From tentative steps to huge leaps

purple steps and a yellow figure

From tentative steps to huge leaps

purple steps and a yellow figure

This Final Word is final in more ways than one. It will be the last I pen as CEO of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, having resigned from my position in late December.

I have served the APA and the physiotherapy profession for nine years, including over four as CEO. 

In that time I have gained a profound respect for physiotherapists and appreciation for the under-celebrated role they play in people’s lives.

Less than a decade ago, advocacy on behalf of the profession was largely reactive. 

If something happened that had a direct impact on our members—be it a funding decision or a policy change introduced by the government— the APA would respond, usually quietly and politely. 

I have seen us evolve into strong, vocal and proactive advocates who understand the nuances involved in the big picture

We no longer react only to isolated issues but take the lead in shaping the health system of the future.

We have also gone from strength to strength in using our voice to talk to consumers. 

In our annual surveys and evaluations of consumer awareness of and attitudes towards physiotherapy, we see consistent improvements year on year. 

This is because we recognised the need for a positive and united ‘brand physio’ and made a significant effort to grow the profession’s profile.

Ten years ago, APA career pathways were merely a concept. 

The idea that the profession could create robust yet flexible education pathways for physiotherapists at all stages of their career, whatever their aspirations might be, was met with enthusiasm by our members and quickly took flight. 

A decade on, we’ve seen the development of numerous pathways towards Fellowship of the Australian College of Physiotherapists, via Clinical Specialisation or Original Contribution (Research), and ever-expanding opportunities to be titled in a particular discipline. 

Many of our members have chosen to pursue their own bespoke pathways. 

This approach to lifelong learning is unique among the physiotherapy professions of the world and I hope it makes you proud to be an Australian physiotherapist.

Our journey towards Reconciliation started as tentative steps, first through the formation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee, then through the development of our first Reconciliation Action Plan. 

That first plan established norms and practices that are now very much part of our day-to-day lives, such as acknowledging the Country we’re meeting on. 

Our current (third) Reconciliation Action Plan represents heartening progress—sometimes in huge leaps—in this journey.

I believe that our position on First Nations health and advocacy opened the door to an exploration of social issues more broadly.

Though this is often met with a degree of criticism, the APA proudly advocates for inclusion, diversity and justice where it has any bearing on health. 

The formation of our LGBTQIA+ advisory committee and work on tackling climate change attest to this. 

As I depart, I ask those members who still question the validity of this work to consider how broad and varied the determinants of health are and the privileged role that physiotherapists have in caring for the whole person.

It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to acknowledge a few people. 

The Board of Directors is the strongest it’s ever been and I want to thank them for their wisdom and diligence in steering this organisation. 

To the many engaged members who put in hours and hours of their personal time to benefit their fellow professionals, I am in awe of your commitment and sacrifice. 

And finally, to the amazing APA staff, a group of most excellent people: I am ever so grateful to you and proud to have led you for a little while.

>> Anja Nikolic APA Chief Executive Officer

Contact Anja via email.


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