Optometry Board of Australia - December 2019
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December 2019

Issue 16 - December 2019

Chair’s message

Ian BluntishWelcome to our summer 2019 newsletter. We have a lot of news and information to share with you, so please read the articles in this issue – particularly those on registration standards and guidelines changes.

Optometrists have 12 months from now to familiarise themselves with the revised continuing professional development (CPD) registration standard and guidelines. These were approved by the Ministerial Council on 30 June 2019 for implementation on 1 December 2020. The revised registration standard and guidelines will allow greater flexibility in choices of activities that can be included as CPD. See more in this newsletter.

We are now in the late period for registration renewal (1 to 31 December) and a late fee applies. Make sure you renew before the end of December or your registration will lapse. There is registration guidance for new graduates on the Board’s website.

On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank and wish all registered optometrists, members and staff of the Board’s many stakeholder organisations (public and private), including AHPRA, a safe festive season and best wishes for 2020.

Ian Bluntish
Chair, Optometry Board of Australia

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Board news

Optometry regulation at work: Protecting the public in 2018/19

A profession-specific statistical summary and a report from the Chair that covers the work of the Optometry Board of Australia over the 12 months to 30 June 2019 is now available online.

The summary draws on data from the 2018/19 annual report of AHPRA and the National Boards, which you can read in full – see the feature in this newsletter.

The optometry summary provides a snapshot of the profession as at 30 June 2019, and includes the number of applications for registration, outcomes of practitioner audits and segmentation of the registrant base by gender and age.

Notifications information is also extensive and includes numbers, types and sources of complaints, mandatory notifications, criminal offence complaints and much more.

Profession-specific data tables are also available for downloading.

To gain an insight into the profession during 2018/19 and to access the data tables, visit the Board’s 2018/19 summary.

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Revised CPD registration standards and guidelines: advance copies published

The COAG Health Council (Commonwealth, state and territory Ministers of Health) approved the revised CPD registration standard on 30 June 2019, for implementation by the Board on 1 December 2020. Advance copies of both the registration standard and guidelines are published on the Board’s website.

What’s changed?

The Board had agreed to change the CPD assessment from a points system to one based on hours. The revised standards require practitioners to complete 20 hours of CPD annually which meet a set of consistent criteria and include a minimum of five hours CPD in an interactive setting with other practitioners.

The standards draw on the best available evidence about effective CPD, including the requirement for practitioners to document their learning goals, the CPD activities they complete and their reflection on the effect the CPD has had on their practice.
Registered optometrists with an endorsement in scheduled medicines will need to complete an additional 10 hours of CPD each year that relates to therapeutic practice.

The revised registration standard and guidelines will allow greater flexibility in choices of activities that can be included as CPD. The Board plans to facilitate two focus group sessions in December 2019 with practising optometrists to test its draft guidance materials.

Resources to help you with the transition

The Board will release guidance materials on its website after consulting with these focus groups. The guidance materials will include tips, sample templates, examples of activities that meet the standards, what is meant by reflection, FAQ and a checklist.

Minor changes to endorsement for scheduled medicines guidelines

In 2019, the Board consulted with stakeholders on a targeted consultation paper about administrative changes to the Guidelines for use of scheduled medicines. Stakeholders included AHPRA’s Scheduled Medicines Expert Committee (SMEC), whose membership comprises qualified health practitioners, academic researchers and educators with expertise in the fields of pharmacy, and in pharmacology including expertise in the therapeutic use of scheduled medicines, the quality use of medicines and adverse medicine events. Health departments were also asked for feedback.

Following extensive consultation and support received from the majority of stakeholders, the Board made minor amendments to Appendix A and Appendix B in the Guidelines for use of scheduled medicines.

What are the changes?

Appendix A of the guidelines has been amended with a change in the concentration of phenylephrine to 2.5% to reflect the standard concentration mass produced for dilation and cycloplegia.

