Best Australian Blogs 2014 People’s Choice Award NOW OPEN – VOTE NOW!

BB2014-PCA-voteThe People’s Choice Award for the Australian Writers’ Centre’s Best Australian Blogs 2014 is now open!

My blog is one of 1,125 vying for top position as the Best Australian Blog for 2014, and around 80% of those entries have also entered the People’s Choice Award, so every vote counts!

Voting is open now and closes at 5:00pm Monday 5 May 2014 (AEST).

To cast your vote, simply click on the ‘Vote for Me Now’ button in this post or in the sidebar on the right and you will be redirected to the voting form. All entries are listed in alphabetical order, so you will need to pass through a few pages in order to find my blog (if only I had called it AAA Aardvark, right?).

Once you’ve found me, tick the box, page through to the end, and follow the instructions. Be sure to go through to the end or your vote won’t count!

Vote Screen

If you regularly enjoy my blog, or a specific article caught your attention, or even if you just like me or don’t have anything better to do right now, please show your support and vote now.

Please note that voting is anonymous – entrants receive the total number of votes they received but not who voted for them. However, if you would like to show that you voted, why not click the ‘Like’ button below? And leave a comment showing your support.

Thanks to all of you for continuing to support and enjoy my blog.

Is Colourism the ‘New Racism’ facing Aboriginal Peoples?

skin-color-empathy-200x150One of the hottest social justice topics in Australia at the moment is the Government’s proposed repeal of four sections of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which will redefine the instances where it is permissible to engage in acts of racial vilification, discrimination, or intimidation. This has once again livened up the debate not just about racism within Australia, but social justice, political correctness and freedom of speech.

Yet if you examine the event that was the catalyst for this action – the case of Eatock vs Bolt [2011] FCA – it becomes apparent that the underlying issue was not so much an attack against Aboriginal peoples, as it was an attack against fair-skinned Aboriginal peoples. Specifically, that fair-skinned Aboriginal peoples are not genuinely Aboriginal, and any fair-skinned person who identifies as Aboriginal is making a false claim for their own selfish motivations. This is not a case of vilification against an entire race of people, but a subset of those people who have been identified by the colour of their skin. You have just seen colourism in action.

Colourism (colorism) is a term coined by Alice Walker – distinguished author and activist who amongst her other achievements wrote The Color Purple – and describes prejudice or discrimination of people based on their skin colour. Walker used it to describe conflict between dark-skinned and light-skinned African-American women, however today it’s applied more generally to discrimination and prejudice which is solely based on the colour of a person’s skin, regardless of their race or ethnicity, and is recognised by sociologists to be a determinant of social status and privilege. While it might be reasonable to assume that colourism and racism go hand-in-hand, they are not interchangeable terms.

And therein lies part of the problem when recognising colourism as it affects Aboriginal peoples. When we think of prejudice and discrimination against Aboriginal peoples, we tend to think of it in a one-dimensional ‘white versus black’ context. In this instance the line between racism and colourism tends to be blurred, as the attacks may be based on skin colour alone (colourism), however they may also be based on characteristics of race, such as heredity, cultural practices, and stereotypes (racism). When this happens it’s easy to label the action as ‘racist’, but this may not be entirely accurate, and could be contributing to our misunderstanding of what the real issue – the causes and motivations behind the prejudicial or discriminatory act – actually is.

However another dimension which – in my personal experience – is not as well understood, and consequently not being effectively addressed, is the prejudice held against people based on their shade of colour. This is not limited to non-Aboriginal peoples attacking Aboriginal peoples – it is also a problem within Aboriginal communities where people are discriminating against each other based on the ‘lightness’ of their skin.

To understand the scope of the issue, imagine for a moment that you are an Aboriginal person of mixed descent with fair skin, and you decide to openly identify as an Aboriginal person. Non-Aboriginal people ask, “what makes you Aboriginal?”, or “what do you get out of it?”, or say, “yeah, but you’re not like the real Aborigines.” Aboriginal peoples ask, “where’s your proof?”, or, “what do you know about being Aboriginal?”, or say, “yeah, but you can be a white person when you want to be.” On both sides, some accept you, others disassociate from you. Neither side fully embraces you. Why? Because your genetic blueprint limits the amount of melanin your body produces, and your society has not yet evolved to the level of cultural understanding required to recognise that skin colour is not a determinant of Aboriginality.

