Our APA's Role in Professional Development - Going Forward

It is clearly the current position of the APA executive to make money from professional development regardless if this disenfranchises members. The new stated goal...

"In my role, I am responsible to the CEO to provide a revenue stream of $3.9M in 2015 from professional development. Servicing around 93,000 hours cpd, we offer some 800 events nationally. The expectations of the CEO for the professional development division is that we will grow revenue to $5M over the coming years"James Fitzpatrick GM of Professional Development

I remember the days when the APA was in the red and on the brink of complete financial collapse in the 1990s. At this stage state branches were being closed to save money and members were resigning in protest of these unprecedented money saving changes. The reality at the time was that if these member inconveniencing measures were not implemented, there simply would have been no APA the next year. GONE. They were frightening times for members, brought about through poor APA executive management, which nearly gutted our APA. We are now not in that situation. Not even close. Over the past 20 years, through the hard work of APA members & committees and with appropriate corporate guidance, the APA is now well and truly in the black. So why are members that stayed the course in the 1990s, often personally guiding the APA through these turbulent times, resigning their APA memberships held so dearly for nearly 30 years? Simply because the APA is heading in a direction that they believe fundamentally to be wrong. 

Since November I being talking and writing about this issue. Why, because it became blatantly clear that this was exactly what the APA executive didn't want to happen.

See these links for other background information;

  • http://www.aapeducation.com.au/blog/entry/your-apa.html
  • http://www.aapeducation.com.au/blog/entry/does-our-apa-listen-or-speak-to-members.htmlhttp://www.aapeducation.com.au/blog/entry/clinical-kit-98-24-11-2015-apa-restricting-your-pd-access.html
  • http://www.aapeducation.com.au/blog/entry/clinical-kit-101-21-1-2016-apa-our-organisation-their-job.html
  • http://www.aapeducation.com.au/blog/entry/aap-education-apa-m-ship-your-2016-pd-calendar.html

I posted a couple of items on the APA FB page asking members if they were aware of this restricted PD issue? The result? They were filtered off! Does that sound like an open and transparent organisation wanting to hold an honest conversation? It was only after writing to president Marcus Dripps did one get posted. I would link you to it, but it looks like it has been filtered off again. I never received any explanation as to why a member with a dissenting viewpoint would be silenced. I wonder how many others have had this happened?

While tabled, there was nil discussion about these changes at the last NAC meeting for the year. Then in the December InMotion (last one for the year), there was a large one sided piece about the concept of an APA managed 'career pathway' was presented as fact and simply a process to be rolled out. As individuals and committee members around Australia started to absorb the implications, they were all saying slimier things, "I wasn't aware this was what was happening", or "Our committee was never consulted about these important changes."

As I have thought and written about this issue over the past 2 months I believe a farming truism appropriate. When an animal displays inappropriate behaviors, you cull and cull hard. Inappropriate behaviors are learnt (parent to offspring) and can influence the whole herd, which leads to safety issues for animals and humans. In our current situation, I think the conversation about establishing "working parties for career pathway development" and similar has completely got out of control and needs to simply be culled. What I mean is that the APA staff are making decisions way down a pathway of their own choosing, not the memberships.

Where to from here?

For such a radical change as proposed, FIRSTLY the APA staff needs to present their vision of this 'career pathway' they have created, explaining the need and the benefits for members to us the membership. Then with member approval they could put that plan into action. HOWEVER they have not yet received such ringing endorsement (in fact members are resigning in protest) and it is therefore inappropriate for them to be talking about 'Career Pathway Working Parties' and the like.

My discussion on this topic is therefore pretty short. Stop spending finite APA time and APA resources on this venture, until you have a mandate from the membership to pursue this pathway. At the moment it would be better to expend these resources and focus on current important issues already identified.

I am not politically inclined. I am a clinician, researcher and educator. I have a busy life, lovely family, farm and business to run. However I have mentally committed to the Feb 27th NAC meeting as the watershed. After that I will have done what I feel I can and if it is not taken up by others or the membership generally, so be it.