The Board has made three changes to Appendix B. Amendments have been made to:

  • correctly categorise four schedule 2 drugs, Antazoline, Azelastine, Ketotifen and Levocabastine from a formerly incorrect category of anti-inflammatories to fall under the correct category of decongestants/anti-allergics
  • amend the reference to phenylephrine from 1% to 2.5% or less, and
  • add a drug, Ganciclovir, to the schedule 4 anti-infectives category in the event it becomes TGA-approved.

The remaining content in the guidelines and Appendix C is unchanged.

The Board considers the revisions benefit public safety, will have a minor effect on the profession and are intended to help endorsed optometrists to provide timely, safe and quality health services.

The revised appendices to the Guidelines for use of scheduled medicines are available on the Endorsement for scheduled medicines page of the Board’s website.

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Annual meeting of the Optometry Regulatory Reference Group

In October, the Board convened the annual meeting of the Optometry Regulatory Reference Group (ORRG). Its members comprise representatives from the following bodies:

  • Optometry Council of New South Wales
  • Heads of Schools of Optometry in Australia and New Zealand
  • Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board of New Zealand
  • Optometry Australia
  • Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand (OCANZ)
  • Australian College of Optometry.

Reference group members appreciated informative perspectives on AHPRA’s submission to the COAG Health Council’s Accreditation System Review, presented by our guest speaker, Ms Helen Townley, AHPRA’s National Director, Policy and Accreditation.

The Board would also like to thank Ms Kym Ayscough, AHPRA’s Executive Director, Regulatory Operations, for informing us about the recent changes to a national operating model for registration.

We also thank Associate Professor Peter Hendicott, outgoing Chair of OCANZ, who has been at the helm of providing quality accreditation services for the Board. We welcome Professor Alex Gentle as incoming Chair of OCANZ and look forward to a continued productive relationship.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strategy initiatives working group

The Board established an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strategy initiatives working group to consider initiatives that are consistent with the objectives of the National Scheme Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020–25. 

Board members will participate in cultural safety training. We sent a representative to the ‘Close the Gap for Vision by 2020’ Conference in Alice Springs in March 2020 and the Indigenous Allied Health Australia Conference in Darwin in September 2019.

The Board acknowledges that eye health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples need further improvements, and this should happen in the context of cultural safety, a definition that will be included in a revised Code of conduct for practitioners. The Board, through AHPRA, hopes to engage with Indigenous Allied Health Australia.

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Do you practise under the name published on the online register of practitioners?

Late last year, governments consulted on possible changes to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law), which would allow AHPRA and National Boards to publish on the online register of practitioners, the names that registered health practitioners use in practice and not just their legal name.

Each registered health profession publishes registration information about practitioners on the online register. The public and employers can look up the names of all health practitioners who are registered to practise. The register also provides important information about limits or restrictions placed on the way a registered health practitioner is allowed to practise.

The national online register must remain an authoritative and trusted source of information. Consumers rely on it for accurate and up to date information to inform their healthcare decision-making and employers rely on it to validate their employees’ registration status.

We know some optometrists practise the profession using a name that is different from their legally recognised name published on the register (an alias).

AHPRA has asked governments to consider changes to the National Law that would enable registered health practitioners to nominate one or more aliases to record on the public register. This would to help to inform and protect the public, by making it easier to identify a practitioner who may be registered and able to practise but who is not using their legal name.

You can view the submissions to the review on AHPRA’s Past consultations page.

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Get to know your Board

Meet our newest members

The Board’s newer members, Carla Abbott (Vic), Judy Hannan (NSW) and Stuart Aamodt (WA) have now served around 12 months and made valuable contributions to the Board, its committees and working groups.
Photo of Carla Abbott

Carla Abbott

What attracted you to serve as a Board member?

I have a strong interest in serving both the public and the reputation of the profession. I primarily come from a teaching and research background, worked in public health optometry for 15 years and have been a clinical instructor for over 10 years. Before serving on the Board I gained experience on another optometry sector board and also in CPD auditing, both instrumental in developing my interest in regulation and policy-making. I’d like to contribute to the Board’s diverse skills and expertise and use my research training from working in large multidisciplinary teams.

