Specialist registration and area of practice endorsement are both mechanisms under the National Law that identify practitioners within a profession that have specific characteristics that are different from the rest of the profession. The Ministerial Council is responsible for approving specialties and protected specialist titles, and for approving areas of practice for endorsement and their relevant protected titles, for each health profession.
For psychology, the Ministerial Council has not approved specialist registration. Rather, it has approved nine areas of practice for endorsement. Endorsement in an area of practice allows for a notation to be included on a psychologist’s record on the public register of practitioners, which reflects that endorsed psychologists have completed Board-approved qualification and a period of supervised practice (registrar program) in an approved area of practice.
Area of practice endorsement under the National Law protects titles associated with the nine approved areas of practice (e.g. forensic psychologist). Unlawful use of protected titles can lead to heavy fines and/or disciplinary action. Therefore, the public, employers and others can have confidence that psychologists using these protected titles have completed approved qualifications and supervised training in that area of practice.
Area of practice endorsement under the National Law does not restrict scope of practice for the psychology profession. The only practice limitations for psychologists relate to their knowledge and skills and their obligation to practice within their own scope of competence.
In 2014 the Ministerial Council issued guidance to National Boards about the criteria for the approval of specialties for the purpose of specialist registration in a health profession. The Ministerial Council guidance makes it clear that approval for specialist registration is a 'regulatory instrument' within the meaning of the Council of Australian Governments Best Practice Regulation. It requires a robust regulatory assessment process be carried out before Ministerial Council decision with oversight by the Office of Best Practice Regulation. This assessment must prove that:
In considering this guidance, the Psychology Board of Australia determined that the ‘case for action’ had not been made for submitting the psychology profession and the public to the increased regulatory burden caused by specialist recognition under the National Law. Endorsement has provided a legal mechanism within the National Scheme to regulate psychologists with additional training in a proportionate way without unnecessarily restricting scope of practice.
At the start of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme in 2010, the Board published a statement (below) on their consideration, proposals and position on area of practice endorsement versus specialist registration at that time.