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

Issue 19 – November 2021

Chair's message

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice profession has again been recognised by governments as vital for the surge workforce to help with the COVID pandemic effort. Last year we offered eligible people who had recently dropped off the National Register (as in, no longer registered), and this has been extended again. Those qualified and experienced practitioners would have received an email offering them free registration for up to 12 months to assist with the pandemic solution and we are pleased that so many have opted in to do so.

Don’t forget to renew your registration by 30 November as it is much more difficult to renew after this. All those who are registered will have received email reminders from Ahpra. If you need help with your renewal application, please contact [email protected].

If you don’t renew, you cannot use any of our protected titles: Aboriginal Health Practitioner, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner.

Renee Owen

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

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Board news

Advance copy of supervised practice framework published

Twelve National Boards and Ahpra have published an advance copy of the revised Supervised practice framework. The framework has been revised to reflect a responsive and risk-based approach to supervised practice across the National Scheme.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board is among those implementing the framework in 2022.

The framework comes into effect on 1 February 2022. An advance copy has been published to allow time for supervisees, supervisors, employers and others to familiarise themselves with the revised framework.

Read more in the Board’s news item.

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Renew online by 30 November to avoid late payment fees

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners have until 30 November 2021 to renew their general, specialist or non-practising registration.

The fee schedule for this year is available on our Fees page.

Read the renewal FAQs on the Ahpra website for helpful tips and more information on what you need to do to renew.

We cover common questions on professional indemnity insurance, recency of practice, continuing professional development, and what to do if you have a change in your criminal history or health impairments you need to tell us about.

If your application for renewal is received by 30 November, or during the following one-month late period, you can continue practising while your application is processed.

If you don’t renew on time

If you don’t apply to renew your registration by 31 December 2020, your registration will lapse. Your name will be removed from the national register of practitioners and you will not be able to practise as a Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner until a new application for registration has been processed and the national register is updated.

What’s different this year?

Renewal is now online only with changes to payment options

We’ve moved to online only for general and non-practising registration renewal. Over 99 per cent of health practitioners already renew online, it’s the quickest and easiest way to renew.

Renewal fees can be paid by credit/debit card. If you do not have a credit/debit card you can purchase a pre-paid debit card from various retail outlets for a nominal fee. BPay is no longer available for any profession.

Embedding cultural safety in the ways we work

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy aims to make patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples the norm. We strive to embed cultural safety in the ways we work within the National Scheme too.

From 2021, you’ll be asked if you identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander when you renew your registration. This will help us continue to develop culturally safe ways of working.

Continuing to support health practitioners during COVID-19

What if I can’t meet the CPD requirements because of COVID-19?

Continuing professional development is important as it helps maintain competence and supports safe and effective care.

The Board expects you to make reasonable efforts to complete your required CPD. We are aware that there are many flexible and COVID-safe options for CPD. Interactive CPD activities can be completed virtually.

However, we understand that some practitioners may have had trouble fully meeting CPD requirements, particularly any face to face requirements, due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 this year.

It’s important that you answer all questions honestly and accurately when completing your registration renewal and declare that you have not met the CPD requirements if that is the case.

The Board will not take action if you have not been able to complete CPD for the 2020–21 registration period due to the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19 and you declare on your renewal application that you have not met the CPD registration standard <<link>>.

If you declare that you did not meet the standard the Board may request evidence in the future of what you have done to address any identified gaps in your CPD learning needs, such as interactive or face to face requirements.

Given the importance of CPD and the increasing availability of flexible and COVID-safe CPD options, you will be expected to fully meet CPD requirements in future and when renewing in 2022.

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Latest workforce data released

The Board’s latest quarterly registration data has been released. The report covers 1 July to 30 September 2021. At this date, there were 861 registered practitioners (including 29 on the pandemic response sub-register): 852 with general registration as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner, and nine non-practising registrants.

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

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Students and graduates

Graduating soon? Apply now and be ready to work

Once you are registered, you can work as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner anywhere in Australia.

Before you can start practising and using the protected title, you must be registered with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia (the Board).

If you're set to complete your course within the next three months – apply for registration now. We'll start assessing your application while we wait for your graduate results.

How do I apply?

Create your account using the online services portal and complete your application

Upload your documents and pay the required fees. Check that you have provided all required documentation to prove you’ve met the registration standards, including certified copies of your photo ID.

Wait for your education provider to provide your graduate results to Ahpra.

Once we’ve received your graduate results from your education provider and we are satisfied that you have met all the requirements for registration, we will finalise your application.

When you are registered, we will publish your name to the Register of practitioners, and you can start working as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner.

Get your application right

Check out Ahpra’s graduate video to help you get your application right.

You’ll find helpful advice, tips for avoiding common causes of delay and downloadable information flyers on the graduate applications page of the Ahpra website.

