Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - What is an offence?
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What is an offence?

Offences are breaches of the National Law, committed by registered health practitioners and unregistered individuals.

There are a number of offences created under the National Law, including the following:

  • unlawful use of a protected title 
  • performing a restricted act 
  • holding out (claims by individuals or organisations as to registration), and
  • unlawful advertising.

More information about each type of offence is available below.

Make a complaint about an offence

Ahpra and the National Boards take complaints about offences seriously, as they are responsible for making sure that only practitioners who have the skills and qualifications to provide care are registered to practise.

These breaches can put individuals and the community at risk.

If you suspect that an offence has occurred or you have concerns about an offence, complete the form below and submit it along with any additional evidence, if required:


Prosecution Guidelines

Types of offences

Section 113 of the National Law outlines more details on protected titles and who may carry out the restricted acts. Section 97 of the National Law outlines more details on the use of the title ‘acupuncturist’.

The National Law restricts the use of protected titles. This means that it is unlawful for someone to knowingly or recklessly take or use a title to make someone believe they are registered in one of the health professions listed in the table below, as well as other practices including using a specialist title when the person does not have specialist registration.

Further, it is unlawful for someone to lead someone to believe that another person is registered in a health profession from the list below.

Profession Title
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner, Aboriginal health practitioner, Torres Strait Islander health practitioner
Chinese medicine Chinese medicine practitioner, Chinese herbal dispenser, Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, Oriental medicine practitioner, acupuncturist
Chiropractic Chiropractor
Dental Dentist, dental therapist, dental hygienist, dental prosthetist, oral health therapist
Medical Medical practitioner
Medical radiation practice Medical radiation practitioner, diagnostic radiographer, medical imaging technologist, radiographer, nuclear medicine scientist, nuclear medicine technologist, radiation therapist
Nursing and midwifery Nurse, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, enrolled nurse, midwife, midwife practitioner
Occupational therapy Occupational therapist
Optometry Optometrist, optician
Osteopathy Osteopath
Paramedicine Paramedic 
Pharmacy Pharmacist, pharmaceutical chemist
Physiotherapy Physiotherapist, physical therapist
Podiatry Podiatrist, chiropodist
Psychology Psychologist

Restricted dental acts

Section 121 of the National Law outlines more details on the restricted acts and who may carry out the restricted acts.

Restricted dental acts include irreversible procedures on the teeth, jaw and associated structures. Under the National Law, restricted dental acts can only be carried out by individuals who are:

  • a registered dental or medical practitioner 
  • a dental or medical student performing the procedure as part of an approved program of study 
  • ordered to do so by a dentist or dental prosthetist, or 
  • authorised to carry out the act generally.

Restricted prescription of optical appliances

Section 122 of the National Law outlines more details on the restricted acts and who may carry out the restricted acts.

Optical appliances are those that are designed to correct, remedy or relieve any refractive abnormality or sight defect, including:

  • spectacle lenses, and 
  • contact lenses (whether or not they are designed to correct, remedy or relieve).

Under the National Law, a restricted prescription of optical appliances can only be carried out by individuals who are:

  • a registered optometrist or medical practitioner 
  • an orthoptist (whose name is recorded in the Register of Orthoptists and if the appliance is spectacles) who prescribes the spectacles according to the requirements set out in the National Law, or 
  • authorised to prescribe the optical appliance generally.

Restricted spinal manipulation

Section 123 of the National Law outlines more details on the restricted acts and who may carry out the restricted acts.

Manipulation of the cervical spine means moving the joints of the cervical spine beyond a person’s usual physiological range of motion using a high velocity, low amplitude thrust. Under the National Law, a person must not perform manipulation of the cervical spine unless they are:

  • registered in an appropriate health profession 
  • a student performing the manipulation as part of an approved program of study, or 
  • authorised to perform the procedure generally.

The National Law defines ‘appropriate health profession’ as:

  • chiropractic 
  • osteopathy 
  • medical, and 
  • physiotherapy.

Section 116 and 118 of the National Law outline more details on holding out and making claims about registration.

Under the National Law, it’s unlawful to knowingly or recklessly claim to be a registered health practitioner. This can include using a title, name, initial, symbol, word or description which could be reasonably understood to indicate that an individual is a health practitioner or qualified to practise in a health profession.

The National Law also states that a person must not claim that another individual is a registered health practitioner. Section 116 of the National Law covers more details of this requirement, including:

  • pretending to be registered in a division of a health profession 
  • pretending to have a specialist registration, and 
  • practitioners making claims while having conditions on their registration.

Section 118 of the National Law makes it an offence for a person to claim to be a specialist practitioner, if the person is not registered in that recognised specialty. It is also an offence to claim someone else is registered in a particular profession or division or holds specialist registration, when they do not.

Under the National Law, you may not advertise a regulated health service or a business providing a regulated health service in a way that:

  • is false, misleading or deceptive 
  • uses gifts, discounts or inducements without the terms and conditions of the offer 
  • uses a testimonial or purported testimonial 
  • creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, or 
  • directly or indirectly encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services.

National Boards have guidelines which interpret this section of the law for each profession. These are available on each Board’s website in an accessible format. General information about advertising is available on the advertising resources page.

It’s important to note that it is not an offence for a person, as part of their business, to print or publish an advertisement for another person. The National Law also covers other requirements, which you can read about in the FAQ document.

Page reviewed 14/12/2020