2022 | Year in Review

This year has been a very disruptive period for ACA, and most Australians, as we navigated what seemed to be the end of the worst of COVID-19 to natural disasters, a Federal Election and change of government. All these have had an impact on ACA.

Like many organisations, ACA has been running on an average of less than 50% of staff working per workday, due to staff taking time off primarily due to needing to isolate, illness (COVID and flu) and needing to care for loved ones who have fallen ill. To add to our challenges the ACA Office was flooded during the sustained heavy rainfalls in February. We lost all equipment and use of the ground floor, so all staff have been sharing offices for most of this year. At the time of writing this review, the first floor has still not been reconditioned due to delays with insurance claims.

It is a testament to all ACA Staff, that unlike many other organisations, we have not experienced any resignations. They have prevailed through all these challenges whilst working with unprecedented workloads under difficult conditions. ACA Staff reflect perseverance, loyalty and dedication to their jobs, as do our Members to servicing the Australian people in delivering first-class mental health services. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Staff and Members for that loyalty and ensure you, we have turned the corner.

I am proud to share ACA has recently approached 12,000 individual ACA Members. We thank each and every Member for your support. This growth has enabled ACA to have a more significant voice on a grander scale when engaging with Government, NGO and private organisations.

This year ACA has been dedicated to servicing Member needs. A snapshot:

  • The Membership Team answered over 24,000 phone calls and 65,000 emails.
  • We made ACA Student Membership FREE!
  • ACA now has partnerships with 15 Employee Assistance Program Providers, 11 Private Health Funds and four State WorkCover regulatory bodies (QLD, NSW, VIC and SA).
  • We launched the ACA News Blog, featuring latest ACA news and information.
  • With thanks to dedicated Chapter Convenors, we established five new Chapter locations providing opportunities for Members to engage in professional development and networking meetings.
  • We held several virtual Q&A meetings to answer your questions live.
  • Even with restricted travel conditions and challenges, the ACA Industry Liaison Officer has had a presence in most Universities that deliver Counselling/ Psychotherapy courses. ACA is now by far the leading peak body for Counsellors, with 100% of higher education providers seeking accreditation of their courses by ACA.
  • We hosted a series of academic roundtables to discuss and develop resources that meet the needs of both students and education providers.
  • We sourced and negotiated a number of unique offers across a range of products and services as part of our Member Benefits Program – including Booktopia, Endota Spa and Hilton Hotel, to name a few.

2022 Advocacy 
Advocacy for the profession continues to be ACA’s core political business – ACA met with many industry stakeholders such as Headspace, SANE, Black Dog Institute, and NDIS, to name a few. These meetings continue to raise the profile of the profession, ACA and employment opportunities.

In March, ACA launched a public awareness and advocacy campaign on behalf of the entire Counselling & Psychotherapy profession, Counsellors Care, which raised the profile of the profession, reached 6 million Australians and lead to exciting partnerships to be announced in 2023. The campaign included:

  • petition to call for better utilisation of Registered Counsellors & Psychotherapists, as of this week, is just shy of 30,000 signatures.
  • The National Regional Check In Report which put a spotlight on mental health in regional Australia and was featured in over 400 media articles.
  • A social media campaign, reaching over 2.6 million people.
  • Visits to 18 cities across Australia to deliver professional updates and campaign events.
  • Meetings with over 30 key political figures, including a private invitation to attend a round table with the then Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt.

Other advocacy highlights include:

  • Victim Assist Queensland added ACA Members on the list of professionals that can provide Counselling to financial assistance clients.
  • A new Victorian Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill was passed and extended the definition of a Mental Health Practitioner to include Registered Counsellors & Psychotherapists.
  • ACA challenged NDIS in relation to the inequities of payments to Counsellors and Psychotherapists in comparison to other disciplines and the misuse of NDIS funding. ACA has formed a Member-based taskforce to investigate this issue and will be meeting with the Minister and his team to discuss this further in the next few months.
  • The Mental Health Select Committee Queensland Final Report recommended better utilisation of Registered Counsellors & Psychotherapists to the State and Federal Government.
  • ACA partnered with leading government relations firm Hawker Britton.
  • ACA met, on many occasions one-on-one, with members of the Department of Health, including with the Secretary and head of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) section in relation to Medicare and other government-funded initiatives. ACA is also meeting with significant Primary Health Networks and challenging policies that disenfranchise Counsellors and Psychotherapists.

ACA has chosen to continue to advocate for our Members and profession. We do not hand over our advocacy duties to other associations that represent many professions, many of whom compete for jobs with our Members, simply for us to become one of many and with that follow the leader down a track that in general does not focus on our professional needs and issues. ACA will always be the one leading, not following, and takes responsibility for our own future. I ask a very simple question: Who but a Counsellor, who has skin in the game, can genuinely advocate and tell our story, accurately reflect our issues, explain our skills, and enable change at the political and social level, with genuine passion and conviction?

To enable us to do an even better job, at this year’s Annual General Meeting, ACA Members passed a motion to change ACA’s legal structure from being a not-for-profit incorporated association under New South Wales legislation to a Company Limited by Guarantee. This change enables us to become an organisation registered under National legislation as opposed to being a State-based organisation. ACA is the first Counselling/ Psychotherapy peak body to take its rightful place with similar associations such as the Australian Psychological Society and Australian Association of Social Workers. This new structure also reflects that ACA has matured as an organisation and our footprint is at a national level.

I can proudly state that across the sector, ACA members enjoy far greater profiles, access and professional recognition than any other members of any other entities. We trust this success will continue in 2023 and beyond.

Once again, I thank you for your continued support and wish you a safe and joyful break.

Kind regards,
Philip Armstrong, FACA