Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia - November 2018
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November 2018


Issue 12 - November 2018

Message from the Chair

Since our last newsletter, I am pleased to let you know that Australia’s Health Ministers have appointed a practitioner member from Queensland, David Nicholls, to the Board. David will be welcomed to his first Board meeting in Sydney in December. Board member profiles are being updated and can be seen on our website under About us.

At our last meeting in Adelaide in August, the Board met face-to-face as the Registration and Notifications Committee (RNC) to consider matters of registration and notifications (complaints). As part of the meeting, we were very pleased to receive a presentation from Kurt Towers, Director of Aboriginal Health, Government of South Australia, on Aboriginal Health Practitioners’ work in South Australia. You can read more about Kurt’s presentation below.

It is always great to hear about ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners are put to work, and what enormous benefit can be achieved through their employment, in providing culturally safe care to Australia’s indigenous people.

After the December meeting, the Board will meet in Melbourne in February and also attend the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme combined meeting.

Please contact me at [email protected] or Jill at [email protected] if you have any questions or comments. We’re always pleased to hear from you.

Since this will be our last newsletter for 2018, on behalf of the Board, I would like to send you our Season’s Greetings and wish you all the best for the New Year.

Renee Owen

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia

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Board news

Kurt Towers describes Aboriginal Health Practitioners’ work in South Australia

Kurt Towers is Director of Aboriginal Health, Government of South Australia. He gave an insightful talk to the Board about Aboriginal Health Practitioners in acute, sub-acute and primary health settings at Watto Purrunna Aboriginal Health Service in South Australia. The health service employs 80 full time staff, of which approximately 50 per cent are Aboriginal.

The primary health care service provides over 21,000 client services for more than 2,300 clients each year across four sites:

  • Kanggawodli
  • Maringga Turtpandi
  • Wonggangga Turtpandi, and 
  • Muna Paiendi.

Services include health screening (ear and hearing, health checks, cervical and bowel, sexual health), immunisation, management of acute illness and chronic conditions, clinical services, outreach and home visits.

Aboriginal Health Practitioners also lead promotional and educational activities such as fitness, diabetes education, cancer screening awareness, parenting and child health.

It is always great to hear about ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners are put to work, and what enormous benefit can be achieved through their employment in providing culturally safe care to Australia’s indigenous people. 

Kurt Towers with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board

From left to right: Bonny King, Bruce Brown, Leanne Quirino, Margaret McCallum, Celia Harnas, Karrina DeMasi, Gloria Fernandes, Renee Owen, Kurt Towers, Kim Schellnegger, Jill Humphreys.

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NSW Health 2018 AHW Workforce Forum

The Board’s Executive Officer, Jill Humphreys, recently contributed to the NSW Health 2018 Aboriginal Health Worker Workforce Forum, attended by Aboriginal Health Workers and Health Practitioners and other health professionals from across NSW and further afield.

Jill presented on what it means to be registered, how to get registered and how to retain registration in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner. It was great to receive plenty of questions. Some of the questions, however, were about industrial awards, an aspect of employment that is outside the brief of the Board. These were ably discussed by others such as Karl Briscoe from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association (NATSIHWA). Karl talks about his trip to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples below.

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Talking with Karl Briscoe, CEO of NATSIHWA, about Indigenous health and self-determination

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is commemorated on August 9 around the world in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 1982. Karl Briscoe, Chief Executive Officer NATSIWHA, presented to the United Nations in April this year on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner profession, which is the only ethnically-based profession in the world that is regulated, complete with training curriculum and registration requirements.

Karl was in New York to attend the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples (the Forum). There, he was able to share the experiences of Indigenous peoples from around the world and reflect on how they may relate to Australia.

‘The Permanent Forum is a high-level advisory body that provides expert advice and recommendations to the United Nations Economic and Social Council,’ Karl explained. ‘It also raises awareness and promotes the integration and coordination of activities related to Indigenous issues within the UN system.

‘It holds annual two-week sessions, and there are six mandated areas within that: economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.’

The Forum uses the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration), which was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, as its basis for its recommendations and decisions.

‘The Declaration is aimed towards eliminating rights violations against Indigenous people and assisting them in combatting discrimination and marginalisation within their countries,’ Karl said.

‘It also sets a platform for countries to ratify it into their laws so that it actually can become legally binding.’

Karl had the opportunity to meet Indigenous representatives from all around the world, where he found many of the underlying issues they were facing were the same – although he was often sobered by the challenges presented to Indigenous peoples in other countries.

‘We heard of the Mapuche killings in Chile by government forces; of people being locked up in prison for 30 years even after they have had something similar to a commission of inquiry that has found them not guilty. We don’t have that level of abuse within Australia,’ he said.

‘However, when we look at the abuses that have been highlighted around the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, that rang true to a lot of the issues that we’re seeing globally around our rights as Indigenous peoples not being respected.’

The visit also helped Karl appreciate some of Australia’s unique achievements in the area of Indigenous health.

