Grandfathering explained

A frequent question that ARONAH gets asked is about grandfathering. Consider this scenario. Jenny is a naturopath who has an Advanced Diploma, who has been in practice for the past 15 years. She took about 5 years off when she had her kids but has now been back in part time practice for the last 6 years. Jenny is worried about registration as she has heard that if registration comes in, she will have to upgrade to a bachelor’s degree. With a young family and a busy practice, she doesn’t have time to do this, and doesn’t feel the need to. “My patients are happy with my services. I don’t think I need to upgrade my qualifications. I keep up with my yearly CPD. That should be enough right?”

Yes, that is enough. No one needs to upgrade any qualifications when registration comes in, as long as they have been in practice for 5 out of the last 10 years.

But let’s explain this a little further.

Whenever a health profession is registered, there are education standards the registered practitioners need to meet. This is to ensure that everyone meets the minimum requirements as set out by the professional board, and the government. For naturopathy and Western herbal medicine (WHM), the minimum standards in Australia are a bachelor’s degree, specialising in Naturopathy or WHM. This has been in place since 2014, and the last Advanced diplomas were finished up in December 2018.

If the government registers naturopaths and Western herbalists, then there will be a grandfathering period for all practitioners who don’t have a bachelor’s degree to join and become registered. Grandfathering (also known sometimes as grandparenting) is where professionals with qualifications that don’t meet the current minimum standards, are still permitted to enter the registration scheme. This is to ensure that everyone who wants to be part of the registration system, can be. The important word here is current. Just because a practitioner may have a qualification that is not of the current minimum standards doesn’t mean that the practitioner is in any way secondary to those who do. And doesn’t mean that practitioner will be punished if they want to join the registration scheme. There were many years in Australia where the Advanced diploma (or a diploma) were the only qualifications available in naturopathy and WHM, and this is recognised within the professions through registration.

Grandfathering is explained as follows: when a law is made, which will affect people from carrying out their present activities, a grandfathering clause is written so that historical events/people are not penalised by the new law. However, going forward, future people will need to abide by the new law. It not only applies to health profession registration; anything can be grandfathered (eg gun legislation – certain guns are banned from sale but you can still own a gun of that type if you had one before the ban).

With health profession registration, a time period is given for grandfathering to occur – most often 5 years. So once a new profession is open for registration, all those who don’t currently meet the minimum standards of education will have 5 years to get their paperwork together and become registered if they want to. After that time, they will no longer be admitted in, and only those who meet the minimum standards will be admitted.

This is a very common situation, and all health professions currently registered with AHPRA have gone through this. A good example is nursing. Nurses have a huge range of qualifications, ranging from certificates to higher degrees. Historically, nurses went to nursing college for a few weeks and then learnt on the job in a hospital setting. Even though these nurses “only” have a certificate, they also have more than 40 years’ experience in the profession. They certainly don’t need to go back and do a bachelor’s degree, and so were grandfathered into the profession. Paramedics are a newly registered profession and are going through this process now (as at August 2019). More information can be found about this here:

As ARONAH mirrors AHPRA in its set up, we also mirror grandfathering requirements. So considering the teach out of the Advanced Diploma finished in December 2018, all those who have an Advanced Diploma and want to join ARONAH have 5 years to do so from then, in which case the grandfathering will close. This date will be December 2023.

Grandfathering is an inclusive process whereby anyone can be admitted into the registration scheme with any level of qualification, as long as they have been in practice for 5 years. ARONAH is always happy to answer questions on this topic as well.