By Rhiannon Riches
Ian Bluntish is uniquely placed to take on the role of chair of the Optometry Board of Australia.
Mr Bluntish has been a practitioner member on the OBA since its inception in 2009 and was president of the then Optometrists Association Australia when registration moved from a state-based to a national scheme.
He ascends to the chair at a time when the future of the OBA is uncertain, in light of the Snowball review proposing that the boards of nine professions registered under the national scheme, including optometry, be brought under one single board.
Mr Bluntish believes greater understanding is needed among optometrists of the difference between the purpose of the OBA and that of Optometry Australia.
‘Confusion reigns,’ Mr Bluntish said. ‘Optometrists need to understand that Optometry Australia is an organisation that exists primarily for the profession, to help practitioners, whereas the OBA exists as a registration body, as a vehicle for public interaction with the profession. Established by National Law, the board provides protection for the public through regulation,’ he said.
‘The board interacts with stakeholders—including OCANZ and five universities—and the community, and needs to be in tune with what the profession is doing, where it is heading. The board also needs to be working collaboratively with other health professions, including but not limited to medicine, pharmacy and ophthalmology.
‘We can do better and work harder at communicating with the key stakeholders in optometry and ophthalmology, with wider-ranging consultations that go beyond what is required, with a better understanding of what regulation is needed, and why,’ he said.
Mr Bluntish, who is also the current chair of ProVision, said he could draw on his diverse experience to chair the OBA.
‘I put my hand up for the role of chair because I have had a mixture of experiences, as a practising optometrist, as a practitioner member of the board, and as a past president of the national member-based organisation for optometrists.
‘I have seen the growth and development of the profession, and the move to national registration happened while I was president of the then OAA, now Optometry Australia. I have a unique understanding of the profession and the regulation process,’ he said.
Mr Bluntish is joined on the board by five optometrists and three community members. Three of the five optometrists and one of the three community members have been reappointed from the previous board.
‘We have continuity with some board members reappointed, as well as some fresh faces. We are a cohesive board with good working relationships and a core of experience among the board’s practitioner members,’ he said.
‘One of the other projects I’ve been involved in is professional development. We have been working to encourage opportunities for a greater range and depth of professional development for optometrists, and looking at ways to enhance development.
‘There is a strong culture in optometry of relying on presenters to set the standard of CPD, but CPD could be developed to be more wide-ranging, allowing practitioners to focus on their own learning needs, and their professional development outside of optometry.
‘Ideally, we would like to move to a process of practitioners driving their own professional development from the bottom up, rather than CPD being directed from the top down, so to speak.
‘Our work continues,’ he said.
Two new community members have been appointed to the OBA. Associate Professor Rosemary Knight and Anthony Evans commenced their appointment on 1 September.