ACoP signs MOU with peak NeuroDiversity Body

The Australian Council of Professions has formalised its collaboration with Believe:neuroDIVERSITY (B:nD), a non-profit organisation whose mission is to highlight the strengths of neurodiversity in order to improve the outcomes of neurodivergent people within Australia.

Originally inspired by Harvey Blume’s 1998 comment in The Atlantic that “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment?”, this collaboration follows our Neurodiversity in the Professionspanel discussion on 21 September 2021. Hosted by our Diversity, Culture and Inclusion portfolio, the expert panel explored neurodiversity issues through varied perspectives examining the barriers neurodivergent individuals face in employment whilst highlighting the opportunities that neurodiversity can address in today’s professional skills shortage and talent scarcity crises.  Much of the discussion also noted how under-researched neurodiversity is across the employment and professional landscape.  

The virtual signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was attended by many of our Member Organisations and saw the Presidents of both ACoP and B:nD commit to this collaboration.

Mark Solonsch, President of B:nD, explains that “Neurodiversity is about differences, not disabilities, and neurodivergent staff have tremendous strengths that they offer. But we need to make accommodations in the workplace to recognise those differences so they don’t mask people’s neurodivergence. Everyone has the right to bring themselves to work; and workplaces need to create a culturally safe and conducive environment to do this”. With limited research in the area of neurodiversity across professional environments, ACoP and B:nD have now joined forces to address this challenge.

ACoP’s President Klaus Veil points out that “Data is critical in establishing and enabling  professional associations and employers  towork towards  more inclusive and safe workplaces for neurodiverse individuals and the important contributions they make across professions”.

The MOU covers collaborative activities such as a neurodiversity index project, commissioned research, joint public communications and other activities of mutual benefit.  

As Klaus Veil observes, “These are all important aspects if we aim to continue to enhance the culture of professionalism across our work environments”.

Early Learning System key to Gender Equality

The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP) welcomes the call by key leaders for a more targeted approach to enabling gender equal opportunity across the professions.

There is mounting evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected women more negatively across the professions than it has men. Issues that are driving this inequality have been centred around childcare, paid parental leave, paid family violence leave, and the ongoing case of the gender pay gap.

Nicola Forrest, co-founder of the Minderoo Foundation and convenor of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership observes that progress on gender equality has slowed in the last decade and concludes that we have to make workforce participation easier for women, not harder. She argues that it comes down to supporting families so that women can re-enter the workforce, otherwise we may lose the participation of professional women which will negatively affect our GDP and national prosperity. Nicola also wants political parties to commit to an evidence-based early learning system for children from all levels of education and for educators to be compensated commensurately.

These sentiments resonate across multiple professional groups from political, business, community to First Nation leaders who are all calling for a range of critical actions. This includes the implementation of the 55 recommendations from federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ Respect@Work report. Also, medium to large organisations are encouraged to report indicators including the gender pay gap, cultural background figures and progress towards women-in-leadership targets, plus the implementation of the recommendations from the Indigenous women’s report Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices).

The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP) welcomes these developments and urges professional organisations to consider how and where they can enable change.

We keep hearing about the economic benefits of diversity and inclusion across professional services, yet the fact we are still a long way off from equality, is concerning” says ACoP Head of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion Angelina Pillai.

ACoP is keen to further explorie this issue and will be holding a Roundtable event next year with particular emphasis on ‘Gender Deafness’.  So stay tuned as we discuss, debate and engage in healthy discourse with our member organisations about how to enable change.

We invite all who are not members of ACoP to join our alliance of Professional Organisations as we work collectively to uphold the integrity of gender parity and the contribution it makes to Australia’s well-being and prosperity.

For more details, ring 1300 664 587 or contact CEO@Professions.org.au.

Extended Support for Australia’s Education Sector

The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP) welcomes the Australian Government’s announcement today of an extended multi-million-dollar financial package supporting the education sector to bounce back as international borders reopen.

Today’s announcement comes on the back of requests to ACoP for consultative input from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) on how the sector might respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This led to the release of a Joint Statement in May 2020 by the entire Australian higher education sector outlining consensus-based principles for adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic and providing guidance on how to mitigate and minimise the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the following areas:

  1. Accreditation Flexibility and maintaining Course Quality
  2. Maintaining Quality during changed Teaching and Learning
  3. Supporting Online Assessments while maintaining Rigour
  4. Mitigating a reduced availability of Professional Placements
  5. Flexibility on (Re-)Registration/Accreditation of Professionals
  6. Maintaining International Accords for Professionals’ Mobility

You can read the full Joint Statement, facilitated by ACoP, here.