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 – in its current form – recognises as unlawful an act by a person which offends, insults, intimates or humiliates another person on the basis of their skin colour, so in effect, there is provision within the (current) Act for colourism to be considered unlawful. We have seen this upheld in the Eatock versus Bolt case. Yet, would we ever see the day when one Aboriginal person accuses another Aboriginal person of discrimination or prejudice against them based on the colour of their skin? And if so, what implications might that have for Aboriginal identity?

Colourism is a very real issue for Aboriginal peoples, and unless we recognise it and develop strategies to counter it, has the potential to become just as large a problem, if not more so, than racism. Assuming it hasn’t already.

What are your thoughts on colourism? Have you experienced it in your life? What ways do you think it could be addressed? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

5 Tips to Help Get Through Physical Therapy Credentialing

Uni DegreeWouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where the qualifications you gain in one country are equally recognised and accepted around the world? Oh, you thought that was the case? Think again.

Part of the changes that are happening in my life have led me to pursue licensing as a physical therapist in the United States of America, and one of the major issues I’ve had to deal with is credentialing. Credentialing is the process by which the qualifications a person gains in one country are verified as being the equivalent of the qualifications that would be held by someone in the same profession in another country – in my case, whether my Australian physiotherapy qualifications are the equivalent of those held by physical therapists in the USA.

Given that the World Confederation for Physical Therapy has formal policy on the education of physical therapists globally, and that its 107 member organisations around the world support this policy, it could be reasonable to expect that credentialing the qualifications of a foreign trained physical therapist would be relatively straightforward. In fact, you could be forgiven for believing that once the professional education standards for physical therapy of the country – or for that matter, the tertiary institution – of origin have been historically established, credentialing would effectively be a process of verifying that a given applicant has in fact gained the appropriate qualification.

In reality, credentialing is an arduous and detailed examination of every aspect of the course of study that led to the qualification being granted, and comparing it to the standards that are currently expected within the country – and in some instances the state or area – the person is wanting to work in. The assessment is based on the information provided to the credentialing authority. Nothing is assumed or taken for granted; it is feasible that for two given applicants with the same qualifications from the same tertiary institution in the same country, one would be endorsed as having equivalent qualifications, and one not, based solely on the information each applicant provided to the credentialing authority.

My own pursuit of credentialing has taken me twelve months, three universities, two appeals, double what I expected it to cost, and an unquantifiable amount of stress, anguish, and hardship. It is one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever had to go through. However, I have learned a lot from going through this process, and I would like to offer others planning to go through this process five pieces of advice, in the hope it might spare them from a similar experience.

1. Choose your credentialing authority with care.

A quick web search will show that there are numerous credentialing authorities out there to choose from. However, they are not all held in the same regard, nor do they all offer the same quality or level of service. Picking the least expensive one may not be in your best interest in the long run.

Things you should consider in choosing an credentialing authority include:

  1. are they recognised or approved by the authority through which you are hoping to gain licensure/registration as a physical therapist? For example, the Department of Safety and Professional Services in Wisconsin, USA, lists four credentialing authorities they will accept credentialing reports from;
  2. what is their timeframe for producing a credentialing report? Some authorities will not commit to a timeframe, others will only commit if additional fees are paid;
  3. what are the costs involved? The application fee may not be the only cost, and you might be charged additional fees for services such as having the report couriered to the licensing authority;
  4. what services are the actually providing? Some authorities will do as little as possible to process your application, while others may be prepared to work with you and your tertiary institution to ensure your application has the best chance of being successful. You should feel comfortable in asking as many questions about the service you will be getting as you need in order to make a good decision about who will credential your qualifications;
  5. what is their reputation? This can be difficult to determine, however when searching for information on credentialing you may notice the same authorities tend to be mentioned by professional bodies or other services. Look for peer comments in social media forums or professional association discussion groups as well.

2. Know exactly what information you need.

Most credentialing authorities will provide details of the documents they require in order to assess your application. What can be less clear is the detail or specifics they require in order to make a determination about the equivalency of your qualifications. An application can be rejected, or an applicant deemed ‘unqualified’ not because information wasn’t provided, but because it did not contain specific details the authority required. Your credentialing authority should be able to offer clear guidance on what they require, and you should know this before you approach your tertiary institutions.

3.Make sure you have ALL the information you need.

When going through the credentialing process, there is no such thing as too much information. In line with the second tip above, you are far better off providing as much detail about the course of study that led to your qualifications as you can. Some credentialing authorities will only process whatever information they are given, and not actively seek out clarification or additional information that may support your application. Remember: the onus for providing evidence to support your application rests on you. If in doubt, include it. At the very least it may save you processing time; at best, it may save your application from being rejected.

