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ACT Election: Major Parties Endorse Role of Occupational Therapists But Overlook Key Opportunities

The ACT Division of Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA) has welcomed several undertakings from the major parties contesting Saturday’s territory election.

Correspondence detailing issues of concern to occupational therapists in the ACT was sent on 11 September to the ACT Labor Party, Canberra Liberals and ACT Greens. As of this morning, all three parties have responded.

Significantly, the Canberra Liberals have recognised a holistic role for occupational therapists in the ACT. Responding on behalf of all endorsed Liberal candidates, Campaign Director Josh Manuatu indicated his support for the maintenance of occupational therapy positions across the ACT health system.

“We understand the important role of occupational therapists in health care and improving the quality of life [of] patients,” Mr Manuatu said.

The Canberra Liberals also agreed with OTA’s position that more support can be provided in schools by health care professionals, noting that this is particularly important for children with a disability and special needs.

The ACT Division has noted with disappointment, however, that Mr Manuatu did not explicitly commit to increasing the number of occupational therapists in schools, either in a mental health practitioner capacity or otherwise.

According to Mr Manuatu, the Liberal Party will, “work to remove barriers that limit health and pastoral care being provided to students and teachers.”

Mr Manuatu also indicated that a Liberal Government would investigate OTA’s concerns around vehicle modifications in the ACT.

Regrettably, the ACT Labor Party did not respond directly to OTA’s correspondence, opting instead to forward its Health Policy Statement. This makes limited mention of allied health, and no mention at all of occupational therapy.

Unsurprisingly, mental health featured strongly in both parties’ responses.

The Canberra Liberals have committed to increasing capacity for acute mental health care in the public system with additional beds and mental health staff; while a re-elected Labor Government promises to increase access to resources and timely care for young Canberrans experiencing mental health concerns.

OTA’s ACT Division has cautiously welcomed these initiatives, but maintains that both parties continue to focus too heavily on the treatment of illness, and too little on the preservation and promotion of mental health and wellbeing.

Under this model of care, occupational therapists – and allied health professionals more broadly – will continue to be underutilised in the ACT mental health system.

In contrast, the ACT Greens have recognised occupational therapists as having a “core” role in mental health service provision. Speaking on behalf of the party, Campaign Director Clancy Barnard commented on the unique contribution of occupational therapists to mental health.

“Occupational therapy facilitates a person's ability to live and participate in life activities as therapeutically and independently as possible.

“We know our in-patient units and community mental health teams particularly rely on occupational therapists to make up a multidisciplinary and allied health team and provide a broad range of skills and services to provide the best possible outcomes to consumers,” Mr Barnard said.

The ACT Division has also welcomed the Greens’ willingness to work constructively with OTA and other stakeholders to resolve our concerns around school support services, family and domestic violence and regulation of vehicle modifications.

Acting ACT Divisional Manager, Lea Rawlings, thanked both parties for their responses.

All correspondence can be viewed at the ACT page of the OTA website.

Media Contact
Michael Barrett | Government, Media and Public Relations 0403 795 505

About Occupational Therapy Australia
Occupational Therapy Australia is the national professional association representing occupational therapy in Australia. We offer opportunities for our members to enhance best practice through professional development, support, and access to profession-specific information.

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