Photo ID

It's important that you provide correctly certified photo ID documents with your application – the wording is very specific.

‘I certify that this is a true copy of the original and the photograph is a true likeness of the person presenting the document as sighted by me.’

To get it right the first time, download the guide Certifying documents and take it with you to the authorised officer.

Who can certify documents?

In addition to JPs, most registered health practitioners, public servants, teachers, lecturers and members of the legal profession can certify photographic ID documents. For the full list of authorised officers see the guide.

How long does it take to assess my application?

We can’t finalise your application until we receive your graduate results from your education provider.

If you’ve submitted everything you need to prove you’ve met the requirements for registration, we aim to finalise your application within two weeks of receiving your graduate results.

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National Scheme news

Annual report: Registered health practitioner numbers grow

A continued growth in the registered health workforce is highlighted in Ahpra’s 2020/21 Annual report.

While it was another year dominated by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of regulation continued and adapted to the impacts of the pandemic. A particular aim was to ensure that students were able to graduate with sufficient clinical experience despite placement delays. National Boards also looked to greater flexibility in some regulatory requirements, while maintaining their focus on patient safety.

Growth across the professions

As at 30 June 2021, there were 825,720 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions, 24,061 more than last year. This includes 26,595 health practitioners on the 2020 pandemic sub-register which offers a surge workforce for the health system response to COVID-19. Overall, 75% of registered practitioners are women.

The largest growth in registrants was paramedics (up 8.3% on 2020).

Registered health practitioners have done exceptional work in very challenging times. It is very encouraging to see the continued growth in the number of health practitioners over the past year.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation

Only 8,311 (1.1%) of all health practitioners identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. This is well short of the 3.3% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in the general population.

Ahpra and the National Boards are working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations to increase the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across all registered health professions and to promote cultural safety and the elimination of racism in healthcare. 

Top registration statistics from this year's report

  • Ahpra dealt with 84,607 new applications for registration; 41,548 applications were from new graduates, including nearly 23,300 nursing applications.
  • Ahpra renewed the annual registration of 738,659 practitioners.
  • 189,786 students were studying to be a registered health practitioner in over 860 accredited and approved programs of study delivered by more than 130 education providers. These programs of study provide graduates with the qualification they need for registration.

To view and download the 2021/21 annual report, visit the Annual report webpage.

To view a summary of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice data, visit the Board's Annual report page.

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Consent matters in healthcare: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), online news site Women’s Agenda published an editorial called Consent matters in healthcare. What to do if something feels wrong, co-authored by Gill Callister PSM, Chair of Ahpra’s governing board, Dr Anne Tonkin, Chair of the Medical Board of Australia, Rachel Phillips, Chair of the Psychology Board of Australia and Annette Symes, Presiding Member of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

When seeing a health practitioner, many people, especially women and girls, may feel at their most vulnerable. It’s important to discuss the safety of women, and what to do if something doesn’t feel right.

Many of the complaints made to Ahpra about inappropriate behaviour involve practitioners breaching the normal boundaries of the patient-practitioner interaction. Some involve touching patients inappropriately and without adequate informed consent from the patient. Sexual misconduct is an abuse of the treating relationship and can cause significant and lasting harm.

In the past three years, Ahpra and National Boards referred 150 health practitioners to a tribunal, and outcomes included cancellation of registration for up to five years. You can read the published summaries of these cases and others on Ahpra’s website, and visit the Register of cancelled, disqualified and/or prohibited practitioners.

We know the majority of practitioners are doing the right thing, but we will continue to respond strongly to cases of sexual misconduct. Part of our role is ensuring that the public can have trust in registered health practitioners. We all have a role to play in preventing sexism, sexual harassment and violence in our communities, including in healthcare.

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Changes to notification management are coming in Queensland

Queensland will introduce joint consideration of all notifications about health practitioners between Ahpra, the National Boards and the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) in December 2021.

The changes aim to speed up the initial assessment of notifications, which will benefit registered health practitioners and notifiers.

All notifications about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners in Queensland will continue to be received by the OHO. Currently, the OHO deals with the most serious matters it receives and refers most of the remaining notifications to Ahpra and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia.

From December, all notifications received by the OHO about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners will be shared with Ahpra and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board when they are received. Ahpra and the OHO will review each notification at the same time and agree on which agency should manage the matter.

The changes provide greater opportunity for earlier closure of concerns that do not need a regulatory response.

Relevant changes to Queensland legislation take effect on 6 December 2021 and all notifications from this date will be subject to joint consideration.

For more information on how notifications are managed, see Ahpra's website.

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Updated regulatory principles – supporting trust and confidence in regulated health professions

We’ve updated our regulatory principles to foster a culturally safe, responsive and risk-based approach to regulation.