‘We have the only ethnically-based health profession in the world that has legislation and regulation, as well as a national training curriculum, to support practitioners,’ he said. ‘We know this is important, as international research has shown that the involvement of Indigenous people in their own health achieves better outcomes.’

However, there is one area in which Karl believes involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in their own affairs requires far more work.

‘I’m waiting in anticipation for self-determination to come to fruition in Australia, as stated in Article 3 of the Declaration: Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development,’ he said.

‘Greater self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is a critical factor in improving their health outcomes. If we are to be serious about self-determination, we actually need to be able to make the decisions and be involved in a lot of the decision-making – rather than the top-down approach, we need to get back to the bottom-up,’ he said.

‘A classic example is that since 2008, the 10-year life expectancy gap has remained and has actually even widened in 2018. I think we’re starting to see a bit of a shift in the Closing the Gap refresh; we’re just hoping that the voices of our people are heard within that process.’

Another aspect Karl encountered at the Forum that he found extremely relevant to the issue of self-determination and its impacts on Indigenous peoples’ health was the issue of Treaty.

‘I see developed countries such as Canada and New Zealand recognising their Indigenous people through Treaties which allow them to be involved in self-determining their future,’ he said.

‘Just imagine if Australia recognised their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution, and had a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

‘The impact on our health and wellbeing would be much more positive as we would be involved, not only in acknowledging and respecting our past, but also forging a future where we could self-determine what is required in order to address the social and cultural determinants for our people.

‘How different could the health of our people be, if we had something like that?’

With thanks to the RACGP’s NewsGP e-news, in which a previous version of this interview was published.

Karl Briscoe UN 3

Karl Briscoe with Elizabeth Lemama, teacher from Kenya, at the UN

Photo of Karl Briscoe and Dr Jackie Huggings, Co-chair, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, at the UN Forum

Karl Briscoe and Dr Jackie Huggins, Co-chair, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, at the UN Forum

Karl Brisco UN 1

Sphere within Sphere sculpture

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Renew your registration by 30 November

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners have until 30 November 2018 to renew their registration on time. The quickest and easiest way to renew is online.

Please act on the series of email and hard copy reminders being sent to you by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), on behalf of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia. Anyone who hasn’t received a reminder to renew should phone AHPRA on 08 8901 8500.

If your application is received on time or during the following one-month late period, you can continue practising while your application is processed. Applications received in December will incur a late payment fee in addition to the annual renewal fee.

If you do not apply to renew your registration by 31 December 2018 you will have lapsed registration. You will be removed from the national Register of practitioners and will not be able to use the protected title or practise in Australia.

More information about registration renewal is available on the Board’s website. 

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Latest registration statistics released

The Board has released its latest quarterly registration statistics for the period 1 July to 30 September 2018. Registrant numbers have increased from 641 as of the June report, to 672. Of these, two people have non-practising registration. The highest percentage of practitioners (33.33 per cent) are in the Northern Territory.

For more information, visit the Board’s Statistics page.

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National Scheme news

AHPRA’s 2017/18 annual report is released

The Annual Report for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the National Boards for the year to 30 June 2018 is now available to view online.

The report provides a nationwide snapshot and highlights our multi-profession approach to risk-based regulation across the work of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme). Our mission is to make sure that Australians have access to a safe and competent registered health workforce.

Insights from the year include:

  • More practitioners: There were 23,800 more registered health practitioners, totalling 702,741 health practitioners across the 15 regulated professions. Student registrations increased by almost 4,000 registrants to 161,114.
  • Assuring individuals seeking registration are trained, qualified and competent: Over 740 accredited approved programs of study delivered by over 330 education providers.
  • Growth in notifications: This year, AHPRA received more notifications than in any other year since the National Scheme began (7,276), an increase of 5.5% nationally (1.6% of all registered health practitioners). The top three notifier complaints related to clinical care (41.0%), medication issues (12.6%) and health impairment (8.9%).
  • Improved management of notifications about practitioners: While we received more notifications than ever before, we also closed more than ever before during the year (7,105). AHPRA is committed to improving the notification experience for both notifier and practitioner.
  • Dealing with statutory complaints: This year, we received 416 new offence complaints relating to title and practice protection and 1,043 complaints related to advertising.
  • Ensuring public safety through monitoring and compliance: 5,005 practitioners had their registration monitored in 2017/18. The majority of active monitoring cases related to additional requirements about suitability and eligibility for registration.
  • Prosecutions to protect the public: AHPRA completed 13 proceedings in the Magistrates’ and Local Courts. All prosecution resulted in findings of guilt.

‘AHPRA works in close partnership with the National Boards’, AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said. ‘Our Annual Report highlights the joint work we do to regulate health practitioners efficiently and effectively to keep the community safe.’

To view and download the 2017/18 annual report, visit the AHPRA website.

In the coming months, AHPRA and the National Boards will publish profession-specific summaries and these will also be available for download from the AHPRA website.

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National Boards support more public information on register

Changes to the national Register of practitioners will make it easier to access public information about health practitioners across Australia.

