Practising Optometry in Australia

Practising Optometry in Australia

Regulation of optometry in Australia

Registration of optometrists
All optometrists in Australia must be registered with the Optometry Board of Australia (OBA). It is illegal for an unregistered person (other than a medical practitioner) to practise optometry in Australia. Optometrists registered in New Zealand can gain Australian registration via the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA) (pdf 347kb).

Acceptance of overseas qualifications
The OBA accepts graduates of Australian optometry courses accredited by the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand (OCANZ). Graduates of the University of Auckland are also eligible. All other optometrists need to pass an examination process conducted by the OCANZ before being registered. The exam is also accepted by the OBA. Regulations are subject to change. Prospective applicants should visit the OBA website for the most current information.

Medicare

Virtually all Australian optometrists participate in Medicare (Australia’s National Health Scheme). The Australian Government recognised optometry’s health care role by including optometry in the Medicare program in 1975. Optometrists provide over 75 per cent of all vision care services in Australia.

Scope of practice

Australian optometrists' basic range of clinical skills and procedures include:

  • Refraction: Measuring the optics of the eye
  • Binocular vision tests: Testing the co-ordination of the two eyes as a team
  • Ophthalmoscopy: Internal examination of the eye for eye disease
  • Slit lamp biomicroscopy: External, detailed examination of the eye
  • Tonometry: Measuring the pressure of the eyeball
  • Optical Dispensing: Supply and management of spectacles and contact lens

 Optometrists in Australia use:

  • medicated eye drops to conduct diagnostic procedures;
  • anaesthetics to perform tonometry to measure intra-ocular pressure;
  • mydriatics where required for internal examinations; and
  • cycloplegics

Throughout Australia optometrists are authorised to possess, use and prescribe scheduled medicines (in the form of topical eyedrops) to treat eye diseases such as conjunctivitis, keratitis, uveitis, glaucoma. These scheduled medicines include:

  • anti-inflammatory eyedrops
  • corticosteriod eyedrops

Some optometrists practice in:

  • the elderly, children, or visually impaired persons who need low vision aids;
  • the treatment of ocular conditions through the prescription of eye medicines;
  •  contact lenses;
  •  sports vision;
  •  colour vision; and
  •  vision therapy.

Optometrists also develop and implement ways to protect workers’ eyes from occupational eye strain or injury.

Education

Optometry programs are available at the following Australian universities:

  • Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
  • University of New South Wales (UNSW)
  • Flinders University, South Australia
  • Deakin University, Victoria

A four year doctoral degree (following completion of a suitable 3 year undergraduate degree) is available at:

  • University of Melbourne

Courses involve practical and theoretical training taught by optometrists, doctors, and senior academic staff from various faculties. Students examine patients under the supervision of experienced clinicians in general optometric and specialised clinics. Demonstrated competence in clinical skills is a prerequisite of graduation.

Early course subjects studied include:

  • physics;
  • chemistry;
  • physiology;
  • biochemistry;
  • microbiology;
  • anatomy of the eye; and
  • optics.

The later stage subjects include:

  • pathology of the eye; and
  • diagnosis and treatment of vision disorders.

Each school of optometry offers higher degrees (MSc, MOptom, PhD) for students wishing to extend their skills and knowledge.

Research in optometry and vision is also carried out at the following institutions:

These institutions are primarily financed by donations from optometry professionals, associated industries, and Federal and State Governments agencies.

Optometrists in public health settings

Optometrists work in a variety of settings in Australia following registration by the Optometry Board of Australia. In addition to practising privately, there are opportunities for optometrists to get involved in Australian and overseas public health settings including:

  • sessional work at public hospitals in eye care clinics;
  • providing eye care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around Australia through Visiting Services; and
  • overseas outreach work through the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) and Optometry Giving Sight (OGS).