4. Be prepared to wait.

Even under the best of circumstances, the credentialing process can take a significant amount of time to complete. There can be a number of reasons for this, from the volume of information in your application, to the need to request additional information from you or your tertiary institution, to the workload of the staff of the credentialing authority. In addition, some authorities will ‘reset the clock’ if they need to seek additional information for you. For example, the authority I used asked applicants to allow 60 business days (about 3 months) for applications to be processed. After five months, I had a request for more information, and once I provided this, was informed to wait another 60 business days before inquiring about the status of my application.

If you are going through the credentialing process to work and live in another country, it is best to wait until you have successfully gone through the process before making other arrangements, such as exams (for example, in the USA all applicants are required to sit and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam in order to be licensed), visas, employment and housing. As frustrating as this might become, it is far less problematic than making other arrangements, only to have to cancel them because your credentialing authority was not able to approve your application within your timeframe.

5. Understand your post-assessment options.

Receiving your completed assessment and discovering that your qualifications have been deemed to not be the equivalent required to work in your country of choice does not have to be the end of the process. In many cases this determination may simply be the result of the authority not having enough information to make an affirmative decision. Knowing what your post-assessment options are early in the assessment process can help save time and reduce anxiety should your application have an unfavourable outcome. Things to be aware of include:

  1. is there an appeals process, and if so what is the process?
  2. what information will the credentialing authority supply you with in order to assist you understand their decision, and/or prepare an appeal?
  3. will your tertiary institution provide you with additional assistance should you require it?
  4. what is the impact of a negative report on your application to become licensed/registered where you want to work?

The more you know about the credentialing process and what is required of you, the more likely your application will be successful.

Have you been through the credentialing process? What was your experience? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

Announcing Indigihealth International

Partnerships-Header-Trans-ModifiedI’m pleased to announce the details of my latest project: Indigihealth International.

I’ve been blogging for quite sometime now, and recently I’ve been fortunate to have had some good feedback on several of my posts (a big thank you to those who provided it). Indigihealth International takes my experience as a blogger and combines it with my passion for progressing Indigenous health. The result is a blog in magazine format – a ‘blogazine’ – specifically focussed on Indigenous health.

My aim is to create a public forum where professionals, policy makers, educators, community leaders, and anyone else involved in Indigenous health in one form or another can share information about what they’re doing, express ideas or opinions, or raise issues, related to Indigenous health. My desire is to bring all peoples involved in Indigenous health together in a global forum which encourages the sharing of knowledge and public discussion, with the aim of advancing the health status of Indigenous peoples worldwide. It’s also my hope that putting this information out there will increase awareness of Indigenous health issues, and inform and educate all peoples – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – of the plight of our peoples and the need for positive change.

Indigihealth International will officially launch on Monday 17 March 2014 at 9:00am (AEST), and I would like to invite you all to come and browse through what I hope to be a global journal of Indigenous health.

Are you involved in Indigenous health? Would you like to share your knowledge, ideas, and opinions? I’m looking for people to contribute articles, both for the launch and over time, and would welcome your contribution. There is no minimum length, and no particular topic or style. You could talk about your organisation, a project you’re involved with, a disease or condition affecting Indigenous peoples, public policy, a review of a book or resource – anything that you feel is relevant, as long as it is related to Indigenous health. Please contact me for more details.

Are You Making the Most of Your Health Insurance?

private-health-insurance-policiesIf you live in Australia, you have health insurance. You might not realise it, but you do.

At the very least, you are insured through our public health system, Medicare. Medicare ensures every Australian (and some permanent and temporary residents) has access to a level of health care. Your insurer is the Department of Human Services, who administers Medicare on behalf of the Department of Health. Your premiums are paid through taxes, and in return you are entitled to have the costs of your care subsidised, or in some cases, completely covered (though this is likely to change). Unfortunately, some services – like physiotherapy – are only covered in certain circumstances. Others aren’t covered at all.

According to the statistics from the Private Health Insurance Administration Council for the December quarter of 2013, 55% of Australians are also insured for non-hospital based health services through private insurers.This generally includes allied health (eg: physiotherapy) and some complementary health services. The range and limitations of cover vary from insurer to insurer and policy to policy, however in my experience most insurers will cover 65% to 85% of costs for services, and in some cases can cover up to the full amount for specific services or items.

This means that 1 in 2 Australians potentially have a considerable amount of their health care needs covered by insurance. And the beauty of it is, you don’t actually have to be sick or injured in order to make a claim. Medicare does not require you to be ill to see a doctor, nor do private health insurers require you to have a condition or injury to see an allied health practitioner. In fact when considered carefully, health insurance is the perfect means by which people can engage in preventative health measures, and potentially avoid becoming sick or injured. Yet as someone who has worked in the health care industry for eleven years, and half of that in private practice, it’s been my observation that very few people use their health insurance – public or private – for preventative health.