What are you passionate about?

I want to make sure the most disadvantaged members of society get a voice and are not marginalised. I feel it is important to ensure that the Board is accessible to people from different backgrounds to have appropriate issues heard and addressed. I am also passionate about optometrists' role and abilities in helping people with their eye health and believe we provide a much needed, excellent service to the public.

What does the future hold for the optometry profession?

I think the future is very bright for optometry. As a teacher, it is encouraging to see the many enthusiastic and clever young people entering our profession and engaging excitedly with their areas of interest. The profession is constantly evolving, and in Australia we have always been leaders in championing the best care and outcomes for our patients through the continuing development of our skills and training. I think it's important that all the eye health professions work together in a cohesive way to best serve our communities, and optometry is pivotal in achieving this. 

Photo of Judy Hannan

Judy Hannan

What attracted you to serve as a Board member?

I have been on some other boards. As I have worked as an optometrist for a long time and seen the wonderful improvements we make to people’s health and lives, I thought being on the Board is an obvious extension of this. Getting involved in the Board to help make decisions to protect the public and maintain the respect we have as a profession were major reasons.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about great communication and making sure patients understand their options and choices relating to their treatments. I am keen for the profession to understand the reason for CPD and various regulatory impositions by the Board and how these add positive value to daily optometry practice.

What does the future hold for the optometry profession?

I think the future for optometry is exciting with technology giving us the ability gain more knowledge about our patients’ conditions, enabling better, more accurate treatment. While this happens, I hope we never forget our basic foundation of refraction.

Photo of Stuart AamodtStuart Aamodt

What attracted you to serve as a Board member?

I was involved with the professional association when the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (National Scheme) was being rolled out in the state jurisdictions, so I have always been interested in how the scheme was functioning. The practitioner member role for WA became vacant and I saw this as a good opportunity to get involved.

What are you passionate about?

I have been involved in outreach and remote optometry from the first year that I graduated, so I have a passion for services that reach those communities. Similarly, I have been supervising students for many years and trying to inspire quality optometry graduates is also a passion.

What does the future hold for the optometry profession?

I think the emerging scopes of practice means that optometry workforce may look quite different over the coming decades. It is an exciting time for young optometrists to be starting their career.

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Have you renewed your registration? We are now in the late period for renewal

We are now in the late period for registration renewal (1 to 31 December). Make sure you renew before the end of December or your registration will lapse in accordance with the National Law and your name will be removed from the online national register of practitioners.

To renew your registration, go to the AHPRA login page.

See fees for the cost of annual renewal, including the late payment fee for renewal applications received during December.

If you wish to keep practising and do not renew your registration by 31 December, you must submit a fast track application for registration. Fast track application forms are available on the Board website or by phoning AHPRA’s Customer Service team on 1300 419 495 during January.

If submitting a fast track application, you cannot practise until your application is processed and your registration details are updated on the national register.

Latest registration statistics released: our profession is growing

The Board released its latest quarterly registration statistics in September, for the period 1 July 2019 to 30 September 2019:

  •  Registrant numbers have increased from 5,592 to 5,871 over a 12-month period.
  • The number of registrants with endorsements for scheduled medicines has increased from 3,151 to 3,572, bringing the percentage of general registrants with endorsements to 62.8%.
  • The largest registered cohort as at 30 September 2019 is the 25-29 age group with 1,096 registrants (747 females and 349 males), followed by the 30-34 age group with 778 registrants (507 females and 271 males). 

For more information, including registration by principal place of practice, visit the Board’s Statistics page.

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National Scheme news

Annual report 2018/19 released – one in 17 working Australians on the national register

The latest report on the National Scheme is packed full of data and descriptions of what National Boards and AHPRA do and how we work in partnership. While its most attentive readership is Health Ministers and their staff, the report is also a useful source of information for a wide audience: board members, other regulators, registrants, students, overseas-trained health professionals, employers, education providers, consumer groups, patients and the broader community.