ACoP also provided input to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) ‘Fees and Charges Proposal Consultation Paper’ in June 2021 which was based on aggregated responses from our Member Organisations regarding the impacts of cost recovery on their ability to continue delivering quality higher education.  While we support the current regulatory environment that evaluates and recognises best practices in the higher education sector, concerns were raised that required further consultation.

Our submission argued against a proposed implementation in January 2022, as it was felt that this timeline did not take into account the impacts of COVID-19.  This timing might also have had the unintended consequence of forcing providers to cease offering accredited courses, which provide high quality, niche education that currently ensures curriculum currency for graduates to be work- and professional-practice ready.  ACoP requested opportunities to consult further on some of the elements of the proposal.

Our submission to TEQSA can be found here.

According to the Federal Government today, more than $37 million will be available to support those international education providers most affected by COVID-19, including extended regulatory fee waivers and additional grants. The package includes:

  • $27.8 million in regulatory fee relief for the duration of 2022, including certain fees for Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), TEQSA, Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) registrations, and the Tuition Protection Service (TPS) Levy.
  • Extension of the current FEE-HELP loan fee exemption until 31 December 2022, benefiting around 30,000 undergraduate higher education students studying at institutes of higher education and public universities.
  • An additional $9.4 million to extend the Innovation Development Fund, delivering further short-term targeted support to private English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) providers to diversify their education offerings into online and offshore delivery.

“These additional measures are welcome as they are critical if the education sector, both domestic and international, is to continue to provide quality course offerings in a rapidly evolving teaching, learning and accreditation environment”, said ACoP President A/Prof Klaus Veil.

ACoP will continue to consult with key government departments, our member organisations and relevant industry bodies in advocating for support in the development and implementation of a robust, financially viable framework that prepares students and graduates as future professionals and enhance their future employability.

We invite professional associations who are not members of ACoP to join our alliance as we work collectively to uphold the continuity, integrity and reputation of Australian higher education and recognising its indispensable contribution to Australia’s well-being and prosperity.

For more details, head to our Membership page or contact CEO@Professions.org.au

50 Year Anniversary

The Australian Council of Professions is celebrating 50 Years of thought leadership and advocacy for professional associations and their member professionals.

Since the mid-1960s, there had been state-based interest and activities to coordinate and support the various professional associations.

In October 1970, the professional associations in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia discussed the benefits of establishing closer working relations and agreed “that a Federal Council of Professions be formed and that immediate steps be taken to implement this decision.

As a result, on 12 November 1971 the ‘Australian Council of Professions’ (ACoP) was constituted – the main objects being “to maintain and advance the standards and status of the professions in the community generally and to uphold and advance the honour and reputation of the professions and the integrity and standing of the members thereof.” Since that day, ACoP has passionately lobbied and advocated for the Professions, their Professionals and their Professionalism.

ACoP’s approach supporting the concept of professionals was described by our inaugural President The Hon Dr Derek Freeman MLC in a 1972 letter to then Prime Minister McMahon as follows: “The Australian Council of Professions represents 60,000 professional persons who are generally regarded as opinion leaders in the community; who, as a group, make a major contribution to the quality of living …

In 1994 the ‘public good’ character of ACoP is formalised by adding “to promote the interests and welfare of the Australian community through the combined influence and expertise of the professions” to the objects.

From 2002 to early 2017 ACoP trades under the business name ‘Professions Australia ’.

In March 2016 ACoP signs a Joint Statement of Principles for Professional Accreditation with Universities Australia – a landmark agreement that delivers greater clarity on the respective roles of universities and professional accreditation bodies. It quickly becomes the foundation for many accreditation programs and so helps ensure graduates are best qualified for the professions they enter.

We held the inaugural National Summit on Micro‐Credentials in March 2019.

As the COVID-19 Pandemic starts to affect the education of professionals in Australia and around the world, ACoP initiates, facilitates and publishes a Joint Statement of Principles to mitigate the impact of COVID19 on teaching, learning, assessment, placement and graduate mobility. Education Minister Tehan and TEQSA support the publication.