The regulatory principles guide the National Boards and Ahpra when making regulatory decisions.

The changes reflect community expectations and new policy directions from the Health Council, as well as feedback from public consultation. They recognise that community confidence in the regulation of health practitioners is key to a safe and effective health system.

Overall, the changes:

  • reinforce that public protection is the paramount objective of the National Scheme
  • recognise the role of the National Boards and Ahpra in developing a culturally safe and respectful health workforce
  • consider the risks to the public including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and members of the community who are vulnerable to harm
  • embed fairness and transparency, and
  • highlight the importance of maintaining community confidence in regulated health professions and working with consumer bodies to achieve this.

More information about the review of the regulatory principles is available on Ahpra’s website.

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Thousands more health practitioners able to join the pandemic response

From 22 September, thousands of extra health practitioners can join the COVID-19 response through a new temporary sub-register established by Ahpra and the National Boards.

  • Nearly 29,000 practitioners who recently stopped practising are now eligible to practise for up to 12 months.
  • This surge workforce will make more practitioners available to help with the pandemic response if they choose to do so.
  • Practitioners can opt out of the 2021 sub-register at any time and don't need to explain why.

The 2021 pandemic response sub-register was established in response to the changing needs of Australia’s health system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes 12 regulated health professions whose members can work to the full scope of their registration.

On the 2021 sub-register are key professions identified by governments in their pandemic response planning. These include medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists along with dental practitioners, diagnostic radiographers, occupational therapists, optometrists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and psychologists. Eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

Practitioners are being added to the 2021 sub-register if they choose to opt in.

The extra health practitioners on the 2021 sub-register join 26,000 practitioners who are on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register first established in April 2020. Practitioners on the 2020 pandemic sub-register are restricted to working in areas directly supporting the COVID-19 response, such as administering the COVID-19 vaccination or backfilling for furloughed staff.

Read more on Ahpra’s website.

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New independent accreditation committee established

A new independent accreditation committee has been established by Ahpra in line with Health Ministers’ policy direction issued earlier this year and as a key element of Health Ministers’ response to the Independent review of accreditation systems final report. Accreditation provides a framework for assuring that individuals seeking registration are suitably trained, qualified and competent to practise as health practitioners in Australia.

The broad stakeholder membership of the committee will bring a wide range of perspectives to the new committee’s work, recognising the importance of professional and accreditation expertise as well as community, employer and education provider involvement. Members have been appointed for a three-year term and the committee’s terms of reference have been published on the Ahpra website.

Read more in the news item.

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Research and evaluation framework to foster strong research culture

A new Research and evaluation framework guides how National Boards and Ahpra prioritise, carry out, manage and assess research and evaluation. The framework covers all National Scheme research and evaluation and applies to work by Ahpra staff and external researchers and consultants. It includes information on research and evaluation principles, priorities, governance and practice, and engagement and communication.

The framework aims to further embed an ethical, transparent and accountable best-practice research and evaluation culture within the National Scheme. The National Scheme aims to contribute to world-class regulatory research to improve regulation and contribute to contemporary, best-practice processes and standards.

View the framework on the Ahpra website.

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You may notice that the public register looks a little different

Ahpra has launched a new-look public register with enhanced search capabilities. The aim of the enhancements is to make the register easier to use, especially for those in our communities who may have barriers to access. Some of the changes you’ll see include:

  • increased prominence of the register on the Ahpra homepage so it’s easier to fin
  • simplified language with pop-up information boxes, an
  • improved search functionality, including
  • predictive tex
  • phonetic searching capabilit
  • search by location, an
  • refined search filters (including being able to search by the 15 most common community languages).

To help users navigate the new-look register, we’ve developed a ‘how to search’ video which is available on our Help and tips page.

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Joint statement on COVID-19 vaccines to help patients sort fact from fiction

A joint statement has been released by Ahpra and the National Boards, the Health Care Complaints Commission, the Office of the Health Ombudsman and the Therapeutic Goods Administration. We published the statement for patients and health consumers, to support informed decision-making.

Its message is: You need reliable, evidence-based information to make good choices about your healthcare. In a climate thick with commentary about COVID-19 and vaccines, how do you sort fact from fiction?

The statement covers four main points:

  • Get advice from the experts (with a link to the national online register of practitioners).
  • Be safe in the knowledge that registered health practitioners must meet national standards (with links to the National Boards’ websites).
  • Don’t get swayed by opinions.
  • Reach out to a trusted person, like your GP.

It also lists and links to reliable sources of information on COVID-19 and vaccinations in Australia to help people make sure they have the best, most accurate and evidence-based information for their specific needs when making decisions about their own or their loved ones’ health.

The statement has been translated into Arabic, Farsi, Greek, Simplified Chinese and Vietnamese. These versions are available on Ahpra’s Translations page.

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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 30/11/2021