It’s quite startling to realise that one in every 17 working Australians is a registrant in one of the regulated health professions in the scheme. At over 744,000 registrants, this is a huge and growing workforce.

When paramedics joined the scheme last year, becoming nationally regulated and registered for the first time, the number of professions regulated increased to 16, and the number of National Boards to 16 (the professions of nursing and midwifery are both regulated by one board).

To ensure this large workforce is trained, qualified and competent, there are now over 1,000 approved programs of study.

The report also shows AHPRA directly received 9,338 concerns (notifications) about registered health practitioners and closed 8,979 during 2018/19. More notifications were received and more closed than ever before. We are committed to improving the notification experience for both notifiers and practitioners and this report indicates we are making progress. The number of notifications received by AHPRA also suggests the public are becoming more aware of their option to report their healthcare concerns.

Other insights from the year include:

  • 41,696 new registered health practitioners joined the scheme, bringing the total to 744,437 health practitioners across 16 regulated professions.
  • Student registrations increased by over 21,000 registrants to 182,657.
  • 17,323 paramedics registered for the first time in 2018/19 after officially joining the National Scheme in December.
  • Across the professions, the largest growth in registrants (aside from paramedicine) was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners +7.6%, occupational therapy +6.9% and osteopathy +6.6%.
  • 75% of all registrants are female.
  • 12,445 practitioners had a notification made about them (1.7% of all registered health practitioners). The top three reasons for a notification made to AHPRA were clinical care (46.3%), medication issues (10.7%) and health impairment (6.5%).
  • AHPRA reduced the average time taken to resolve a notification by 5.1%.
  • AHPRA received 380 new offence complaints relating to title and practice protection and 668 complaints related to advertising.
  • 2,584 practitioners were monitored for health, performance and/or conduct during the year.
  • AHPRA completed 15 proceedings in the Magistrates’ and Local Courts. All prosecutions resulted in convictions.

To view and download the 2018/19 annual report, visit the AHPRA website.

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Fake practitioners face prison and hefty fines as new regulatory powers come into force

Since 1 July, new regulatory powers have come into force to deal with people whose offences relate to unlawful use of protected titles such as ‘occupational therapist’, unlawful claims to registration (also known as holding out) and restricted acts.
The penalties for anyone prosecuted by AHPRA under the National Law for these offences now include bigger fines and the prospect of prison time.

Fake practitioners betray the trust that patients place in them and pose a significant risk to the public. The amendments mean that offenders will face the possibility of a maximum term of three years’ imprisonment per offence. They also face an increase in the maximum fines from $30,000 to $60,000 per offence for an individual and from $60,000 to $120,000 per offence for a corporate entity.

Summary of the new laws:

  • The amendments were passed in February 2019 by the Queensland Parliament under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) (the Act).
  • The new offence provisions will apply in all states and territories, except Western Australia. The amendments to offence provisions do not apply to advertising offences under the National Law.
  • Under the National Law, anyone who uses any of the protected titles, such as ‘chiropractor’, ‘medical practitioner’, ‘psychologist’ and so on, must be registered with the corresponding National Board.
  • It is an offence to use one of the protected titles, and it is also an offence to knowingly or recklessly claim to be a registered practitioner when you’re not or use symbols or language that may lead a reasonable person to believe that an individual is a registered health practitioner or is qualified to practise in a health profession. These offences are known as ‘holding out’. 

For further information on the changes, please visit the AHPRA website.

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New resources help practitioners get titles right and check for acceptable evidence in health advertising

AHPRA and National Boards have published resources to help practitioners understand their legal obligations when using titles in health advertising, and to check that claims made are supported by accepted evidence.

These are part of a series of resources and support materials developed to help health practitioners, healthcare providers and other advertisers of regulated health services check and correct their advertising so it complies with the National Law.

You can access the information via a link on the Advertising resources page on the Board’s website.

Using titles in advertising

The titles tool addresses the uncertainty some practitioners might have around this issue and outlines some of the common pitfalls that can result in titles being considered misleading under the National Law.

