JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE SOCIAL WORKERS REGISTRATION BILL

I move:

That the final report of the committee be noted.

The Social Workers Registration Bill 2018 was referred to the joint committee on 29 November 2018, and it began hearing evidence on 30 January 2019. On 3 December 2020 I tabled the final report of the Joint Committee on Social Workers Registration Bill 2018. Twenty recommendations were made relating to the provision for the registration of social workers and the establishment of a social workers registration board with powers to investigate complaints and enforce penalties for practitioners who breach competency and ethical standards.

As part of its inquiry, the committee heard from a range of interested parties, including the Australian Association of Social Workers, social welfare agencies and education providers. Nine written submissions were also received. The committee also wrote to the federal government, as well as all state and territory jurisdictions, seeking feedback regarding the registration of the social work profession. Oral evidence was heard from 11 separate stakeholders, some of whom had also provided written submissions. The committee also heard, by teleconference, from the peak body representing social workers in New Zealand.

The submissions received informed the 20 recommendations made in the report. The committee produced a revised bill as part of its deliberations which, in line with the original intent of the bill, seeks to enhance the professional standards of the social work profession and better protect the safety of the community.

Much of the evidence expressed general support for registration rather than drawing attention to specific sections of the bill. The report reflects those aspects of the bill that were emphasised in the submissions received. I acknowledge the efforts of the members of the committee and the secretary for all the work that was undertaken. The state government supports, in principle, both the bill and the joint committee's findings. The AASW has publicly welcomed support for a registration scheme, and maintains the need for a national scheme with oversight from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Registration of social workers would have a range of benefits, including improved public safety, higher standards of conduct and accountability through the provision of accessible mechanisms for complaints and review, and improved professional development opportunities for people within the profession. The government will continue to advocate for a national scheme under the registration and accreditation scheme with oversight from AHPRA.