Here are my thoughts

First and foremost, each and every APA member, Board Member and NAC member needs to be across this issue for them to make an informed decision. Limited or one sided awareness will lead to poor decisions. 

Here are some key points for our Board & NAC to consider;

Honesty about APA being business focused or member focused

  • As an organisation we are in the black (cf 1990s) and doing well. Do we want to trade more dollars in the bank for disaffected/cancelled member/ships
  • Revenue is being lost through restricted advertising and restricted room hire. How is this going to be made up? If truly a member focused organisation, then send a monthly email to members advising of all CPD relevant to member's 'career pathways'

APA and non APA Transparency & Openness

  • There has been censorship and lack of transparent communication with those that have dared challenge the decision and ask questions
  • Not easy to locate direct contact details (email) of elected members - Board or NAC. These should be available on APA website so that members can directly contact if they have issues
  • An email to be sent to all members, in lieu of an article being published in InMotion, at least 2 weeks before the February NAC meeting, informing members about the two or more sides to this discussion

Professional Development

  • Educational opportunities for physios is not in the 'broken camp', so why is the APA trying to 'fix it', Australian physios lead the world in so many fields, all without a defined APA career pathway - so why is it necessary?
  • Yes members want CPD, especially diversity and have choice to decide what they attend. Limiting advertising is limiting options.
  • The restricting of course advertising has been implemented without development of any clear and agreed criteria, as to what constitutes overlap/competition in courses
  • PD restriction does not support APA members' career pathways and limits all members' access to PD options
  • It is false for APA executive to say they are not restricting PD - why else are they doing it, to state the obvious
  • APA states they have legal advice that this behaviour is not anti competitive. Have they a ruling in their favour from the ACCC? Please share to the members.

Restricting Member Development

  • Some physios will choose to develop a career in education. Upcoming physios with new ideas, a zest for education or translating research findings into training, will have to either deliver their course under the APA banner or 'go at it alone', as their course will surely 'compete' against one or other APA courses. This barrier to entry will stifle such professional development, as competing against a behemoth the size of the APA would be practically insurmountable. Restrictive now, imagine the future
  • APA members should be able to hire APA facilities at fair market rates

Training Pathway/Accreditation

  • APA is a membership organisation not a training or accreditation organisation. APA needs to remember what it does best and do that better
  • Important to have independent organisation that designs career pathways, accredits courses and conducts assessments. This could be the Australian College of Physiotherapists, but at the moment to be a member of the College, you MUST be a member of the APA. Ideally the APA with its greater financial capacity would support the College for professional integrity, without strings like mandatory APA membership, attached.

Future Planning

  • The APA has a financially vested interest to restrict and only develop what is in its financial interest. This has been articulated and clearly demonstrated in the above quote from James Fitzpatrick, GM of Professional Development. The Australian College of Physiotherapy should be formally approached with an genuine offer of support from the APA, to 'oversee' physiotherapists' progression from graduate to titled/specialisation
  • As part of titling, the College would provide a framework of broadening courses with a clinical skill focus appropriate to the level of titling being attempted. These courses could be provided by the APA or other relevant entities and specifically related to the clinical pathway being studied. Participants would choose what was appropriate for them and include them in their clinical portfolio
  • This pathway could be undertaken by physiotherapist with the goal of achieving specialisation or simply to develop and broaden their clinical skills within an area of clinical interest


Please consider these points and if you feel moved, contact your NAC representative (branch president and special interest group president) via your branch. Ask for it to be sent on to the appropriate person and in your email ask for a confirmation email back. Here are the branch contact details;

  • wa.branch@physiotherapy.asn.au
  • sa.branch@physiotherapy.asn.au
  • nsw.branch@physiotherapy.asn.au
  • vic.branch@physiotherapy.asn.au
  • tas.branch@physiotherapy.asn.au
  • qld.branch@physiotherapy.asn.au 
  • nt.branch@physiotherapy.asn.au

I will be posting this on our FB page here and you can add your comments. 

Thank you so much for your assistance.

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