Dr Susan Keane MVB, Head of Sustainable Practice, AVBC
In Australia and New Zealand, the veterinary profession is regulated by veterinary statutory boards (VSBs) in each jurisdiction. New Zealand has a single VSB regulating veterinarians – the Veterinary Council of New Zealand. Australia is a federation, so each jurisdiction independently regulates veterinarians, meaning there are 8 VSBs (“veterinary boards”) nationwide. The role of the VSBs is to safeguard the public and animal welfare by enforcing the veterinary acts within their respective jurisdictions.
The Australasian Veterinary Boards Council (AVBC) is an incorporated association of these 9 VSBs and is not itself a regulatory body. Its mission is to promote the integrity and sustainability of the veterinary profession in Australia and New Zealand on behalf of the member veterinary boards. Each member board has voting rights on AVBC’s Council. The Australian Veterinary Association and the New Zealand Veterinary Association are professional associations that provide perspectives from the profession and are non-voting members of the AVBC Council.
AVBC achieves its mission through the following:
- accreditation of veterinary schools and recognition of international veterinary qualifications
- administration of the Australasian Veterinary Examination (AVE) for graduates of unrecognised programs
- agreed minimum standards for registration (including specialist registration) across member jurisdictions
- development of policies and initiatives to enhance post-registration standards and professional sustainability
Distinguishing Roles: Veterinary Statutory Bodies vs. Professional Associations
The role of a VSB significantly differs from that of a professional association. The role of professional associations is to advocate for the interests of the profession, whereas the role of VSBs is to protect the public and animal welfare. See Table 1 for a comparison of these roles.
Table 1: Features that differentiate between a regulatory body (e.g., VSB) and a professional association (e.g., AVA, NZVA, VCNA). Adapted from Wardle et al., (2013)
Understanding the Interconnected Roles of AVBC and the Veterinary Statutory Bodies (VSBs)
AVBC develops agreed minimum standards for registration of veterinarians in Australia and New Zealand through accreditation and recognition of veterinary school programs and non-award qualifications. These standards are prerequisites for practitioners to join a member VSB’s register, assuring the public that registered professionals have met essential criteria to practice in Australasia.
For veterinarians who do not meet the criteria to register, AVBC offers the Australasian Veterinary Examination as a pathway. This examination ensures candidates meet the equivalent standards of an Australasian veterinary graduate and is one of the qualifications recognised for registration with a VSB.
VSBs require that registered practitioners conduct their practice in a safe and professional manner. They do not prescribe how veterinarians practice (e.g., what specific treatment methods they can use or when to use them). They also set requirements for the maintenance of registration (e.g., continuing professional development requirements).
VSBs provide a transparent pathway for when concerns or complaints arise regarding a practitioner’s conduct. If there is a finding of non-compliance with established professional standards, a VSB may impose conditions on a practitioner’s license, set additional educational requirements, or, in rare cases, remove that practitioner from the register. VSBs in Australasia adopt an educative approach, focusing on reform, unless the breach is egregious enough to warrant deregistration. This approach aims to provide practitioners with opportunities for improvement while ensuring public/patient protection.
Regulation of Veterinary Nurses & Technicians
Western Australia is the only jurisdiction in Australia that statutorily regulates veterinary nurses & technicians. In WA, the title “veterinary nurse” is protected, as are specific acts of veterinary science that only veterinary nurses can perform. In the other jurisdictions of Australia, veterinary nurses & technicians can register under the voluntary Australian Veterinary Nurses and Technicians (AVNAT) Registration Scheme with the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA), which is the professional association for veterinary nurses and technicians in the country. In New Zealand, the voluntary register is held by the Allied Veterinary Professional Regulatory Council (AVPRC).
AVBC’s core work has always focused on setting registration standards for veterinarians. Now, through its Sustainable Practice Committee, AVBC is collaborating with the VNCA to progress statutory regulation of veterinary nurses and technicians in the other jurisdictions of Australia. AVBC and its members recognise that to ensure the sustainability and availability of veterinary services to the public and to maintain high animal welfare standards, a robust veterinary workforce must meet the professional standards expected by the public.
In summary, the veterinary regulatory system in Australasia involves close collaboration between the AVBC, its member VSBs, and professional associations, working harmoniously to ensure the integrity and sustainability of the veterinary profession. AVBC’s role in establishing uniform standards for veterinary education and registration across member jurisdictions relies on the VSBs’ commitment to enforcing these standards, safeguarding both public and animal welfare. As AVBC extends its focus to support statutory regulation for veterinary nurses and technicians, this collective effort strengthens the foundation for a resilient and high-quality veterinary workforce in Australasia, dedicated to serving the needs of the public and upholding the highest standards of professional practice.
Video: Who are the Veterinary Boards and what do they do? From the AVBC’s Sustainable Practice Committee.
 Veterinary Statutory Body: A body set up by law (statute) that is authorised to implement veterinary legislation on behalf of the relevant country or state and empowered/delegated to set rules (veterinary regulations).
 Wardle, J., Steel, A., & McIntyre, E. (2013). Independent registration for naturopaths and herbalists in Australia: The coming of age of an ancient profession in contemporary healthcare. Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine, 25(3), 101–106.