4.16 Discrimination or Incompetence?

There are about 1,000 overseas-trained doctors in Australia who are not recognised because of some quirk of the examination and registration system. The annual examinations that take place ensure that only minimal numbers of foreign graduates are registered.

A report released by The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, on "The Experience of Overseas Medical Practitioners in Australia: An Analysis in the Light of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975" challenges the legality of the registration system and puts the view that: "indirect discrimination occurs where a substantially higher proportion of persons of one race, when compared to those of other races, is affected by the inability to meet a necessary condition or requirement, if that requirement or conditions is not reasonable in the circumstances".

The intransigence of established bodies such as the Australia Medical Council and the Australia Medical Association on this topic is well known. Entrenched views from the establishment are of necessity at loggerheads with moderating and reforming movements of any kind. This has led to a virtual closed shop approach to all foreign graduates except for those perceived to have a similar cultural and language background to those of the establishment.

While on the one hand it is the duty of the State and Federal authorities to ensure that the standards of medical practice are maintained, it is also equally patently obvious that the rights of overseas born citizens should not be ignored. Several reports have in the past made recommendations for improving the examination system to make it a fairer system of assessment of experience and qualifications. However, as Ms Irene Moss (then Commissioner, Equal Opportunity Commission) emphasised, "little or nothing has been done to implement the recommended reforms. Obviously those able to change the present system have no will to do so."

In the meantime, we continue to see a deterioration in the availability of interpreting and translation services to patients, glaring lack of cultural appropriateness of services provided to vast sections of our community, unwillingness to investigate alternate models of delivery of health care, and an overall inadequacy of available services, particularly in the rural community.

[From: The Ethnic Voice. Vol 3(4), May 1991]

Source: Maurice N.Cauchi - The Maltese Migrant Experience, Malta 1999

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