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Australia's veterinarians and The Frawley review of 2002

Maxwell, John Alexander Loftus (2018) Australia's veterinarians and The Frawley review of 2002. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis examines the impact of a Commonwealth Government inquiry, the “Review of Rural Veterinary Services” on Australia’s veterinarians and the services they provide. Chaired by Peter Frawley, the inquiry became known as the Frawley Review and examined rural veterinary services, animal quarantine and veterinary education in Australia and made recommendations concerning all three.

When Australia began as a penal colony of Great Britain in the 18th century, there was little need for veterinarians. This changed during the latter half of the 19th century with an increase in livestock and diseases.

Australia’s first veterinary school was the Melbourne Veterinary College, a private facility, established in 1888. This school was subsequently incorporated into the University of Melbourne in 1909. A further three veterinary schools were established in the 20th century; however today, there are seven veterinary schools in the country and with a population of approximately 24 million, Australia now has more veterinary schools per capita than any comparable Western Nation.

Since colonisation, Australia imported livestock from countries where major diseases occurred. However, it was not until the late 19th century that quarantine was considered necessary. With Federation, Australia’s Quarantine Act (1908) was promulgated and it wasn’t until 2016 that this Act was replaced with the Biosecurity Act (2015). Fortunately, when incursions of exotic diseases of livestock have occurred in Australia, they have failed to gain a foothold or were eliminated.
During 2015 and 2016, the author conducted an on-line survey of registered veterinarians in Australia and face-to-face interviews of quarantine personnel and academics at all veterinary schools.
In the first study, five hundred and fifty-five survey responses were received; the mean age of respondents was 45 and 64% were female. Eighty-seven percent were employed in practice, with the majority in urban, small animal practice, whilst the balance worked in various institutions. Less than 10% performed work on-farm. Fifty-eight percent worked full-time and 22% had taken significant time-out from veterinary service during their career.

Forty one percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the income they received and nearly 20% were dissatisfied with their status as a veterinarian.
More than half the respondents stated that they had been injured or acquired an illness whilst conducting their veterinary occupation.

Respondents concluded that, although the Frawley Review had made valid observations, it had failed to beneficially influence veterinary services in this country.

The second study was designed to secure data from veterinarians regarding the review’s impact on animal quarantine. Interviews were conducted with eight leaders of animal quarantine in Australia. Interviewees agreed that livestock quarantine was necessary and required the participation of veterinarians for its success.

All expressed misgivings regarding the current status of animal disease quarantine, especially surveillance and monitoring. The participants concluded that although quarantine was essential, our ability to conduct it effectively was questionable and Frawley had done little to ameliorate the situation.

The third study was designed to obtain data on the current status of Australia’s veterinary education by conducting interviews with Deans and Heads of Australia’s seven veterinary schools with 17 participating in the research.

Interview questions included assessment of the Frawley Review, the purpose and funding of veterinary education, different curricula, student selection, different degrees and the oversupply of veterinary graduates. The consensus was that Frawley failed, not only to halt further schools being established in Australia, but also with its other recommendations relevant to veterinary education.

It is concluded that, although veterinarians have functioned in Australia for over 100 years with the nascent profession beginning with great hope, a sense of purpose and confidence in its future, today, there is confusion as to its future role in society and the current models of delivering veterinary services, animal quarantine and veterinary education require modification.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor(s): Robertson, Ian
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