Psychology Board of Australia

2015/16 Annual Report Summary

At a glance: Regulating psychologists in 2015/16

This annual report summary provides a snapshot of our work regulating almost 34,000 registered psychologists in the financial year to 30 June 2016.

A more detailed profile, encompassing data relating to all 14 National Boards in Australia, is published in AHPRA and the National Boards’ 2015/16 annual report

657,621 health practitioners in 14 professions registered in Australia in 2015/16

33,907 registered psychologists

This is 5.2% of the registrant base

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Registration grew by 3.5% from 2014/15

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79% women
21% men

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4,759 new applications for registration received

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3,059 criminal history checks carried out

183 disclosable court outcomes

1 required regulatory action

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64 statutory offence matters were closed

331 notifications (complaints or concerns)1 were lodged with AHPRA about psychologists

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307 notifications were closed2

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83 complaints were made about possible statutory offences relating to psychology services


  1. This figure refers only to matters managed by AHPRA. For total notifications received about the profession, including matters managed by the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) in NSW, please refer to Table 5.
  2. This figure represents complaints managed and closed by AHPRA and excludes matters managed by the HPCA.

About this report

This report provides a profession-specific view of the work of the Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) to manage risk to the public and regulate the profession in the public interest in 2015/16.

The Board has worked in close partnership with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to provide all Australians with a safe, qualified and competent workforce under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme).

Information included in this report is drawn from the data published in the 2015/16 annual report by AHPRA and the National Boards, and was correct as at 30 June 2016.

Whenever possible, historical data are provided to show trends over time, as well as comparisons between states and territories.

For a wider context, and to compare the profession against national data from all 14 professions regulated by National Boards under the National Scheme, this report should be read in conjunction with the 2015/16 annual report. Download the report.

Message from the Chair, Psychology Board of Australia

Over the past year, the Board continued to prioritise public protection by ensuring that the public were receiving care from safe, competent and ethical psychologists. Registered health practitioners are held to the Board’s national standards and are required to confirm that they understand and comply with their obligations. In 2015/16, the Board and AHPRA undertook a number of successful prosecutions of individuals who were not meeting these obligations, including those whose practice fell below acceptable standards or who were holding themselves out to be psychologists but were not registered.

We continued to develop strong links with international regulators on issues of mutual interest, including exploring opportunities for mutual recognition of registration and mobility between countries. This year, members of the Board attended the 31st International Congress of Psychology in Yokohama, where the International declaration on core competencies in professional psychology was signed.

The congress was followed by the inaugural Asia Pacific Leadership Forum, which focused on building knowledge and understanding of psychology across the Asia Pacific region. A key outcome from the forum was agreement to commit to the development of an Asia Pacific Psychology Alliance to pursue the goals arising from the Yokohama declaration.

A major focus of the Board was reforming psychology education and training pathways to ensure they meet international benchmarks. We jointly hosted a National Forum in December 2015 that brought together stakeholders to discuss the challenges of the current pathways, and we will continue to consult practitioners and stakeholders to advance this initiative in 2016/17.

photo of Brin Grenyer

Professor Brin Grenyer
Chair, Psychology Board of Australia

Members of the National Board in 2015/16

  • Professor Brin Grenyer (Chair)
  • Professor Alfred Allan
  • Ms Mary Brennan
  • Ms Rebecca Campbell
  • Ms Kathryn Crawley (until 30 August 2015)
  • Mr Geoffrey Gallas (until 30 August 2015)
  • Emeritus Professor Gina Geffen (until 30 August 2015)
  • Ms Marion Hale
  • Ms Vanessa Hamilton (from 31 August 2015)
  • Ms Joanne Muller
  • Mr Christopher O’Brien
  • Ms Rachel Phillips (Deputy Chair) (from 31 August 2015)
  • Professor Jennifer Scott
  • Mr Radomir Stratil
  • Professor Trang Thomas (until August 2015)
  • Associate Professor Kathryn Von Treuer (from 31 August 2015)

During 2015/16, the Board was supported by Executive Officer Alessandra Peck.

More information about the work of the Board, including codes, guidelines and information on registration standards, can be found on the Board website.

Message from the Agency Management Committee Chair and the AHPRA CEO

Since the National Scheme began six years ago, AHPRA has worked in partnership with the National Boards to ensure that the community has access to a safe and competent health workforce across 14 registered health professions Australia-wide.

We rely on the expertise and insights of the National Boards to make decisions about the 657,621 health practitioners currently registered in Australia in the interests of the Australian public. It’s a role that Board members commit to with dedication and passion, and the community can be assured that its safety is always their number-one priority.