The online Register of practitioners has accurate, up-to-date information about the registration status of all registered health practitioners in Australia including occupational therapists. As decisions are made about a practitioner’s registration renewal or disciplinary proceedings, the register is updated to inform the public about the current status of individual practitioners and any restrictions placed upon their practice.

Along with other National Boards, the Board has decided to introduce links to public tribunal decisions when serious allegations have been proven, in the interests of transparency and on the recommendation of the Independent review of the use of chaperones to protect patients in Australia.

No information about the notifications received by the National Boards and AHPRA will be published. The change is simply helping to make already publicly available information easier to find.

Further information is available on AHPRA’s website.

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AHPRA and National Boards welcome release of the Accreditation Systems Review final report

AHPRA and the National Boards have welcomed the publication of the Independent Accreditation Systems Review final report.

The Independent Accreditation Systems Review’s (the Review) final report makes significant, far-reaching recommendations to reform the accreditation system for regulated health professions in Australia. It proposes recommendations which range from relatively uncontentious and which the National Scheme bodies generally support, to those which are significantly more complex and contentious.

Health Ministers commissioned the Review following a review of the National Scheme as a whole.

For more information read the statement on the AHPRA website.

Selectively editing reviews or testimonials may break the law

AHPRA has issued more guidance for advertisers to make it clearer that selectively editing reviews is not acceptable.

Under the National Law, testimonials about clinical care are not permitted, but reviews about non-clinical aspects of care are allowed.

In a recent case, an advertiser removed all negative comments from patients’ reviews. This selective editing changed the meaning of the reviews and had the potential to mislead the public. AHPRA’s new guidance makes it clear this is not acceptable and outlines the rules about editing or moderating reviews. It is misleading to:

  • edit a review that is negative to make it positive, as this falsely presents the feedback
  • edit a review that has a mix of negative and positive comments so that the published review only has positive comments, as this falsely implies that the reviewer only had positive feedback, or
  • edit a review so that it no longer accurately reflects all the reviewer’s feedback and presents an inaccurate or false impression of the reviewer’s views.

Reviews influence consumers’ healthcare choices so advertisers must make sure reviews are genuine and not misleading.

The way advertisers moderate and publish reviews must comply with the National Law and the Australian Consumer Law.

The updated testimonial tool is available in the Advertising resources section on the AHPRA website.

For more information, access the Advertising resources on the AHPRA website.

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AHPRA to conduct pilot audit of advertising compliance in early 2019

A pilot audit to check health practitioner compliance with advertising requirements will be conducted by AHPRA in early 2019.

The pilot audit has been modelled on the well-established approach to auditing compliance with core registration standards and involves adding an extra declaration about advertising compliance for two professions when applying for renewal of registration in 2018. (The National Law1 enables a National Board to require any other reasonable information2 to be included with a renewal application.)

The National Boards for chiropractic and dental are taking part in the pilot audit.

When applying to renew their registration, chiropractors and dental practitioners will be required to complete a declaration about their advertising compliance. The pilot audit will not delay a decision on the application for renewal.

Random audits of advertising compliance will advance a risk-based approach to enforcing the National Law’s advertising requirements and facilitate compliance by all registered health practitioners who advertise their services.

Regulatory Operations Executive Director Kym Ayscough said the audit for advertising compliance would provide opportunities to extend the current action under the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy launched in April 2017.

‘This pilot audit will potentially improve compliance with advertising obligations across the entire registrant population, not just those who have had an advertising complaint,’ Ms Ayscough said.

‘It will also provide opportunites to become more proactive in preventing non-compliant advertising by registered health practitioners.’

The audit will be carried out by AHPRA’s Advertising Compliance Team from January 2019 and will involve a random sample of chiropractors and dental practitioners who renewed their registration in 2018.

‘One of the audit’s main objectives is to analyse the rate of advertising compliance for those practitioners who advertise and who have not been the subject of an advertising complaint in the past 12 months,’ Ms Ayscough said.

Other objectives of the audit are:

  • to inform the evaluation of the compliance and enforcement strategy
  • establish the rate of advertising compliance within the professions, and
  • address any non-compliance with advertising obligations identified during the audit.

A pilot audit report addressing the above objectives and including data analysis and recommendations will be prepared for National Boards to consider the pilot outcomes and implications for future compliance work.

For information about your advertising obligations see AHPRA’s advertising resources page.  

1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory.

2 Section 107(4)(e) of the National Law.

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Campaign launched by Victorian DHHS to help consumers understand the risks of cosmetic procedures

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has launched a campaign to help consumers understand the risks involved in cosmetic procedures.

The campaign involves a series of patient-focused videos, including patient stories, and encourages consumers to weigh up the risks, make sure they are seeing a registered practitioner by checking the public online Register of practitioners on the AHPRA website, ask more questions, and go back and talk to the clinic if things go wrong.

Patients are also advised to report illegal operators to the Health Complaints Commission in Victoria and any concerns about registered practitioners to National Boards and AHPRA.

For more information check out the Better Health Channel cosmetic injectables page or find out more on the Department’s website about adverse health effects from injectable cosmetic procedures.

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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 8/05/2019