Professor Lyn Littlefield OAM FAPS
Executive Director
 

Over the last couple of months, meetings of the APS Board Advisory Groups and Member Forums have been held to discuss major issues for psychology in 2008 and beyond. The Advisory Groups and Member Forums are an essential part of the APS governance structure, and as such provide important opportunities for both expert and ‘grass root' member representation and input to the APS from across Australia. This ensures a diverse range of opinions are considered in policy making and in the governance of the Society. Contributions from members in these important strategic meetings come from both those appointed to the Board Advisory Groups and those elected by members as office bearers in APS Units.

This article reports on the major meetings of these Advisory Groups and Member Forums that have been held in the last few months and the key issues that are being addressed by the Groups on behalf of APS members this year.

Meetings of Board Advisory Groups and associated Taskforces and Reference Groups

The APS Board of Directors is supported by five Advisory Groups, each with a particular strategic focus and comprised of appointed APS members with expert knowledge in each area. A number of Advisory Groups have also established Taskforces and Reference Groups to provide advice and make recommendations on particular issues and to undertake specific tasks.

The Membership Recruitment and Retention Advisory Group held its first meeting for 2008 in February. This Group has recently undertaken a significant survey of APS members who work in the public, non-government and not-for-profit sectors to ascertain how the APS can better meet the needs of members working in these areas (a summary of the results of this survey can be found on page 30 of this edition). A major task of the Advisory Group is to examine the results of the member survey and plan ways to address the concerns raised by members working in these sectors. The Group is also in the process of establishing a Fellows Taskforce to investigate ways to increasingly involve Fellows of the APS in the work of the Society. In addition, the Group is preparing an updated APS member benefits booklet which will include a listing of all the current APS resources for members.

The Science, Academia and Research Advisory Group held its most recent meeting in December 2007 in preparation for the coming year. The Group reviewed last year's Annual APS Conference program and proposed a number of recommendations to the Board to increase the scientific content of this year's Conference. In addition, the Group discussed the potential of translational research, and the possibility of communicating its benefits to the public more widely. A repository of research highlighting the contribution of psychology to society, which psychologists could contribute to and access, would be a valuable tool in negotiating issues with the Government. The Advisory Group is also investigating a range of measures and incentives to increase the number of academics who become APS members.

For the Professional Practice Advisory Group, which had its first meeting for 2008 in February, the priority activities for this year include the impact of the Better Access Medicare initiative on the psychology profession, and the impending national
registration and accreditation scheme for health professionals. The Advisory Group has established four Taskforces. The Medicare and Optimisation of Practice Taskforce has undertaken the production of a guide for psychologists treating clients under the
Better Access to Mental Health Care Medicare initiative, which will continually be updated. The Rural and Distance Services Taskforce is in the process of developing two documents - one on the provision of adequate support for psychological services in rural areas and the needs of rural psychologists, and the other on supporting rural and metropolitan equity in clients' access to psychological services. The Health Issues in the Workplace Taskforce is developing a document and associated web-based resources on self-care for psychologists. The Deprofessionalisation and the VET Sector Taskforce is developing a critique of the training and subsequent service delivery by a number of practitioners associated with recent reforms to the family law system who are trained in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. The Advisory Group has also established the Private Practice Reference Group which met in February and has its primary focus on the impact of Medicare on private practitioners. The Advisory Group's Public Sector and Non-Government Organisations Reference Group will be meeting in May and will also consider the impact of the Medicare initiative on public sector psychologists, in addition to addressing the findings of the survey of members working in the public, non-government and not-forprofit sectors.

The Professional Development Advisory Group held its first meeting for 2008 in February with the main issues to be addressed this year being the quality and uptake of professional development (PD), and increasing access to PD for members in rural and remote areas. This Advisory Group has established three Taskforces. The Private Practice Management Taskforce is currently investigating the possibility of providing Certificate courses for private practitioners in running their businesses, while the Points Allocation and Endorsement Taskforce is developing an updated model of PD points allocation including incentives to encourage more active participation in high quality training based on adult learning principles. The Structure and System for APS PD Taskforce has developed a template for a Personal Professional Development Plan to encourage members to more actively plan their own activities to meet PD requirements.