As at 30 June 2016, there were 33,907 registered psychologists, who make up over 5% of the total registrant base. Overseeing the registration and regulation of the profession is the Psychology Board of Australia, with valuable input from professional and community groups.

The Board upholds the values of the National Scheme by taking a risk-based approach to regulatory decision-making and policy implementation, with a continued focus on finding ways to improve effectiveness, efficiencies and timeliness.

The Board’s professional insights are integral to the effective regulation of psychologists. The Board has taken every opportunity during the past year to hold practitioner and stakeholder forums to share knowledge and seek feedback to refine processes, particularly around education and assessment pathways to registration.

We’d like to thank Board members for their continued commitment to ensuring a competent and flexible health workforce that meets the current and future health needs of the community.

We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Board.

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Mr Martin Fletcher,
Chief Executive Officer

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Mr Michael Gorton AM,
Chair, Agency Management Committee

Year in review: Psychology Board of Australia

In consultation with professional groups, stakeholders and practitioners, the Board recognised opportunities for streamlining the registration process for psychologists in Australia in 2015/16.

The Board made significant progress this year in its review of the profession’s current education and training model, after receiving frequent feedback that psychology training is unnecessarily complex, fragmented and lengthy. Reforming the education and training model is therefore a priority and is an important next step in developing the regulatory environment for the psychology profession.

The Board partnered with the Australian Psychological Society (APS), the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council, and the Heads of Departments and Schools of Psychology Association to host a national psychology education forum in Canberra in December 2015. This forum brought together leaders across government, education, health services, employer groups, regulation and the profession to consider the future of psychology education and training, and to discuss the challenges with existing arrangements. The Board prepared a green paper on training reform to stimulate discussion at the event.

Delegates attending the national forum recognised that the training model needs to change and recommended that the current 4+2 internship program be retired as a pathway to registration. Reform options raised at the forum were analysed by a collaborative working party to build a clear picture of the implications for education, training and the psychology workforce. There will be further engagement with the Board’s partners, stakeholder groups and practitioners about the proposed reforms during 2016/17.

Another significant milestone was achieved on 1 June 2016, when the final step in streamlining the application process for overseas-qualified applicants came into effect. Assessments of the knowledge and skills of overseas-qualified applicants are now carried out as part of an application for registration that is administered by AHPRA with oversight by the Board. This replaces the previous two-stage application process involving an assessment by the APS followed by a determination by the Board.

To support the revised process, the Board established a qualification assessment framework that sets down clear expectations about educational standards to be met by all overseas practitioners applying for registration, regardless of where they completed their studies. This critical information helps AHPRA and the Board determine whether an overseas applicant is suitably qualified and competent to provide safe care to the public. The Board will continue to benchmark its assessment framework against international best practice.

The Board updated its Guidelines for the National Psychology Examination and developed two new resources to help candidates prepare for the exam. A three-minute video highlighting important information about the exam was launched on the Board’s website in late 2015.

An orientation guide was developed to familiarise candidates with the format, purpose and content of the exam, and to help them develop a study plan. The guide was published in 2016, in the lead-up to the examination period. The Board signed a threeyear memorandum of understanding with the New Zealand Psychologists Board to reinforce the mutual recognition of registration and mobility between our two countries.

Data snapshot: Regulation at work in 2015/16

The profession in brief

  • The psychology registrant base grew by 3.5% year on year, to 33,907 in 2015/16.
  • New South Wales (NSW) was the principal place of practice for most of these practitioners (11,236); the Northern Territory (NT) was home to the least (229).
  • The age range with the most psychologists was 30–34 (5,098 registrants).
  • 938 registered psychologists were under 25 years of age; 76 were 80 or over.
  • Women comprised 79% of the profession.

About our data

Data in this Board summary are drawn from the 2015/16 annual report, published by AHPRA and the National Boards. Data relating to psychologists have been extracted from national source data that include all 14 health professions currently regulated under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law), as in force in each state and territory.

In the following pages you’ll find registration data, including registrant numbers by age, gender and principal place of practice, and data about notifications (complaints or concerns) received about psychologists in the financial year to 30 June 2016. Data about statutory offence complaints are also included.

For a further breakdown of data from the 2015/16 annual report by AHPRA and the National Boards, including data relating to other professions and summary reports by state and territory.

Notifications data

Notifications are complaints or concerns that are lodged with AHPRA about registered health practitioners or students practising in Australia.

