreditation Committee (ATSIHPAC).

This committee carries out accreditation functions of the National Law which regulates our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners and 15 other professions in Australia. It includes developing and applying standards of assessment to programs and providers whose graduates must hold a qualification from an Approved program of study for registration purposes.

Being a member of ATSIHPAC will give you a good understanding of how Australia regulates its health professionals, and this will also benefit your community.

Application details

  • ATSIHPAC applications close Sunday 1 August 2021 at 5:00pm, Australian Eastern Daylight Time.
  • Members of ATSIHPAC are paid for attending meetings and for travel expenses.
  • More information about the role and the application process is included in the application form and guide on the Vacancies page of Ahpra’s website.

You can also contact Jill Humphreys, Board Executive Officer, on 03 8709 9066 or email [email protected]

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Registration news

Latest workforce data released

The Board releases quarterly updates on registration figures. As at 31 March 2021, there are 815 practitioners on the register, including 22 practitioners on the pandemic sub-register and nine practitioners with non-practising registration.  

For more details, including registration by age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page.

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National Scheme news

Regulators thank health practitioners as pandemic sub-register starts to close

From April 2020, more than 34,720 practitioners from eight health professions answered the call to be on the pandemic sub-register. Established as a temporary measure, the sub-register allowed the return to work of qualified and experienced health practitioners to provide a potential surge health workforce during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahpra and the National Boards extend their sincere appreciation and thanks to all practitioners on the sub-register for being available to support Australia’s healthcare system and the health workforce during this very trying time.

While the need for the sub-register has reduced, it has been extended for some professions by request of the Australian Government to support the national COVID-19 vaccination effort. Medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners who are already on the sub-register will have their registration extended until 5 April 2022 and will be limited to helping with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

For more information, see the Ahpra FAQs.

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Ahpra to establish new committee looking at accreditation reform

Ahpra will establish a new, independently chaired committee to consider key accreditation issues, in response to a new policy direction from the Health Council.

The new committee will have broad stakeholder membership to give independent and expert advice on accreditation reform issues to Ahpra’s Agency Management Committee. The new committee will replace Ahpra’s Accreditation Advisory Committee set up in 2020.

The Independent Review of Accreditation Systems (ASR) Final Report, Australia’s health workforce: strengthening the education foundation, recommended that Health Ministers issue the policy direction.

Ahpra and the National Boards welcomed the policy direction, which requires Ahpra, the National Boards and accreditation authorities to consider the new committee’s advice when exercising their functions under the National Law.

Under the policy direction, Ahpra, National Boards and accreditation authorities must document the outcome of their consideration of the new committee’s advice in meeting minutes, communiqués or other relevant formats.

Ahpra and National Boards will continue to work collaboratively with accreditation authorities through the Accreditation Liaison Group and the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum.

The policy direction can be viewed on the Ahpra website.

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Podcast: Mental health and the power of the lived experience

A recent episode of the Taking care podcast series features Maggie Toko, an impressive leader and advocate for those living with mental health issues.

Maggie has overcome the stigma and challenges of living with chronic mental illness to lead the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) for nearly two decades. This is Victoria’s peak organisation for people with a lived experience of mental health problems or emotional distress. Before joining VMIAC, Maggie's work focused on homelessness, sexual assault and youth advocacy.

Reflecting on her personal struggles, Maggie gives credit to the people who walked with her on that journey.

‘A big part of my recovery has been [because of] the four ‘Ps’ in my life: my physician, my psychotherapist, my psychiatrist and my partner. Without those four ‘Ps’, I don’t know where I would have been, quite honestly.’

The mental health sector is a leader in the health consumer movement. Over time, Maggie has seen the value of lived experience in building meaningful relationships and having strong support for others. Her own lived experience has also helped her to lead and develop mental health services throughout her career. She has also seen this from others involved in the mental health sector.

Listen to the full episode.

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.

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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].

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Page reviewed 21/06/2021