The Public Interest Advisory Group, which held the first of its meetings this year in March, has identified priority issues for the development of review papers and other initiatives for 2008. In addition to ongoing activities in the areas of climate change, racism and substance use, possible areas for attention this year include homelessness/poverty, gambling and workplace issues such as organisational policies and practices. The development of materials in areas such as these assists the APS to speak authoritatively on matters of public concern in ways that can be readily understood by decision-makers, the media and the general public. The Advisory Group's Disaster Preparedness and Response Reference Group is currently considering establishing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Red Cross. The Reference Group is developing a campaign to highlight the importance of psychological components of disaster preparedness and response to relevant authorities and organisations.

In addition to the five Board Advisory Groups outlined above, the Board has this year established the National Psychology Education and Training Reference Group which met for the first time in March. This group has been set up to ensure that the profession of psychology is fully prepared to meet any challenge to revise training requirements for psychologists in Australia. The Reference Group has the major task of identifying the most appropriate model of Australian psychology education and training to ensure it is based on psychology as a science and achieves the highest standards of psychological practice and research.

Member Forum meetings

To facilitate member participation in the governance of the Society, four Member Forums were established in 2006 that are comprised of the Chairs/Convenors of (1) State Committees; (2) Branches; (3) Colleges; and (4) Interest Groups. All members of the Society belong to at least one APS Unit (a State or Regional Branch) and often more (as College and Interest Group members), and, through the Chair of these Units, therefore have direct representation at these important Member Forums. The Forums also ensure that Chairs receive first-hand information about APS activities to report back to members of the APS Units.

The State Committee Chairs Forum, which was held in December, provides the opportunity for discussion of particular State-based issues for psychologists, as well as those that require some uniformity across the States and Territories. One example of
this was the decision to adopt a unified masthead and consistency of style for all of the APS State newsletters. The Forum discussed ways of supporting the APS‘ political activities and promotion this year of psychology's expertise in behaviour change in addressing challenging community issues. The State Committee Chairs also discussed their terms of office and the important issue of sustaining the many volunteer office bearers within the APS, as a Society such as the APS is dependent on the voluntary contributions and good will of these members.

The Branch Chairs Forum, a two-day annual event which brings together the Chairs of the 40 Branches of the APS across Australia, was held in February. As well as the opportunity for information exchange between the APS Board/National Office staff and the Branches, the Forum covered issues such as the needs of members in regional and rural locations and Branch involvement in National Psychology Week. The Forum also discussed the opportunities for Branches to develop linkages with local Divisions of General Practice, including the advantages and issues associated with this. The Branch Chairs provided important input to discussion of the APS Professional Development program, ensuring that member preferences and issues in this area are under consideration. The Forum also discussed the important issue of ways to support the volunteer office bearers of the Society.

The first College Chairs Forum for 2008 brought together the Chairs of the nine specialist Colleges of the APS for important discussions on issues affecting the Colleges and the opportunity to share information between Colleges. A major focus of discussion at the February Forum was the College requirements for ‘dual professional' Doctorates. The College Chairs agreed on a document detailing the course content, placements, supervision and thesis requirements for accreditation with two APS Colleges. The consensus document will now be considered by the APS Program Development Accreditation Committee and the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council. Discussion continued on formal identification of the various College competencies, and the core competencies covered by all Colleges were agreed upon. The Forum also discussed ways in which the APS Colleges can be involved in the 27th International Congress of Applied Psychology, a world congress which brings together thousands of psychologists every four years and which will be held in Melbourne in 2010.

The Interest Group Convenors Forum is an annual event that provides an important opportunity for information sharing across the wide range of Interest Groups within the Society to ensure that the groups are meeting members' interests and undertaking initiatives in the most effective way. The Forum also provides the APS National Office with the opportunity to assist Interest Groups to share Professional Development activities and other ways of meeting the needs of their members, and to find new ways of involving them in National Psychology Week activities. The Interest Group Convenors Forum will be held in the next two months.

COAG signs agreement for National registration and accreditation scheme to proceed 
Members will be aware of the impending new national registration and accreditation scheme for health professionals, which is one of the outcomes of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) recent health workforce reforms. COAG held its first meeting under the new Federal Government on 26 March 2008 and signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) which finalised the details of the new scheme. The national scheme is to be established by 1 July 2010. The IGA has just been publicly released as this edition of InPsych goes to press, so we will be in a position to provide members with full details of the new national registration and accreditation scheme in the June edition of InPsych.