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Local dentist graduates face 'unconscionable' career roadblock

19 June, 2014

The impending release of the 2014 Skilled Occupation List will bring despair to many newly graduating dentists.

Despite repeated calls from the Australian Dental Association (ADA) to take corrective action, reports indicate that the occupation of dentist remains on the List for 2014, which means that dentists with overseas qualifications can still enter this country and take jobs away from dentists graduating from Australian universities.
"Despite their claim that it consults closely with industry and education providers and undertakes research and workforce studies to provide advice on skills and workforce issues, the Australian Workforce & Productivity Agency (AWPA) has completely ignored everyone that has the expertise and data on the dental workforce. The AWPA's advice about the List to the Minister for Immigration is extremely misinformed," Dr Karin Alexander, President of the Australian Dental Association said.
'Negligence at best, wilful blindness at worst'
"The AWPA has brazenly ignored the detailed findings of the Australian government's own agency, Health Workforce Australia (HWA). HWA's detailed supply and demand study of the dental workforce shows that there is an increasing oversupply of dental professionals that will last until 2025. The bureaucracy's left hand does not know what its right is doing. The AWPA sought advice and data from HWA and others and has chosen to reject the lot. This is a case of gross incompetence or negligence at best. At worst, this is a case of wilful blindness. Either way, local dentist graduates will cop it.
"We have presented the Minister for Immigration, the Assistant Minister for Immigration and the AWPA with incontestable evidence of the dental workforce oversupply that exists in this country. Yet rather than ensure that those dentists who are already in Australia are able to work, we continue to encourage overseas dentists to migrate here to take their place. It doesn't make any sense at all.
International dentists flood local market
"The ADA always supports the right for all governments to use a range of policy levers to address workforce supply issues. The problem here is that the Australian government's own bureaucracy is endorsing a process that allows overseas qualified dentists to flood the market with dentists when many of our own graduates are unable to practise. This is unconscionable," Dr Alexander concluded.
The ADA has repeatedly called on the Australian government to remove dentists from the Skilled Occupation List, place a cap on the number of Commonwealth Supported Places in dental programs and place a moratorium on the introduction of any new dental schools or the expansion of existing ones to try and bring the workforce into balance. 
With students in Australian universities paying anywhere between $30,000 and $300,000 to study dentistry, if the Australian government is serious on reducing waste, it must start here and ensure that this investment in the training of Australian dentists is not lost by allowing overseas dentists to access the dental market here carte blanche.

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Phil Inglis | Thursday, June 19, 2014, 10:04 AM
Nothing new here: A government establishes a body to report back on an industry issue. Good first step we think. However the powers that be require an outcome to support a pre-existing line of thought related to the division of funds and other political (not industry) interests. Little wonder that industry is left foundering when "spin" is the order of the day!
Veronica Dix | Thursday, June 19, 2014, 3:59 PM
This simply supports comments I have made in previous discussions, that we have a government that seems oblivious on how to address the unemployment issues of this country. Dentistry is a course that seems to attract quite a number of overseas students (instead of allowing placement of our locally born population), and yet they advertise this country as having a skills shortage to attract even more overseas dentists? This simply does not make sense. Is it really that hard to realise that if we stop importing labour from overseas, start educating our own Australian born population as first choice students in our universities, we would be solving two issues at once. Firstly, creating employment for new graduates, as well as having the university places to educate our children, thereby solving the skills shortage as well. It really is NOT rocket science. But I guess as long as there's money to made by the uni's and the government by pandering to overseas markets, we had better learn to accept that we may well stay unemployed for a very very long time
adrienne | Monday, June 23, 2014, 10:28 AM
ditto for secondary teachers…..
Rosslyn Balston | Monday, June 30, 2014, 3:08 PM
Maybe dental graduates need to accept that rural people also need their skills, and relocate.
Ann Barry | Monday, June 30, 2014, 5:28 PM
I agree with Rosslyn, trying to get dentist into rural areas is a huge problem. Our area has now bought it's waiting time for patients down from 3-4yrs to now only matter of month or so for most appointments, BUT that was at a huge cost to supply patients with vouchers to attend private practices and not using local hospital dentist. G'ment should take dentist OFF the list of professions seeking overseas dentists to practice in Aust. before our own educated dentists.
Goldcoaster | Monday, June 30, 2014, 8:59 PM
Perhaps the government bureaucrats are trying to manipulate market forces to increase competition to the point where dentists will accept reduced private practice payments, accept a national 'dentalcare' scheme, and be more likely to accept government employment and service rural and remote regions?
Freda | Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 9:20 AM
Teachers are in the same boat…..for all the talk of a science/maths shortage even the most remote schools will only employ people with FULL Registration - only obtainable after a years teaching….yet at the same time the government is going to FAST-TRACK no trained graduates???? Does this government just waste money for spendings sake???
Veronica Dix | Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 9:29 AM
It certainly is a big issue to get dentists into rural areas, and that is usually due to the lack of potential for earning the "big" income. This I believe could be solved by ensuring that ALL new graduates and/or immigrant dentists have imposed by the government, a MANDATORY period of service in rural areas. I would suggest its not unreasonable for them to be required to live and work in regional areas for a period of least 2-3 years after graduation or arrival in this country. I think. however, that the crux of this particular article is the fact that we are importing labour for a profession where we have an over abundance of our own population that can fill positions. As I stated in my previous post, I believe that while the government and universities profit from our "skills shortage", this issue will continue to grow.