International Registered Nursing students predominantly from Deakin, Ballarat and Australian Catholic Universities, as well as Enrolled Nursing students from various tertiary and registered training organisation (RTO) facilities, are at the end of their tether after being advised by AHPRA that as part of the requirements for national registration, they must demonstrate proficiency in English by completing testing in IELTS/OET by scoring 7 out of 9 in each of the 4 components at the one sitting. This has catastrophic consequences for many students whose student visas expire on 30 August 2010 as there is not sufficient time to complete this process. AHPRA refuses to grant registration to these students although there was no requirement for students to gain a score of 7 when they commenced their university/tertiary degree / pre- registration education.
On 1 July 2010 AHPRA advised that all health professionals whose tertiary qualifications in the relevant professional discipline were taught and assessed in English in Australia could be exempted from the English Language Skills Standard, i.e. 7.0. AHPRA (by 22 July, 2010) amended their website document to exclude only Nursing and Midwifery.
On Thursday 5 August, over 120 of these affected students, who are ANF members, met with Lisa Fitzpatrick, Secretary Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) and ANF officers to discuss their concerns. A resolution was unanimously passed and is detailed below:
"This meeting of International Nursing Students on 5 August 2010 express concern regarding:
- the lack of clarification regarding AHPRA IELTS/OET requirements and the delays that have occurred in being advised on this issue
- the changes to the AHPRA website information, subsequent to 1 July 2010, wherein these overseas qualified nurses would have been exempt but are now not exempt from the English language requirements having undertaken their undergraduate qualification in Australia.
- the fact that the Nursing and Midwifery professions are the only ones not exempt.
- the fact that the steps put in place by AHPRA are not acceptable to the students affected and seek that AHPRA amend its decision.
- the distress being experienced in relation to the future lack of ability of international nursing students to financially support themselves on a Visitor's Visa due to the condition of not being able to work.
Therefore, we request ANF (Vic Branch) to pursue the following:
- Seek all universities/tertiary institutions to assist with gaining a place in an IELTS/OET course and test and, further, that they all provide full funding for tuition and the undertaking of the examination.
- Request AHPRA and NMBA to reverse their decision and allow these students to gain registration under the Nurses Board of Victoria conditions that were in place when they commenced their nursing courses here in Australia.
- Seek a guarantee from AHPRA that these students' registration will be processed as a matter of urgency prior to the expiration of the Visitor's Visa - not the 90 days as currently advertised on the NMBA website.
- Request an urgent review of the current AHPRA and NMBA English language standard on this matter.
- give consideration to what legal channels are available to assist these students.
Furthermore, this meeting directs ANF (Vic Branch) to organise a rally to convene at Treasury Gardens (cnr Treasury Place and Spring Street) at 12.00. Then marching to the AHPRA office, 111 Bourke Street, Melbourne on 17 August 2010 should this situation not be resolved."
This resolution is being communicated to both federal and state government ministers, the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA), the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and other ANF state and territory branches.
In light of this resolution a rally is planned on Tuesday 17 August and will depart from the Treasury Gardens (cnr Treasury Place and Spring St) at 12.00 midday to march to AHPRA (111 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000). International nursing students, students from various universities and educational institutions, families of affected students and other nurses will attend. The Melways map reference for the meeting point is 2G D5.
Speakers at this rally include Rev. Tim Costello, CEO World Vision, Lisa Fitzpatrick, Secretary Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) and affected students.
Members and general public are encouraged to attend and support these students