Based on the experience of how the public and governments trust the Chief Medical/Health Officers as professionals providing science-based, ethical and responsible thought-leadership, ACoP declares 2021 as “The Year of the Professions, Professionals and Professionalism“.

A global first, ACoP created the Chief Professionalist position – inspired by the highly valued Chief Medical/Health Officers, the Chief Scientist, Chief Economist, the Chief Engineer, Chief Data Scientist, etc. – and in April 2021 appointed Professor Deen Sanders OAM.
A Professionalist is “one who professionalises an occupation” (Merriam-Webster) and who is “an advocate of professionalism” (Oxford English Dictionary).

In response to concerns that some public statements appear to undermine the confidence in Australia’s leading vaccination and health advice, our Chief Professionalist publicly calls for less blame shifting and more listening

We have become a global authority on the definitions of Professions, Professionals and Professionalism. Our “What is a Professional” web page receives over 400,000 visits each month and is widely cited.

Past ACoP Presidents include The Hon. Dr Derek Freeman AM MLC, Michael O’Sullivan QC, Peter Davidson AM, Prof. Peter Johnson AC, G A Murphy AM, Dr H Lindsay Thompson AM, Dr John Southwick, Joycelyn Morton FCA FCPA FIPA FCIS FAICD and Brenda Aynsley OAM.

Past ACoP Patrons include His Excellency the Hon. Sir William Deane AC KBE and His Excellency the Hon. Bill Hayden AC (Governors-General of the Commonwealth of Australia).

Work-Integrated Learning during the Pandemic and Beyond

Despite the ongoing disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to ensure graduates entering the Professions in the future are work ready. While many innovative ways of providing WIL have been developed, more efforts are required to achieve best practices in student placements.

At the same time, the National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF), introduced under the Australian Government Job-Ready Graduates package, requires universities to increase both the quantity and quality of work-integrated learning opportunities to ensure work ready graduates. How will universities achieve that? How will industry be able to provide essential workplace experiences in a COVID world? What role could professional associations play in fostering university – industry collaboration?

The many participants in our “Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) during the Pandemic – The Good, The Bad, The Innovative” Roundtable on 9th November 2021 felt it was a timely and very useful exploration of this important component of educating professionals of the future. While several innovative ways of providing WIL have been developed, more efforts are required to achieve best practices in student placements.

Hosted by ACoP Board Director and Education, Accreditation, Micro-Credentials and Employability portfolio co-chair Simon Hann, the Round Table explored a number of topics that have arisen in nearly two years of higher education teaching, learning, assessment and placements during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.  In May of last year, we had facilitated a Joint Statement by the entire Australian higher education sector of agreed principles for adapting to the pandemic.

The Roundtable experts were:

Prof Peter Dawkins – Mitchell Institute for Education and Health Policy, Victoria University
Professional Profile

Peter is leading the Review of University-Industry Collaboration in Teaching & Learning with former RMIT V-C Professor Martin Bean.

Harold Lomas BA –  A/g Assistant Secretary, Dept. of Education, Skills and Employability

Professional Profile

Paolo Damante MDIT BA –  Senior  Policy Officer, Australian Industry Group (AIG)

Professional Profile

Karena Maguire MSc. BBS FCMA – Head of Stakeholder Engagement and Communications, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI)

Professional Profile

Mairéad Boland LLB LLM – Quality Assurance Manager, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI)

Professional Profile

Topics discussed included:

  • How can collaboration between industry and universities be increased to make the 2015 ‘National Strategy on Work Integrated Learning in University Education‘ a reality?
  • What is the gold standard for University – Industry Collaboration?
  • What challenges will need to be overcome?
  • What are some of the innovative ways universities and industry have delivered WIL (particularly placements) in a COVID environment?
  • How could professional associations support work integrated learning and university – industry collaboration?

The Round Table participants examined the challenges impacting University–Industry Collaboration, what ‘Good’ University–Industry Collaboration looks like and how it interacts with the Australian Government’s Review of University-Industry Collaboration in Teaching & Learning.  There was universal consensus about the need to ensure stronger university-industry collaboration, particularly as young people are struggling with the transition to skilled employment.

AIG senior  policy officer Paolo Damante outlined industry expectations and session participants expressed their firm belief that higher education needs to meet lifelong learning needs by engaging more meaningfully with industry as skills shortages continues to affect our employment landscape.  The participants also spoke of greater collaboration between Higher Education and VET as a necessity if the industry is to succeed and inducements are also considered vital to increase WIL opportunities.

