QCA / PACFA “Where from… Where to?”

By Karol Misso (QCA Management Committee and Fellow Member)

In 1972 a group of students in counselling units run by Sam Beavers, (first President of QCA) started to discuss a range of issues facing guidance and counselling practitioners in the future. Arising out of these informal discussions, this group took the first faltering steps to explore the possibilities of forming an Association for Counsellors in Queensland. A working party was established to prepare a Constitution (the foundation of the current QCA Constitution). Several meetings followed and in early 1973 at an inaugural Meeting of QCA the Constitution was ratified and an Executive elected. In the following months, this Committee had to deal with several teething problems such as amendments to the constitution and membership criteria. In considering the latter there was a choice between stringent or inclusive criteria. Given the difficulty of defining ‘counsellor’, the executive settled for inclusive. It is interesting that QCA and subsequently PACFA have maintained this norm in establishing relevant criteria.

From its inception our leaders have given unstintingly of their time, skills and expertise to uphold the vision of those who have gone before:

“To, promote excellence in counselling, to become a professional and efficient body pursuing the tasks necessary to establish counselling as a credentialled credible profession in Queensland and beyond” (Contact 1994).

To this end it has continued to rigorously monitor membership criteria as defined in the Constitution, to establish a public profile whereby counsellors are recognized as trained and credible practitioners distinct from Psychologists and Social Workers.

QCA has remained the sole advocate for the Counselling Profession in Australia up until the close of the millennium. Here are a few examples:

  • As early as 1994 it made overtures to Health Funds to consider client rebates.
  • It was consulted about Draft proposals for the Master’s in Counselling at Queensland University of Technology
  • Issues such as licensing of counsellors, obtaining rebates from health funds, incorporation, regional chapters of QCA and going ‘National’ were high on the agenda (Contact Sept ’94)
  • A submission to the Review of Health Practitioners Registration Acts and the Psychologist Registration Act as to the desirability of controlling the use of titles such as ‘psychotherapist’ and ‘counsellor’ (Contact Dec 1994)
  • A comprehensive letter to the Minister for Health expressing concerns about the lack of a regulatory body which oversees the qualifications and practise standards of practitioners using the title of ‘counsellor’ (Contact Autumn 1996)

Throughout the 1990s the QCA Executive and its membership continued to give high priority to keeping Membership Categories up to date, negotiating Professional Indemnity for members and identifying ‘approved’ courses in the burgeoning field of counsellor training that met QCA criteria for membership. Executive members sat on Advisory Boards for curriculum development and were consulted by the government course accreditation body. QCA has consistently emphasised the importance of Clinical Supervision of its members. A document ‘Guidelines on Clinical Supervision’ was prepared and a list of ‘approved’ Supervisors established. The Association from its inception has had a Code of Ethics. This was amended and ratified in 1998.

The dialogue continues with associations in other states regarding the formation of a national body. This may still be a little way off, but QCA looks like becoming the main player in this area (Contact Spring/Summer 1996/97)

Surprisingly, things did get moving. Thirty key educators and trainers met in Armadale in April 1996 as The Standing Conference of Educators and Trainers in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Further meetings were held in 1997 and 1998 with the latter being more representative. Working parties considered a range of issues, produced discussion papers inviting feedback from key contacts. Working collaboratively in a spirit of fairness and mutual respect for diverse traditions contributed significantly to the success of the Standing Committee achieving its aims. Having decided to set up a national “association of associations”, meetings were arranged in all capital cities in September 1998 for representatives of professional associations in Psychotherapy and Counselling, to invite their response to the proposed national Association. QCA was represented by Dr.John Barletta, a member of the Executive. In the light of an overwhelmingly positive response, the inaugural meeting of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia was convened at the University of Melbourne in November 1998. QCA was represented by David Axten and me as current President. At the conclusion of the final vote, I left the meeting to catch my flight back to Brisbane saying, “This is a great day: I go with evangelistic zeal to promote PACFA”. This has been the united approach of QCA over the last 20 years – “PACFA is us and we are PACFA. In June 2000 having passed a stringent audit, QCA was among the first 16 autonomous Associations to become a Member Association of PACFA.

“This is a major ‘milestone’ in the struggle for recognition and at a state level, QCA can take credit that it has been at the forefront of that struggle” (Contact June 2000). In March 2002 the PACFA National Register was inaugurated, with the QCA President and Vice-President being first and second on the list.

QCA has continued to be a major player in the development of PACFA, taking its responsibilities seriously, allocating financial and personnel resources. We have kept abreast of changes through representation on the PACFA Council, and the contribution made by many QCA members who have served on boards and committees over the years. In September 2012 our delegate reported, “PACFA is financially sound and backed by the strength of 31 member associations. It provides an effective voice to governments, the public, and other stakeholders about the profession of Psychotherapy & Counselling in Australia” (QCA AGM Report). At the PACFA Council Meeting in March 2013 a major discussion centred around, what is the best structure for PACFA in five years’ time ……. several alternatives were canvassed (QCA AGM Report). PACFA facilitated consultation with MA representatives in August 2014 to address the issue of the future structure. Among other issues discussed, there appeared to be unanimous opinion on “whatever structure is decided upon it is essential that there be a two-tiered membership with associations wishing to become subsumed within PACFA or to stay autonomous. Both need to be accommodated in any new structure” (QCA AGM 2014). The President’s Report to the AGM read, “At the time of writing this report I am unaware of any specific intention within PACFA to alter their constitution to allow an individual counsellor or psychotherapist to become a direct member of PACFA. Consequently, I cannot foresee any significant alterations as to how QCA will interact with PACFA in the immediate future”. However, things appear to have moved fast and in the PACFA Report to the QCA AGM 2015, the proposed restructure was in the process of being finalized with amendments to the constitution ready for final approval.

By January 2016 the new structure was a ‘fait accompli’ with some MA’s being absorbed into the new PACFA structure and applications for direct membership immediately available: other MA’s including QCA electing to maintain their current autonomous relationship with PACFA (QCA AGM 2015)

In this our 46th year, we in QCA, are confronted with having to make a  critical decision which may lead to the demise of the Association as it was envisioned by our forebears.

Our President has spelt out the issues we need to reflect on before we make this decision in her most recent letter to members (click to read)

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