The Australian Register of Naturopath and Herbalists attended the Inaugural meeting of the World Naturopathic Federation in Calgary, Canada this weekend as an Associate Member from Australia. Dr Amie Steel attended WNF meetings over the weekend as the chair of ARONAH and participated in discussions which informed the strategic plan and direction of the WNF over the next 12 months.
One of the most exciting outcomes of the meeting was the announcement of the Board for the World Naturopathic Federation, which unfortunately does not include an Australian representative – an honour only available to Full Members. ARONAH sees this as a loss to the Australian naturopathic community. Whilst we will actively participate in WNF discussions and working groups where possible, as an Associate Member, ARONAH is unable to sit on the Board or vote towards decisions made by the WNF. With this in mind, we urge the Australian naturopathic community to join the WNF as full members as soon as possible.
Full WNF Membership is granted to applications from each country which complies with the following strict criteria:
1. Members must be incorporated associations where the majority of members are naturopaths
2. Members must be committed to naturopaths being trained to the highest educational standard available in their country
3. Members must be committed to achieving statutory registration or licensure within their country
4. There can only be one member per country.
In Australia, we have three organisations which fit this criteria (ANPA, CMA and NHAA). A number of other countries also have multiple eligible organisations and WNF have a clear policy to address this. As only one vote is granted per country and the WNF (in line with WHO directives) is committed to both inclusiveness, fairness and the democratic process, countries in our situation are asked to form a federation of associations where they come together and have one voice to represent their country in the international community. This does not require they ‘merge’ but rather that they work together to present a united front in global discussions. New Zealand have done this and now have a position on the WNF Board.
The WNF requires these federations to be democratic, meaning that every individual practitioner is represented equally. WNF cares more about practitioner representation rather than association representation. This is a situation that ARONAH sees as fair and reasonable. Without such a rule there is nothing to stop someone forming a new association, attracting a small number of naturopaths as members and then having an unfair and disproportionate influence on Australia’s international representation.
The WNF does not allow organisations which represent multiple professions to join unless they can show that the majority of their members are naturopaths. Again this is a situation that ARONAH sees as fair and reasonable. Otherwise, there is nothing to stop an organisation which is primarily representing another profession (whether they be medical doctors or massage therapists) influencing the direction of the naturopathic profession globally.
As a general rule, the WNF also does not encourage individual membership applications from practitioners and instead is directing naturopaths around the world to work with and through their professional associations to facilitate country representation.
ARONAH does not qualify for full membership (we are an accreditation and registration body, not a professional association). Other Associate Member organisations from Australia were also present at this Inaugural Meeting (Endeavour College of Natural Health and ANPA). However, none of these organisations are able to represent Australia as full voting members of the WNF.
The next meeting of the WNF is in Barcelona in 2016, but working groups are already planned for the next 12 months. Whilst ARONAH has been asked to contribute to some of these working groups (inclusion of Associate Members on working groups must be approved by the WNF Board), Australia will never be able to take a leading role without full membership of the WNF.
Disunity and fragmentation have historically been issues within the Australian naturopathic community. The WNF have made it clear that they will not get involved in domestic professional issues and will not approve a full membership for any nation until they have a unified voice. The onus is then on the eligible associations in Australia to form a unified professional federation which is truly representative of and focused on naturopathic practitioners.
Whilst individuals can not join the WNF, practitioners can still make their voice heard. Contact the eligible associations (ANPA, CMA and NHAA) and let them know how important it is that our vibrant Australian naturopathic community has full membership at the WNF.
As a supporter of the power and promise of both naturopathy and the WNF, ARONAH firmly believes that as a profession we need to make this happen.