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Q&A: Judy James

Written by Endeavour College of Natural Health | Thursday, 11 April 2013

chinese medicine

Wellspring speaks with Judy James, CEO of the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA).

Judy commenced acupuncture practice in 1979 and served on the Board of AACMA as Membership Officer, Treasurer and Secretary between 1984 and 1994. Judy has worked full-time for AACMA since 1996.

Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Acupuncture (1979) from the Brisbane College of Traditional Acupuncture, a Bachelor of Arts (1989) and Bachelor of Laws with Honours (1994) from the University of Queensland and she is currently undertaking post-graduate studies in Public Health.

She was the founding Academic Coordinator at Endeavour (then called Acupuncture Colleges Australia (Brisbane)) and worked in various academic positions at ACA (Brisbane), ACNM and BCTA until 1994.

Tell us about AACMA

AACMA was formed in 1973 and is the peak national professional association for qualified practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Today we have 2,250 members across Australia consisting of practitioners and students. We’re dedicated to providing leadership to the sector, negotiating benefits for our members and furthering the long-term sustainability and structure of the profession. AACMA is the largest Chinese Medicine association in the world outside of China, Korea and Taiwan and has made huge impacts on the industry since its inception. Highlights include the negotiation of the first benefit for complementary medicine health refunds (acupuncture) and the securing of GST-free status for acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.

What is ahead for AACMA in 2013?

Professional development is the next big issue for our industry. It is an area which is flourishing now that it is a legal requirement for practitioners. One of our priorities is to harness the best programs on offer and communicate these to our members and fill in the gaps. We are also delighted to be hosting the 8th World Conference on Acupuncture WFAS Sydney 2013 from 2-4 November. This is only the second time this conference has been held in Australia, and we’ve not seen this level of international support from any conference in the past. We will be offering an academic and practical program presented by some of the world’s most highly regarded clinicians and researchers.

Can you tell us about the issue of national registration and the impact it has had on the industry?

The Chinese medicine profession joined the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for the Health Professions on 1 July 2012. This is the same scheme that regulates medical practitioners, physiotherapists, chiropractors, dentists, nurses and midwives. Chinese medicine practitioners must now be registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (CMBA) in order to offer acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine services to the public. This represents the most significant change in the history of our profession. It has been a great step forward for consumer protection, and has supported our clinicians who are now part of a nationally registered profession. This has given us greater involvement in the decision making and planning of mainstream health policy which is a wonderful flow on effect. We’re now at the table and contributing to important conversations about health and workplace issues which impact on our profession.  There is also a higher duty of care standard expected of our professionals and I think this is a good thing. Some practitioners have resisted the changes due to the cost of registration and the pressure of being assessed; however my advice has always been to turn this into a positive. We’ve had members leverage the change by promoting their registration heavily in their local area which has brought them significant new business.

What would be your message to students and how do you support them?

Our student members are very important because they’re the future of the profession, and we encourage students to join us when they commence their studies. It costs them nothing if they’re enrolled in an approved course, and that way they can become familiar with what’s happening in the wider profession. We think this is an important part of their development as a professional, feeling that they’re part of and responsible to the bigger profession. Our student members have access to reduced membership rates upon graduation, continuing education events with an allocation of free spaces for students, a quarterly newsletter and free subscription to the Australian Journal of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, Australia’s only double-blind peer-reviewed journal for Chinese Medicine in Australia. We’d also like to encourage students from each campus to stand for election for our state committees and to act as a conduit of information for their institution. We see the students who are elected as a breeding ground for our future board members.

What would be your advice to new graduates looking to get started in practice?

Supervised practice is crucial so make the most of it and draw on the skills and expertise of your supervisors. I would also encourage students to get field experience observing, or better still, assisting in a clinic.

What would you say to practitioners wishing to get more involved in the industry?

I’d encourage them to consider submitting case reports and manuscripts or research snapshots to our journal as a way to become a contributing author. Practitioners are also welcome to contact our state office to submit abstracts for presentation at state committee seminars. Visit for more information.

What is the biggest growth area for acupuncture in Australia?

Without a doubt it would be women’s health – particularly supporting pregnancy and fertility issues. More women are using acupuncture to effectively treat delayed labour, pain management, breech position, morning sickness, infertility, as well as for IVF support and implantation issues.

Endeavour College of Natural Health

Endeavour College of Natural Health is Australia's largest Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses.

The College is known as the centre of excellence for natural medicine and is respected for its internationally recognised academic teams and high calibre graduates. Endeavour offers Bachelor of Health Science degrees in Naturopathy, Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine, Acupuncture Therapies and Chinese Medicine, Undergraduate Certificates, a Diploma of Health Science and massage courses.

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