Why?

I’m sure there’s numerous possible answers, however in my view it comes down to this: we don’t do preventative health care very well in Australia. Our approach to health is a very reactive one, as opposed to proactive. This is not to say that our healthcare professionals aren’t all for preventative health; in fact I’m sure in the majority the opposite is true. The main problem, as I see it, is what I’ve come to term the, “she’ll be right, mate” attitude towards health. In my experience, Australians – in general – do not see a health practitioner unless there is an absolute or urgent need to. As a physiotherapist, I’ve seen this over and over again. The number of patients I’ve seen who’ve had their injury or condition for weeks, months, sometimes even years, and never sought treatment before, is staggering. What’s even more staggering is the number of patients who, after having seen me and received my advice to return should their symptoms start to return again, wait to return until they have deteriorated back to their pre-treatment presentation.

This is a discussion in and of itself. My point is, with the options available to us through private and public insurances, at least 1 in 2 of us do not have to be in this situation. Health insurance is something we pay for, however, unlike many other types of insurance, we can claim a benefit through this on a regular basis. Those with private policies are likely spending significant amounts of money every year to ensure they are covered for a variety of health services, whether they use them or not. So shouldn’t we all make the most of it?

Here are three things you can do straight away to start making the most of your health insurance:

1. Understand Your Policy

The key to getting the most out of your health insurance is to first understand what you’re policy covers you for, and just as important, what it does not cover. If you have private health insurance you should at the very least have read and be familiar with your product disclosure statement. This will tell you everything you need to know about what your policy does and does not cover you for, what you can claim against, how to make a claim, and so forth. Not only will this help you understand what you can use your insurance for, it will also help you consider whether you are covered for the things you feel you need.

This is also true if all you are covered by is a public policy, such as Medicare or, for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs. We assume we know what these services do and don’t cover, but how many of us really know? For example, it wasn’t until I researched for this article that I discovered Medicare can be used in eleven other countries to subsidise the cost of essential medical treatment under Reciprocal Health Care Agreements. Useful knowledge if you’re travelling to New Zealand or certain parts of Europe.

2. Start Using Your Insurance

If you have a private insurance policy with ancillary (non-hospital) cover, and you are not using the services you are covered for, you are not getting what you are paying for. Most policies will at the very least enable you to have routine checkups for your teeth, your eyes, and your hearing. If you have or have had problems with you neck, back, shoulders, feet, or just about any other part of your body, you can check in with a physiotherapist or podiatrist. Want to get fit? Check in with a dietician and exercise physiologist. Feeling stressed? Go see a registered massage therapist. Once you are familiar with what your policy covers, you’ll realise there are a lot of things you can do to benefit your health and well-being without having to be sick or injured first.

Even if you’re in the half of the population that does not have private health insurance, you can still schedule a regular check-up with your doctor using Medicare or, if you’re a veteran, veterans benefits. In most cases this won’t cost you anything except some time. When you consider the many health problems that we know can be addressed through prevention and early detection, and the fact that you are effectively already paying for compulsory health insurance through your taxes, it becomes nonsensical to not go and have a regular health check with your doctor.

3. Review Your Policy Regularly

Policy on public health, and consequently what is or isn’t covered by Medicare and DVA, changes often enough that it is important to keep up-to-date on what services are accessible through Medicare and veterans benefits, the process for doing this, and what your out-of-pocket expenses may be as a result. This is especially important if you are in the half of the population that does not also have private health insurance, as this is what you are relying on should you require medical treatment.

Private policy holders are effectively making an additional investment in their health. Like any good investment, you should be confident you are getting a good return on your investment. Your return on your investment is essentially whether you are covered for the services you need (or will need), and whether you are using them. This needs to be considered in terms of both present and future needs: what you need today may be quite different to what you needed five years ago, and what you might need in five years time. Many health insurers recognise this, and offer ‘tailor-made’ packages to help you choose what you do and don’t want to be covered for. It comes back to what you feel will be beneficial to maintain your health, well-being, and quality of life.

One way or another, you are paying for health insurance, whether you want to or not. Unlike other forms of insurance, where you are essentially covering yourself ‘just-in-case’ something happens, health insurance gives you the direct ability to reduce the risk of something happening. Isn’t it therefore in your best interest to make the most of it?

How do you make the most of your health insurance? Do you feel you are getting a good return on your investment? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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