Our data generally excludes complaints handled by co-regulatory jurisdictions, such as in:

  • NSW, where complaints about health practitioners with this state as their principal place of practice (PPP) are not managed by the Board and AHPRA, unless the conduct occurred outside NSW. Complaints about health practitioners where the conduct occurred in NSW are handled by the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) and the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), and
  • Queensland, where complaints are received and managed by the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) and may be referred to AHPRA and the relevant National Board. We are not able to report on all complaints about health practitioners in Queensland because we only have access to data relating to matters referred to us by OHO.

Note that some NSW regulatory data published in this report may vary from data published in the HPCA’s annual report. This is due to subsequent data review by the HPCA after submission of initial data to AHPRA. For more information about how complaints about health practitioners are managed in NSW, and for data about complaints made in the state, please refer to the HPCA website.

For data relating to complaints in Queensland that have not been referred to AHPRA, please refer to the OHO website.

Registration of psychologists

As at 30 June 2016, there were 33,907 psychologists registered across Australia. This represents a national increase of 3.5% from 2014/15.

Psychologists made up 5.2% of all registered health practitioners across the National Scheme. Of all psychologists:

  • 81.5% held general registration to practise psychology, with this cohort of registrants increasing by 2.9% from the previous year.
  • 13.6% held provisional registration and are participating in a supervised practice internship while they progress towards being eligible for general registration. This cohort increased by 6.2%.
  • 4.9% held non-practising registration and could not practise psychology. This category of registrants increased by 5.5%.

The Board does not have a student registration category. Psychology students can apply for provisional registration, which allows them to practise in positions that are supervised, such as an accredited higher degree or a supervised practice program approved by the Board.

The Board received 4,759 new applications for registration; an increase of 10%. Of these, 37.3% were for general registration, while 11.1% were applications to move to the non-practising register. The remaining 51.6% were for provisional registration.

See Tables 1–4 for segmentation of registration data about psychologists.

As a standard part of the registration process, applicants for initial registration as a health practitioner in Australia must undergo a criminal record check. AHPRA requested 66,698 domestic and international criminal history checks for practitioners across all professions in 2015/16. Of these, 3,059 checks were carried out for practitioners wanting to register as psychologists. The checks resulted in 183 disclosable court outcomes. Conditions or undertakings were imposed on one practitioner’s registration.

For source data on domestic and international criminal history checks, as well as more registration information across all regulated health professions, please refer to page 42 of the 2015/16 annual report by AHPRA and the National Boards.

Regulation of psychologists

In 2015/16, 528 notifications were received nationally about psychologists (including HPCA data). This represents an increase of 22.2% from 2014/15. AHPRA received and managed 331 matters (excluding HPCA). Notifications about psychologists represent 5.5% of all notifications received by AHPRA (excluding HPCA) in 2015/16.

On a national basis, the percentage of registered health practitioners with notifications received during the year was 1.5%. The percentage of all registered psychologists with notifications received was 1.6%.

Immediate action was taken on matters relating to psychologists 10 times in 2015/16 (compared with eight in 2014/15). A National Board has the power to take immediate action in relation to a health practitioner’s registration at any time, if it believes this is necessary to protect the public. Immediate action limits a practitioner’s registration by suspending or imposing conditions on it, or accepting an undertaking or surrender of the registration from the practitioner or student. This is an interim step that Boards can take while more information is gathered or while other processes are put in place.

To take immediate action, the Board must reasonably believe that:

  • because of their conduct, performance or health, the practitioner poses a ‘serious risk to persons’ and that it is necessary to take immediate action to protect public health or safety, or
  • the practitioner’s registration was improperly obtained, or
  • the practitioner or student’s registration was cancelled or suspended in another jurisdiction.

In 2015/16, there were 29 mandatory notifications assessed and finalised about psychologists, with 11 matters closed after initial assessment and 18 referred to a further stage. All registered health practitioners have a professional and ethical obligation to protect and promote public health and safe healthcare.

Registered health practitioners and their employers, as well as education providers, have mandatory reporting responsibilities under the National Law.

Education providers, registered health practitioners and their employers must tell the Board if they have formed a reasonable belief that a registered health practitioner has behaved in a way that constitutes notifiable conduct, such as:

  • practising while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
  • sexual misconduct in the practice of the profession
  • placing the public at risk of substantial harm because of an impairment (health issue), or
  • placing the public at risk because of a significant departure from accepted professional standards.