Misuse of a protected title, specialist title or endorsements is an offence under sections 113-119 of the National Law or may constitute behaviour for which health, conduct or performance action may be taken against a registered health practitioner under Part 8 of the National Law. However, advertisers should also be aware that while use of some titles may not necessarily breach title protections under sections 113-119, they may be considered false, misleading or deceptive under the advertising provisions in the National Law (section 133).

Checking for acceptable evidence in advertising claims

We want to help practitioners and other advertisers understand if claims made in advertising are supported by accepted evidence.

The approach taken to assessing evidence to support claims is consistent with the wider scientific and academic community. However, there is an important difference between acceptable evidence for claims made in advertising and the evidence used for clinical decisions about patient care.

When treating patients, practitioners must obtain informed consent for the care they provide and are expected to discuss the evidence for different treatment options. In advertising, the claims are generic, and practitioners are not available to clarify whether a treatment is appropriate for an individual patient.

The evidence base for clinical practice is constantly developing so it is important to make sure that the evidence you rely on is current.

The new information on acceptable evidence in health advertising, which includes issues to consider about study design, is available in the Advertising resources section of the AHPRA website.

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Social media guide for health practitioners

AHPRA and National Boards have published new guide to help registered health practitioners understand and meet their obligations when using social media.

The guide reminds practitioners that when interacting online, they should maintain professional standards and be aware of the implications of their actions, just as when they interact in person.

The guide does not stop practitioners from engaging online or via social media; instead, it encourages practitioners to act ethically and professionally in any setting.

To help practitioners meet their obligations, the guide also outlines some common pitfalls practitioners may encounter when using social media.

Community trust in registered health practitioners is essential. Whether an online activity can be viewed by the public or is limited to a specific group of people, health practitioners have a responsibility to behave ethically and to maintain professional standards, as in all professional circumstances.

In using social media, health practitioners should be aware of their obligations under the National Law, their Board’s Code of conduct, the Advertising guidelines and other relevant legislation, such as privacy legislation.

This guide replaces the Social media policy on Boards’ codes, guidelines and policies pages and is available in the Advertising resources section of the AHPRA website. The guide will be updated as needed.

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Keeping things in perspective: videos show practitioners’ experiences of the notification process

Earlier this year, AHPRA launched a series of videos to support members of the public and registered health practitioners who are going through the notification process.

The video series, called ‘Let’s talk about it’, explains what happens when concerns are raised with the regulator, gives easy-to-follow information about the notifications process and addresses common questions, so consumers and health practitioners know what to expect when they interact with AHPRA and National Boards.

The series is part of work to minimise the adverse impact of the notifications process on practitioners and notifiers. Over the last few months two new videos were added. These provide a first-hand account of the notification process from a practitioner’s  perspective:

The videos sit alongside other written resources available on the website, including information about understanding the notifications experience. See: www.ahpra.gov.au/Notifications.

You can view the videos on the AHPRA and National Board websites or on our YouTube and Vimeo channel, and join the conversation by following AHPRA on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, use the hashtag #letstalkaboutit and tag @AHPRA.

My expereince: receiving a notification

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Safety of older Australians at centre of new regulatory agreement

Older Australians will be better protected as the result of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed recently by AHPRA and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (the commission).

The MOU underpins the positive and collaborative working relationship that already exists between AHPRA and the commission. It will ensure that information can be appropriately shared between the two agencies where there may be concerns in aged care.

It will support the commission raising concerns about the health, performance or conduct of registered health practitioners working in aged care. In a reciprocal arrangement, AHPRA will disclose information to the commission if it has concerns about the care and safety of someone receiving Commonwealth-funded aged care services.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson PSM said the commission was pleased to work with AHPRA to support the timely sharing of information and two-way communication to help both parties better fulfil their statutory mandates.

AHPRA will also work with the commission to ensure that all aged care employers use our online national register to check that health practitioners working in aged care are appropriately registered and meet required registration standards and codes of conduct.

