2020: Our training package qualifications in focus

By Rebecca Barnett

Is anyone else as grateful as I am about the endless dad joke opportunities afforded by the year ahead? The optometrical profession must be salivating at the prospect.

But I digress before I have even started. That must be some kind of record.

As you are (hopefully) aware, our training package qualifications are currently under review. In August this year, the Department of Education agreed to fund an update of the Certificate IV in Massage Therapy (HLT52015) and the Diploma of Remedial Massage (HLT52015), following recommendations made by the Complementary Health Industry Reference Committee (IRC) in the 2019 Industry Forecast.

To our surprise, the Education Department also agreed to fund a new Advanced Diploma level qualification under the health training package.

You can read a brief project overview on the SkillsIQ website.

Adverse weather events

If I said that a political shitstorm greeted the announcement about the new qualification, it would be an ironic understatement. But now I am just getting ahead of myself.

The Complementary Health IRC agreed to establish a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)* to provide input and guidance on required updates to existing units of competency, and to develop the content for the new advanced diploma.

Expressions of interest to join the TAC were circulated in early September and 47 nominations were received from across the massage therapy industry. The array of skills and expertise across the nominees was stunning. As an industry, we should be proud of the depth of talent we have to draw on.

The IRC voted in the following TAC representatives across the three categories of industry practitioner, RTO and professional association (there’s some recognisable names in that list!):

Industry practitioner representatives

Lisa Fiddes
Leah Dwyer
Aran Bright
Sarah Fogarty
Lisa le Maitre
Peter Dent

RTO representatives

Traci Oliveri (TAFE)
Maggie Sands (private RTO)

Association representatives

Shaun Brewster (Australian Natural Therapists Association)
Rebecca Barnett (Association of Massage Therapists)

The newly-minted TAC met for the first time at the beginning of November. At this meeting, TAC representatives were set the task of reviewing the current massage-specific competencies in the training package and feeding back to the Complementary Health IRC with suggested revisions and updates. In addition, we were asked to submit an “advanced diploma wishlist”, outlining what we thought the proposed structure and content of the new health training package qualification should be. At the time of writing this update, SkillsIQ was collating this first round of feedback to present it back to the IRC for initial consideration.

Since the proposed new Advanced Diploma has been at the heart of the abovementioned nasty weather event, the AMT board and Education Committee felt that it was important to inform AMT members (and all interested industry parties for that matter) of AMT’s formal position in relation to the new qualification. This is especially necessary given the tsunami of rumour and misinformation that has circulated on social media regarding the implications of developing a new advanced diploma. Below is the position that I am taking to the TAC, as AMT’s representative on the committee.

AMT’s vision

AMT’s preferred model for the Advanced Diploma is based on the current Advanced Diploma of Nursing, which allows enrolled nurses to develop an area of specialisation with clear associated job outcomes. This approach encompasses the arguments laid out in the 2019 Complementary Industry Forecast, which identified both the need and the demand for advanced clinical skills to respond to the growing burden of chronic diseases in Australia, and access to healthcare in rural, regional and remote Australia.

The qualification description for the Advanced Diploma of Nursing encapsulates perfectly the direction that the new massage therapy qualification could take. The paragraph below is taken almost verbatim from the nursing qualification but we have substituted Remedial Massage Therapist for Enrolled Nurse so you get a clear sense of the direction we would like to take.

This qualification reflects the role of remedial massage therapists with advanced skills who work in a specialised area of massage therapy practice. At this level, remedial massage therapists integrate and adapt specialised, technical and theoretical knowledge to address a diverse range of clinical situations and challenges in their area of specialisation. They contribute to the continuous improvement of clinical practice using research and participation in broader organisational quality processes.

Based on the Advanced Diploma of Nursing

Our own advanced diploma could have a similar structure, with a small suite of core competencies (clinical assessment, research and report on massage therapy trends and practice, contribute to improvement of clinical practice, chronic disease management) and then an expansive set of grouped electives in various areas of specialisation that have clear associated job outcomes e.g. pain management, palliative care, rural and remote health, mental health and aged care. The actual specialisations would obviously be determined through industry consultation.

Such an approach would help to ensure that the qualification is designed around clear job outcomes that speak to existing gaps in healthcare delivery, rather than just being a “whole of profession” higher level certification.

It would also mean that the qualification is not based around offering yet more massage therapy treatment techniques and modalities, an area that is already well catered for in continuing professional development workshops. Including competencies based around research and continuous improvement would further ensure that graduates would contribute to the leadership culture that the profession needs.

