The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) took part in an industry roundtable to discuss how to create a more diverse and inclusive profession.
The roundtable discussion with the Australian Universities Accord Panel was in line with the theme of this year’s World Veterinary Day which is focused on Promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness in the Veterinary Profession.
Dr Bronwyn Orr, President of the AVA, said ensuring education and training programs are accessible to all, regardless of background or circumstances, will encourage diversity and inclusivity in the workforce.
“In the context of the veterinary profession, the participation rate of First Nations people is 0.6 per cent. Compared to the general population, where First Nations people make up 3 per cent of Australians, we as a profession need to work together to improve this statistic.”
The AVA’s submission to the Australian Universities Accord Panel Discussion Paper stated that under-represented groups in the profession can be deterred by the hidden costs of veterinary courses, which occurs because of inadequate government funding for essential courses that are expensive to deliver.
“In order to increase the diversity of students entering the profession, universities must be funded to have programs and mechanisms in place to address the barriers that disproportionately impact some underrepresented groups,” said Orr.
The financial security of veterinary students is particularly vulnerable due to the absence of support for the veterinary profession, while working wages were low in the context of the cost of degrees.
“This is a profession that provides an essential service to the Australian community – a community that places high value on animal health and welfare. For those courses that provide essential services to the community the level of student contribution should be linked to the public value of the work and the earning capacity of that sector as a whole.”