AAPi Legal Update

Posted on 3 March 2022

The Australian Association of Psychologists Inc (AAPi) was founded to bring equality, diversity and unity back to Australia psychology by:

  • Presenting a united voice for psychologists to government and funding bodies 
  • Promote the recognition, professionalism, skills and expertise of all psychologists
  • Improve access and equity to psychological services in Australia by removing barriers
  • Advocating for the removal of the two-tier funding system and reinstate one higher Medicare rebate for the clients of all psychologists

The two-tier system has created a divide within psychology creating two classes of psychologists, those with clinical endorsement and those without. It also creates further barriers to clients of non-clinically endorsed psychologists by providing a 40% lower rebate.

With assistance from our members and supporters, AAPi has been working through all possible legal avenues, along with advocacy and lobbying to address this. Our legal team has prepared the following update.

Investigation of other organisations’ conduct in the establishment of the two-tier system

AAPi has continued to instruct its legal team to vigorously investigate any potential claims that could be brought against organisations that were instrumental in the advocacy for and implementation of the two-tier system.

Following the survey distributed to AAPi members late in 2021, PGC Legal was provided with almost 200 pages of primary responses from members. Following an extensive review, a shortlist of respondents was generated, and those shortlisted respondents were contacted with a request to conduct a teleconference with a solicitor, to obtain additional information in relation to potential misleading and deceptive conduct claims. All shortlisted candidates agreed to participate in the follow-up teleconference, and all but one of the teleconferences have been completed. All participants have, in addition to their participation, provided extensive supporting written material and evidence to facilitate the investigations.

Our lawyers will conduct the final teleconference this week, followed by an extensive review of the evidence provided, in order to provide advice to AAPi about the prospects of potential legal action.

Thank you to all those who responded to the initial expression of interest. Those not currently shortlisted will be considered for future action.

Strategic litigation to bring about the expansion and enforcement of the ‘substantial equivalence’ provisions of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.

AAPi’s legal team has also been monitoring and investigate the reticence of Ahpra and the Psychology Board to apply the ‘substantial equivalence’ test. AAPi and PGC Legal are closely following applications in this area, and considering potential applications to strategically expand and enforce Ahpra’s and the Psychology Board’s obligation to meaningfully consider and decide substantial equivalence applications for area of practice endorsements.

AAPi’s member survey asked a series of questions relating to formal qualifications, experience and previous applications for substantial equivalence members had made.

Based on the responses received, and the shortlist generated, members have been contacted with a request for detailed information, with a view to considering the appropriateness of any for area of practice endorsement based on substantially equivalent qualifications.

Potential applications will be brought with a view to strategically expand the definition of ‘substantial equivalence,’ as it is not being applied by the authorities, to the detriment of eligible members of the profession.

Contemplated court action against the Department of Health to obtain documents

Late last year, AAPi’s solicitors made a demand of the Commonwealth Department of Health for supporting evidence for claims made by the Department during:

  • the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS Initiative (Better Access);
  • Commonwealth Funding and Administration of Mental Health Services Inquiry Report;
  • the Inquiry into Mental Health and Suicide Prevention; and 
  • the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review, in particular specifically by the Mental Health Reference Group established to support the Review.

The materials provided in response by the Department have been deemed insufficient, and our legal team has pointed out the Departments’ obligations to provide additional documents. AAPi is currently waiting for a response, and considering bringing legal action against the Department should it continue to refuse to provide the documents.

Title protections complaint

Late in 2021, AAPi’s legal team lodged a complaint with Ahpra in relation to specialist titles and improper advertising relating to clinical psychology, along with evidence in support of the application.

Our legal team has been actively pursuing Ahpra for a determination, and is expecting an initial response from Ahpra shortly.

Further Applications 

AAPi members who would like to be involved in future rounds of legal action can submit their details here.

Not a member? Now is a critical time to stand united. Join or renew now.