A total of 307 notifications relating to registered psychologists (excluding HPCA) were closed. This represents 5.9% of all matters closed across all professions. Of the closed notifications:

  • 18.9% resulted in conditions being imposed or an undertaking accepted by the Board
  • 6.8% resulted in the practitioner receiving a caution or reprimand by the Board
  • 1.3% resulted in suspension or cancellation of registration, and
  • 71.7% resulted in no further action being taken by the Board (no further action is taken when, based on the available information, the Board determines there is no risk to the public that requires regulatory action).

At the end of the financial year, there were 226 open notifications about registered psychologists.

There were 173 active monitoring cases (including HPCA). This represents 3% of all monitoring cases across all professions. The majority of these (55 cases) related to conduct.

AHPRA received 83 new complaints about possible statutory offences relating to psychology. These complaints constitute 6.2% of all statutory offence matters received in 2015/16. Almost all new matters related to title protection or advertising concerns. Sixty-four statutory offence matters were considered and closed.

Statutory 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:

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

See Tables 5–13 for notifications and statutory offence data relating to psychologists.

Want to know more?

For data and analysis relating to criminal history checks, outcomes of tribunals and panel hearings, and monitoring and compliance, please refer to the full 2015/16 annual report and supplementary data tables published by AHPRA and the National Boards.

Segmentation of data by state and territory is also available on the AHPRA website.

For more information on the National Law as it applies to each state and territory, see AHPRA's legisltaion.

Table 1: Registrant numbers at 30 June 20161
% change from 2014/155.00%2.50%-1.70%3.00%3.00%6.80%3.20%3.90%21.70%3.50%


  1. Blank fields in all tables denote zeros.
  2. No PPP (principal place of practice) includes practitioners with an overseas address.
Table 2: Registrants by age
Table 3: Registrants by gender
Total 2015/1687611,2362296,0281,6785809,1523,59952933,907
Total 2014/1587410,8402265,7941,6205638,8803,46950032,766


  1. No PPP (principal place of practice) includes practitioners with an overseas address.
Table 4: Nature of area-of-practice endorsements held by psychologists1
Area of practice subtypeNumber of endorsements: Total 2015/16Number of endorsements: Total 2014/15
Clinical neuropsychology608587
Clinical psychology7,4817,028
Community psychology5556
Counselling psychology946944
Educational and developmental psychology619610
Forensic psychology553541
Health psychology321316
Organisational psychology489469
Sport and exercise psychology9592


  1. Some psychologists hold one or more area-of-practice endorsements.
Table 5: Notifications received by state or territory1
2015/16 (PPP)6186775418135401331197528
2014/15 (PPP)1436272910137491276156432
2014/15 (Responsible Office)714 726321013849 276156432


  1. Data relating to notifications (complaints or concerns) are based on the state or territory of the practitioner’s PPP (principal place of practice).
  2. Matters managed by AHPRA where the conduct occurred outside NSW.
  3. The number of matters referred to AHPRA and the National Board by the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO).
  4. No PPP includes practitioners with an overseas address.
  5. Matters managed by the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) in NSW.
  6. For 2015/16, notifications are based on the practitioner’s PPP.
  7. Prior to this, notifications were based on the state or territory where the notification was handled (Responsible Office).
Table 6: Percentage of registrant base with notifications received, by state or territory
Psychologists ACT NSW (including HPCA complaints)1 NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA No PPP2 Total
2015/16 (PPP)32.10%1.80%3.10%1.20%2.40%1.40%1.50%1.10%0.20%1.60%
2014/15 (PPP)1.60%1.50%2.70%0.50%1.80%1.80%1.50%1.40%0.20%1.30%
2014/15 (Responsible Office)41.60%1.40%3.10%0.40%2.00%1.80%1.60%1.40% 1.30%


  1. Health Professional Councils Authority.
  2. No PPP (principal place of practice) includes practitioners with an overseas address.
  3. For 2015/16, notifications are based on the practitioner’s PPP.
  4. Prior to this, notifications were based on the state or territory where the notification was handled (Responsible Office).
Table 7: Immediate action cases by state or territory (excluding HPCA)
PsychologistsACTNSWNTQLDSATASVICWANo PPP1Total 2014/15
Total 2015/16 (PPP)2   22 6  10
Total 2014/15 (PPP)3  22 1  8
Total 2014/15 (Responsible Office)33  22 1  8