DESE’s acting Assistant Secretary Harold Lomas provided the background to the Australian Government’s National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF) <link> and outlined its purpose and progress to date as well as the themes identified from the pilot plans universities have submitted and the role of NPILF going forward.

Karena Maguire and Mairead Boland from Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) shared Ireland’s response to the impact of COVID on providing work placements. Our Round Table participants then explored some of the innovative ways universities and industry have delivered WIL placements in a COVID environment and the lessons Australia could learn from Ireland’s experience.

The Round Table concluded with the identification of a number of useful models, resources and possible solutions to address the issues raised and opportunities for professional associations to leverage in order to enhance collaborations between universities and industry.  The Australian Council of Professions will further this further with its Member Organisations in 2022.

We invite professional organisations who are not members of ACoP to join our alliance as we work collectively to uphold the integrity of work-integrated learning and the importance of collaboration between higher education and industry. For more details, ring 1300 664 587 or contact CEO@Professions.org.au.

Forum for Climate Action

With our Member Organisations endorsing the global Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter, the Australian Council of Professions is facilitating an initiative to assist other professional organisations exploring ways they too can help secure a sustainable future. The Australian / New Zealand ‘Forum for Climate Action’ enables sharing and harnessing of joint expertise and climate-relevant resources to enhance the capabilities of professional organisations to practice sustainability.

The purposes of the Forum include:

  • exploring and progressing organisations becoming a Supporter or Signatory to the Charter
  • sharing ideas, information and knowledge that will provide value to those who are Supporters or Signatories to the Charter

Collaboratively, the Forum intend to harness and share expertise and climate-relevant resources to enhance the capability to practice sustainability, including a timeline for achieving this and identifying the help and collaboration needed from within our partnerships to achieve this.

The Forum is convened by ACoP Board Member Simon Hann. The inaugural Forum co-chairs are:

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If you would like more information, please contact us on 1300 664 587 or Climate.Action@Professions.org.au

Professional Organisations support the Climate Charter!

With the discourse on “Net Zero by 2050” and similar goals running hot, we have explored the possibilities of professional associations in Australia and New Zealand expressing their support for progressing the goals of the Paris Agreement.

To gauge support for a joint activity within the context of the Glasgow COP 26 meeting, we held a Round-Table on 27 October 2021 at which the following topics were discussed:

  • Why a Climate Action Charter’?
  • An overview of the Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter.
  • What does the ‘Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter‘ mean?
  • What are the goals of the ‘Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter’?
  • Who is supporting the Charter?
  • ‘Supporter’ vs ‘Adopter’ – what is the difference?
  • Benefits of being a Supporter/Adopter: sharing of Climate Actions Plans, CPD/CPE resources, collaborations, advocacy, etc.
  • Emerging international, national and state climate law & policies, benefits vs risks of collaborating vs not collaborating
  • Next steps…

Following the Round-Table meeting, our Member Organisations endorsed that ACoP sign the Charter as a Supporter, therefore agreeing with its aims, stepping up to help secure a sustainable future and providing leadership, up-to-date technical & ethical guidance and advocacy for their work & that of the professions.

Based on this consensus, the ACoP Board unanimously passed a motion that ACoP sign the Charter as a Supporter, provide thought leadership to the professional associations community in Australia and NZ, set up a ‘Professional Bodies Forum for Climate Action‘ and move to Charter Adopter status as soon as practicable.

The purposes of the Forum include:

  • exploring and progressing organisations becoming a Supporter or Signatory to the Charter
  • sharing ideas, information and knowledge that will provide value to those who are Supporters or Signatories to the Charter

Collaboratively, we intend to harness and share our joint expertise and climate-relevant resources to enhance their capabilities to practice sustainability, including a timeline for achieving this and identifying the help and collaboration needed from within our partnerships to achieve this.

Join the Forum here:
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Many other senior organisations have also expressed their support for ‘Net Zero’ policies and commitments:

Research:

78% of Australian voters say they support a net zero emissions target by 2050, 70% agree that ‘Australia should join other countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, … to address climate change‘ and 67% believe the government should be doing more to address climate change.  Interestingly, this view is held in all 151 electorates, so across the entire country.

