Optometrists Association Australia will lobby harder and advocate more actively on behalf of optometry at government level, and promote the importance of eye health to the public. Additionally it will be rebranded as ‘Optometry Australia’, reflecting a more confident, focussed and effective representative body.
The six state divisions intend to change their names accordingly, i.e. Optometry Victoria, Optometry New South Wales/ACT, Optometry Queensland/Northern Territory, Optometry Western Australia, Optometry South Australia and Optometry Tasmania.
OAA National Board President/Chairman Andrew Harris said the intended changes were in response to a comprehensive sector and membership review undertaken by the Association.
“To help us shape our future, we asked our members how we can better support them. They told us exactly what they needed from us and we are responding accordingly,” said Mr Harris. An interview with the OAA’s CEO Genevieve Quilty, conducted by mivision and published in March explored the current relevance of the Association.
To date we’ve been a fairly conservative group, now we feel compelled to talk to a wider group on behalf of our membership…
Ms. Quilty said while in the past the Association focussed its efforts on supporting the needs of individual optometrists, Optometry Australia will support the profession as a whole. “Our members – who represent 90 per cent of Australia’s optometrists – tell us they’d much prefer that we work above and beyond meeting individual needs – so that the entire profession benefits as a collective.”
She said despite the fact that all optometrists will benefit from Optometry Australia’s campaigning and advocacy, regardless of their membership status, there are still compelling reasons for optometrists to maintain their membership.
“We’ll still be providing services exclusively to members – such as individual professional advice about working with consumers, advice on registration and legal issues etc… but we’ll also be working at a much higher level to promote eye health issues through public marketing campaigns, advocacy and lobbying.
A Bolder Approach
“To date we’ve been a fairly conservative group, now we feel compelled to talk to a wider group on behalf of our membership,” said Ms. Quilty. “It’s a natural evolution.”
“In effect our aim is to get around to more corridors in parliament house – to talk to more of the key players in government and work with our strategic partners to drive positive change for eye health.
“We want to be the most influential organisation lobbying law makers on behalf of our profession.”
Ms. Quilty said there will be no increase in membership fees required to effect the change. “We will be looking to use the fees and income we can earn outside the profession with strategic partnerships to get the dollar to go further,” she said.
“We hope the new focus will attract more optometrists to Optometry Australia who will help drive change and promote eye health through their active participation.
“The use of member clinicians who can help formulate policy platforms and advise government on both issues and solutions will help us achieve our core goal of strengthening and protecting the profession of optometry. Smart use of technologies that didn’t exist five years ago will help us promote eye health in the public forum,” she said.
OAA Members Inspire New Name and Direction
Mr. Harris said the new strategic focus, which was unanimously agreed by all Boards, will significantly raise the standing of optometrists as eye health experts.
“The Association has been shaping the optometry sector for over 100 years and this change in direction is a natural, evolutionary and positive step for a peak membership-based organisation such as ours.” He said the announcement “is perhaps the single largest change that we have made in the Association’s recent history” and would take several months to fully embed. “We firmly believe that the interests of individual optometrists are best served by a strong and progressive profession, with a representative body that actively leads, engages and promotes on behalf of all members. A stronger profession means a more rewarding and secure future for all of us,” he added.
“We believe we are now putting the foundation in place to not only better service current members, but to remain relevant to the next generation of optometrists.”