  1. No PPP (principal place of practice) includes practitioners with an overseas address.
  2. For 2015/16, notifications are based on the practitioner’s PPP.
  3. Prior to this, notifications were based on the state or territory where the notification was handled (Responsible Office).
Table 8: Notifications closed, by state or territory
2015/16 (PPP)41862594314130341307177484
2014/15 (PPP)2045662611137431313145458
2014/15 (Responsible Office)520 768281013743 313145458


  1. Matters managed by AHPRA where the conduct occurred outside NSW.
  2. No PPP (principal place of practice) includes practitioners with an overseas address.
  3. Matters managed by the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) in NSW.
  4. For 2015/16, notifications are based on the practitioner’s PPP.
  5. Prior to this, notifications were based on the state or territory where the notification was handled (Responsible Office).
Table 9: Notifications closed, by stage at closure (excluding HPCA)1
Stage at closureTotal 2015/16Total 2014/15
Health or performance assessment3916
Panel hearing2924
Tribunal hearing1222


  1. Excludes matters managed by the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) in NSW.
  2. Closed after initial assessment of the matter.
  3. Performance assessments are carried out by a Board-selected assessor whose scope of practice is similar to that of the practitioner being assessed (assessors are not Board members or AHPRA staff).
Table 10: Notifications closed, by outcome at closure (excluding HPCA)1
Outcome at closureTotal 2015/16Total 2014/15
No further action2220202
Refer all or part of the notification to another body11
Health complaints entity to retain04
Accept undertaking1112
Impose conditions4740
Suspend registration24
Cancel registration27
Practitioner surrendered registration11
Not permitted to reapply for registration for 12 months or more01


  1. Excludes matters managed by the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) in NSW.
  2. No further regulatory action is usually taken when, based on available information, the Board determines there is no risk to the public that meets the legal threshold for regulatory action. It may also be because a practitioner has taken steps to voluntarily address issues of concern.
Table 11: Outcomes of assessment for mandatory notifications, by grounds (excluding HPCA)1
Grounds for notificationStandardsImpairmentSexual misconductAlcohol or drugsNot classifiedTotal 2015/16Total 2014/15
End matter: No further action29    97
End matter: Caution1    13
End matter: Accept undertaking     01
End matter: Impose conditions1    11
Total closed after assessment1100001112
Refer to further stage: Refer to health or performance assessment11   20
Refer to further stage: Refer to investigation835  1614
Refer to further stage: Refer to panel hearing     00
Refer to further stage: Refer to tribunal hearing     00
Total referred to further stage945001814
Total assessments finalised 2015/1620450029 
Total assessments finalised 2014/15204200 26


  1. Excludes matters managed by the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) in NSW.
  2. No further regulatory action is usually taken when, based on available information, the Board determines there is no risk to the public that meets the legal threshold for regulatory action. It may also be because a practitioner has taken steps to voluntarily address issues of concern.
Table 12: Active monitoring cases at 30 June 2016, by stream (including HPCA)1
PsychologistsTotal 2015/16Total 2014/15
Prohibited practitioner/student90


  1. AHPRA reports by stream, rather than registrants being monitored, because a registrant may have restrictions (conditions or undertakings) in more than one stream. For example, nationally, 4,963 cases monitored by AHPRA relate to 4,861 registrants.
  2. AHPRA performs monitoring of compliance cases for ‘suitability/eligibility’ stream matters for NSW registrations.
Table 13: Statutory offence complaints received and closed, by type of offence and jurisdiction1
OffenceACTNSWNTQLDSATASVICWA No PPP2Total 2015/16Total 2014/15
Title protections (s.113-120): Received 14 4218425343
Title protections (s.113-120): Closed 1 75331144337
Practice protections (s.121-123): Received        110
Practice protections (s.121-123): Closed        111
Advertising breach (s.133): Received 11 32 6232723
Advertising breach (s.133): Closed16 21 3321819
Directing or inciting unprofessional conduct/professional misconduct (s.136): Received         00
Directing or inciting unprofessional conduct/professional misconduct (s.136): Closed         00
Other offence: Received     11  23
Other offence: Closed     11  21
Total 2015/16 (PPP)3: Received02507421562483 
Total 2015/16 (PPP)3: Closed1160964741764 
Total 2014/15 (PPP)3: Received116191409316 69
Total 2014/15 (PPP)3: Closed06181308319 58


  1. This table captures offence complaints by principal place of practice (PPP) and includes all offences from sections 113–116 of the National Law, not only offences about advertising, title and practice protection.
  2. AHPRA also receives offence complaints about unregistered persons where there is no PPP recorded. Only registered practitioners have a designated PPP.
  3. Based on state and territory of the practitioner’s PPP.