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Queensland Labor and the Greens endorse role of occupational therapy while other major parties fail to respond

The Queensland Division of Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA) has been left disappointed with only two of the major parties explicitly endorsing the role of occupational therapy ahead of Saturday’s state election.

Correspondence detailing issues of concern to occupational therapists was sent on 5 October to the Labor Party, the Liberal National Party, the Queensland Greens, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, Katter’s Australia Party, and the United Australia Party.  As of this afternoon, only the Labor Party and the Queensland Greens had responded.

OTA’s Queensland Divisional Manager, Brooke Carter, said the purpose in writing to the parties was to raise issues of concern to occupational therapists and their clients with those in power or those aspiring to power.

“This enables our members to make an informed decision at the ballot box,” Ms Carter said. “It is deeply regrettable that only two parties have opted to engage with our membership on these issues.”

Significantly, Queensland Labor acknowledged deficiencies in the services provided to Queensland veterans by the Federal Government’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). The unsustainably low rates paid to occupational therapists by DVA has led to a sharp decline in the number of occupational therapists able to work with veterans, particularly in Far North Queensland.

Responding on behalf of the Palaszczuk Government, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Health, the Hon. Steven Miles MP, indicated his support for improving veterans’ access to occupational therapy.

“Our ex-servicemen and women, who have given so much, deserve better”, Mr Miles said.

According to Mr Miles, a re-elected Labor Government “commits to raising these issues with the Federal Government”.

The Labor Party has also recognised the role that occupational therapists play in contributing to a student’s ability to participate in education.

Despite policies being in place to facilitate access to schools, occupational therapists who are NDIS providers frequently encounter barriers to accessing school premises, and had done so even before the COVID-19 pandemic. OTA welcomes Queensland Labor’s commitment to involve OTA in future reviews of the processes relating to NDIS providers accessing schools.

“A re-elected Palaszczuk Labor Government will consult with the Queensland Division of Occupational Therapy Australia during the review process for the policy and procedure”, Mr Miles said.

OTA notes with disappointment, however, that Mr Miles did not explicitly acknowledge occupational therapists in the Labor Party’s plans to provide funding for more health workers, nor did the party recognise the role of occupational therapy in supporting mental health services.  

While Mr Miles stated the Queensland Labor Party has committed to growing the frontline public sector workforce through fiscally responsible measures, including 1,700 health professionals, no specific mention was made of allied health, mental health, or occupational therapy.

Ms Carter said the lack of an explicit reference to occupational therapy was disappointing given the current public health challenges and the crucial role of occupational therapy in preventing hospital admissions and readmissions.

OTA welcomed the Labor Party’s commitments to ensure the ongoing sustainability of Queensland’s Compulsory Third Party and worker’s compensation schemes.

In its response, the Queensland Greens committed to “truly universal and free healthcare, including employing at least 3000 more doctors and 6500 more nurses and 200 new public health clinics across Queensland”. While OTA welcomes such a commitment, it notes with disappointment the absence of any mention of the allied health professions and, specifically, occupational therapists.

The Greens did, however, explicitly support the maintenance of funding for occupational therapy services, greater federal funding to support veterans, and collaboration between Education Queensland and occupational therapists.  

Ms Carter thanked the Queensland Labor Party and the Greens for their responses.

All correspondence can be viewed on the OTA website: https://otaus.com.au/news/2020-queensland-election

Occupational Therapy Australia is the professional association and peak representative body for occupational therapists in Australia. As of March 2020, there were more than 4,700 registered occupational therapists working in Queensland.

Occupational therapists are key allied health professionals who work with people and communities to overcome limitations to everyday living caused by such things as injury or illness, psychological or emotional difficulties, developmental delay, or the effects of ageing.

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

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