Dispelling the rumours

There’s been some pretty wild conjecture online about what the proposed Advanced Diploma will mean for the massage industry. There’s also been some downright misinformation circulating, so let’s clear up a few claims here.

Well, that’s the end of myotherapy then

Myth: This rumour appears to be based on a corresponding assumption that the content of the new qualification will basically just be ported across from myo and rebadged under the national health training package (which would then mean that the Myotherapy Advanced Diploma would not be renewed due to qualification duplication).

Fact: Rumours of the death of myotherapy have been greatly exaggerated. The new qualification hasn’t even been drafted yet. Even the TAC members don’t know the outcome of the first round of feedback. The proposed AMT model would not supercede the current Advanced Diploma of Myotherapy because its structure and emphasis is distinctly different.

The advanced diploma will become the new benchmark for health fund recognition

Myth: Some nervous practitioners have already formed the view that the existence of a higher level qualification will force them to upgrade their current qualification to remain eligible for health fund provider status.

Fact: The impetus for the new qualification is based around associated job outcomes. It is not intended to replace the Diploma as an entry level practice qualification for provider status, but rather as an opportunity to upskill in particular areas of interest, demand and employability.

The Advanced Diploma of Myotherapy has been around for a very long time and it hasn’t shifted the health fund provider goalposts in all those years.

AMT has already begun informing private health insurers about the development of the qualification and the opportunities that this will engender to provide both tailored and more general remedial massage services.

I don’t want to redo my Cert IV or Diploma when the new versions are released.

Myth: My qualifications are now superceded so I will have to get the new quals.

Fact: If you hold a National Training Package qualification and keep yourself current with professional development, you are not obliged to keep going back and gaining a new qualification every time they are reviewed. AMT no longer recognises the original 02 iteration of training package qualifications for new membership applications but we can continue to grandfather and represent the qualifications of all members who maintain the currency of their continuing education, first aid and insurance to all the private health insurers.

The Technical Advisory Committee has too much power to determine the fate of the industry’s qualifications.

Myth: The massage TAC is doing secret squirrel business. It’s not fair or right that 10 people get to control and determine the fate of the entire massage industry

Fact: The TAC provides input, feedback, guidance and tonnes of labour but the final decisions are based on extensive industry consultation (that means you!) and endorsed by the IRC. There will be at least two rounds of public consultation on the scope of work that the TAC is undertaking. AMT will notify you when these are happening.

Bear in mind that one of the criteria for recruitment to the TAC was the capacity to tap into extensive networks that will facilitate these public consultations. That’s why I am writing this blog …

Members of the TAC are also bound by a Code of Conduct which guides when they can make information publicly available. Basically, it’s not a question of if info will be freely accessible but when. Please keep a watching brief for notifications via email, this blog, the AMT website, and AMT social media.

* Would you say I have a plethora of acronyms?

Do you have any other comments or concerns about the qualification review process that you would like us to address? Please comment below and we will be happy to respond.

About the Author

As CEO of AMT, Rebecca Barnett has hurled herself enthusiastically into her role on the massage therapy Technical Advisory Committee. There has been a concomitant appreciation of – and deepening devotion to – the daily wisdom of @effinbirds.

Share this post:
AMT Chairperson Summer Message
Massage in the Time of Bushfire Crisis


  1. I have no concerns about the TAC. I have an immense sense of awe and relief that the future of our industry is in the best possible hands. I have spent almost all of my years as an AMT member as a “grandfathered” AMT accredited Massage Therapist. Not once has my health fund status been jeopardised. AMT has been meeting my membership needs since 2002. I am currently 36 years of age, and am optimistic about the future of Massage in Australia. Thank you to all who are doing the work behind the scenes on the TAC and in AMT head office. Seasons greetings. We have a bright future in 2020 and beyond.

  2. Roberta Perondini Lopasso
    02/01/2020 - 7:01 pm

    Dear Ms Rebecca Barnett,

    You broke down and truck load of information and made it very easy to understand.
    If you keep pushing on this direction “qualification is designed around clear job outcomes that speak to existing gaps in healthcare delivery, rather than just being a “whole of profession” higher level certification”
    we will have a great outcome!

    Thank you and Happy New Year! Roberta

  3. Hi Rebecca,
    You mention that “the proposed AMT model would not supercede the current Advanced Diploma of Myotherapy because its structure and emphasis is distinctly different.”

    I was wondering if you could please elaborate on what you think the distinctions between current myotherapy training/practice vs this proposed advanced massage qualification would be?

    Regards and thanks for all the good work

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *