National register of naturopaths and herbalists to improve public safety

Using a naturopath or herbalist is about to become a lot safer with the establishment of an independent Registration Board for these professions.

The Australian Register of Naturopaths and Herbalists (ARONAH) will, for the first time, set independent uniform national standards in training and practice for naturopaths and western herbal medicine practitioners, and develop a Register of practitioners who meet those standards.

“Self-regulation overseen by the professional associations has clearly failed in protecting the public and although statutory regulation is the best model, it is one the government has been slow to enact for naturopaths and herbalists” said Angela Doolan, Chair of the newly appointed Board.

To ensure independence the Register will mirror the Federal Government’s new National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for other health professionals. “ARONAH’s constitution is based on the legislative requirements for all registered health professions in Australia, and the board members were chosen using a transparent, open and rigorous process by an independent Selection Panel with no connection to the professions” said Paul Orrock, Chair of the Steering Committee which initiated the formal process of developing the register.

Ms Doolan said “There has long been a clear need for an independent body that represents the interests of the public rather than the profession by regulating standards of training and practice”.

“Currently, anyone can hang out their shingle as a herbalist or naturopath and practice without any training whatsoever, and with little accountability. The public is increasingly turning to herbalists and naturopaths so continuing along those lines is clearly untenable” Ms Doolan said.

In addition to significant support from the public and other health professions for further regulation, many naturopathic and herbal medicine bodies are also weighing in with support.

John Baxter, President of the National Herbalists Association of Australia, said “Ensuring minimum standards for naturopaths and herbalists is something we’ve been pursuing for a long time. A register will provide greater protection from bogus, untrained or unethical practitioners, improve communication between mainstream and complementary health sectors, and lead to better health outcomes for Australians”.

Eta Brand, spokesperson of the Australian Naturopathic Practitioners Association, agrees: “This Register will allow the public to make more informed choices about their naturopath or herbalist.”

The Board’s first meeting will take place in Brisbane on November 21. The Register should be available by mid-2011, allowing the public to check the credentials of their practitioner.

The Board is currently inviting interested parties to make submissions on what they believe the standards of training and practice for naturopaths and herbalists should be. Submissions can be made at the ARONAH website.

Details of the Board can be found here.