If you would like more information, please contact us on 1300 664 587 or Climate.Action@Professions.org.au

Women on Board, Equal Pay – Closing the Gap

While ACoP welcomes the milestone achieved on all ASX 200 Boards now having at least 1 member who is female, there is still much work to be done to embrace and include the richness of diversity to which Australian society and businesses should have ready access. So we’re not quite ready to pop the champagne just yet!

The celebration of this milestone is sadly diminished by the fact that, on the point of gender diversity on boards, women still hold only 30% of positions while just over 43% of ASX 200 companies have not reached even that level of gender participation.

Women are encouraged to build their board portfolio by volunteering on not-for-profit boards. What is not emphasised in this commitment is that women appointed to director positions in NFPs take on the same financial and reputational risks in not-for-profit non-remunerated roles as they would if they were appointed to the more highly prized and remunerated ASX 200 Board roles. 

ACoP Head of Professionalism and Ethics Dr Ruth Ferraro highlights that “Given the gender pay inequality, the time out of the workforce that diminishes their superannuation balances it might be further imprudent for women to undertake these voluntary roles as a ‘rehearsal’, work experience program, thereby exposing themselves to more financial risk”.

Equal Pay Day 2021 – will we move the dial by 12 April 2022?

Meanwhile, 31 August 2021 marked Equal Pay Day, but unfortunately there was nothing equal about it. In fact, the situation is waning. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) announced the gender pay gap had gone up by 0.8% compared to the previous six months and now sits at 14.2%. The disparity equates to a gap of $261.50 per week between women and men and a total of just over $13,000 in the last financial year. Put simply, this equates to 61 extra days women in Australia must work on average to receive same pay as men 2

ACoP Head of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion Angelina Pillai is also one of the leaders in the construction sector, as the part-time CEO of the Association of Consulting Architects. “I know firsthand that many of those in male-dominated construction jobs had the good fortune of keeping their businesses well and truly operating as the construction industry propped up our economies during the pandemic, with many of these workers holding on to their jobs. Women however, suffered disproportionate job losses as the burden of childcare, home duties and remote schooling fell on them, whilst their male counterparts continued employment where able, supporting their households and families. As a result, women are slipping further down the chain of workplace promotion, visibility, salary raises and pay rates”, she observed.

And this is hitting hard, especially in the leadership space. A survey by Chief Executive Women found that no female CEOs were appointed to ASX 200 companies in 2021 3. One of the biggest problems noted was the lack of women in major operational jobs. As women step further down the promotional ladder, they are finding it harder to climb back up as most appointments for CEO roles are made to those already in the leadership C-suite pipeline.

A Double Whammy?

But as a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) woman herself, Pillai notes that the gap is far wider for this cohort, especially when it comes to leadership positions. Research published by the Diversity Council of Australia in partnership with the University of Sydney Business School, Google, Aurecon, Commonwealth Bank and Deloitte, Cracking the Glass-Cultural Ceiling: Future Proofing Your Business in the 21st Century (2017) 3, underlined just how unseen CALD women really are when it comes to leadership opportunities. Whilst there have been some positive shifts in recent years, the research goes on to highlight how the interests and needs of culturally diverse women are falling between the cracks because “in the CALD space, CALD men dominate, while in the gender equality space, Anglo women dominate”, resulting in a double jeopardy for CALD women (Diversity Council of Australia, 2017) 5.

So how do we collectively close the gap?  

It’s never too late to increase diversity and equality across the professional landscape. As members of a professional alliance, we have an immense opportunity to shift the pendulum of change in the right direction with collective action.

Professionals are governed by codes of ethics and profess commitment to competence, integrity and morality, altruism and the promotion of the public good within their expert domains. They are accountable to those they serve and to society. Therefore this is a call to action for each professional to think about the difference they can make in their profession. Every professional should ask themselves how they are addressing the issue of gender, pay rates and the leadership of women, what part they play in addressing this issue, how they can be an advocate and most critically, what their professional organisation can do to support their efforts.

ACoP will be presenting a Roundtable event in early 2022 on the issue of ‘Gender Deafness’ so stay tuned as we discuss, debate and engage in healthy discourse with our member organisations about how to enable change.

We invite all who are not members of ACoP to join our alliance of Professional Organisations as we work collectively to uphold the integrity of gender parity and the contribution it makes to Australia’s well-being and prosperity.

For more details, ring 1300 664 587 or contact CEO@Professions.org.au.