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AHPRA scoops international regulatory excellence award

The Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR) has bestowed its Regulatory Excellence Group Award on AHPRA’s Notifications team, recognising its contribution to improving the experience of health practitioners and the public when engaging with the regulator.

The prestigious award recognises an outstanding team contribution to the enhancement of occupational or professional regulation, regulatory processes or consumer and public protection. To receive the award the team had to demonstrate exceptional leadership, vision, creativity, results and outcomes above and beyond the regular functions of the job or expectations, and beyond what is normally achieved.

AHPRA’s National Director of Notifications, Matthew Hardy, accepted the award on behalf of his team and project leaders National Engagement Advisor Susan Biggar and Program Manager Monica Lambley.

The Notifications team led the introduction of surveys and interviews to ask how practitioners and the public have felt through the notifications process, which has led to real changes in how they do their work. Since 2016, the team has received over 5,000 surveys and conducted nearly 100 face-to-face interviews with practitioners and notifiers. This work has transformed staff training and support materials.

More recently, the team developed the ‘Let’s talk about it’ video series to support notifiers and health practitioners as they go through the notification process.

The award was given at CLEAR's 2019 Annual Educational Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 20 September. AHPRA’s Executive Director of Regulatory Operations, Kym Ayscough is the incoming President of CLEAR. Kym has been a member of the CLEAR Board of Directors since 2016 and is the first president from the Southern Hemisphere.

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Social research results: understanding perceptions about the National Scheme’s work

AHPRA and National Boards have released results from a social research project aimed at helping us understand perceptions about us and our work.

The aim of the social research project was for AHPRA and National Boards to better understand what the community, regulated health professions and our stakeholders think and feel about us, particularly in areas of understanding, confidence and trust.

AHPRA and National Boards are using insights gained from the project to better understand how registered health practitioners view what we do and to inform how we can improve our engagement with both the professions and the community.

AHPRA has released a report of results from the project which included a short, anonymous survey of a random sample of registered practitioners from across 15 of the 16 regulated health professions. (Because the practitioner survey was conducted before paramedics joined the National Scheme, the report does not include survey results for this profession.)

The anonymous survey of practitioners was done simultaneously with an anonymous survey sent to a random sample of members of the public across communities in Australia. Both surveys were managed by an independent consultant. We invite you to take a look at the results on the AHPRA website.

The National Boards have also published profession-specific reports based on the results of the online survey of registered health practitioners. You can find the optometry report on the Board’s website.

To help inform our future work to ensure the public has access to a safe registered health workforce, we are surveying practitioners and the community again in 2019.

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Updated logos for AHPRA and National Boards

AHPRA and the 15 National Boards are in the tenth year of implementing the National Scheme.

The National Scheme started in July 2010, initially regulating 10 health professions. Since 2012, five more health professions have joined the scheme, the latest being paramedics in December 2018. (Nursing and midwifery were officially recognised as separate professions under amendments to the National Law1 last year.) We now regulate over 744,000 practitioners across 16 health professions.

This growth in the number of regulated health professions was pivotal to refreshing the AHPRA logo, which also lists the National Boards and is used to represent the National Scheme.

The bold but simple design of the new AHPRA logo aims to serve us well into the future. It still has a key element of the old logo, namely the map of Australia, but is better suited to digital platforms (websites, social media) and for use across a variety of other materials.

Most importantly, it will not need updating as the old logo would if Health Ministers decide public safety would benefit from other health professions becoming regulated.

The National Board logos reflect the ongoing partnership between the National Boards and AHPRA in our shared role of protecting the public.

Both logo designs also include ‘AHPRA’, now with just an initial capital: ‘Ahpra’. This helps people to pronounce our name correctly and distinguishes us from other regulators with similar acronyms.
The new logos will be rolled out over coming months.

As we say goodbye to the old logos and welcome the new, thanks for your patience while we complete this transition.

Ahpra & National boards logo Optometry Board and Ahpra logo.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Board website for registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQ.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9275 9009 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Ian Bluntish, Chair, Optometry Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 21/10/2021