Mutual recognition of licensed occupations allows people licensed or registered to practise an occupation in one jurisdiction to practise an equivalent occupation in other jurisdictions.
In Australia, each state and territory administers its own occupational licences. Under the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 (MRA), people holding a licence in one jurisdiction are entitled to a licence in another jurisdiction if equivalent work is licensed in both. However, people must first apply for recognition of their existing licence and pay another fee to work in another state or territory.
The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA), a non-Treaty arrangement between Australian governments and the Government of New Zealand under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997, operates under similar principles where New Zealand licence holders are able to apply for recognition of their existing licence in Australia. The arrangement also enables Australian licence holders to have their licence recognised for regulated work in New Zealand.
Mutual recognition of occupations provides:
increased opportunities for Australians to work across the country, and for Australians and New Zealanders to work in each other's country;
improved cooperation between regulatory authorities;
certainty for workers considering moving between jurisdictions;
licensing authorities a faster way to consider applications for recognition of equivalent licences; and
employers with mobile workforces greater ease to relocate workers more quickly across state and territory borders.
The Department of Education and Training has responsibility for the mutual recognition of occupations under both the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 and the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997.
The recognition of qualifications does not fall under the mutual recognition arrangements.
How does mutual recognition of occupations work?
The basic principles of the MRA and TTMRA are the same. That is, a person licensed to practise an occupation in one participating jurisdiction can practise an equivalent occupation in another, without the need to undergo further testing or examination. This is not an automatic process; individuals must apply for recognition of their existing licence/s and pay any applicable fee. From the date a person lodges their application they are deemed to be registered pending the granting or refusal of registration. Deemed registration continues until it is cancelled, suspended or is otherwise terminated. For example, deemed registration ends if a person is granted substantive registration or refused registration.
Equivalency is based on whether or not the activities authorised to be carried out under the original occupational licence are substantially the same as those under an occupational licence in the jurisdiction where mutual recognition is sought. Equivalency is not based on whether the qualifications or other competency requirements of the recipient and home jurisdictions are the same.
Applications for mutual recognition within Australia are made under the MRA. Applications from Australians seeking mutual recognition in New Zealand, and similarly New Zealanders seeking mutual recognition in Australia, are made under the TTMRA.
The Mutual Recognition Act 1992 (section 32) enables ministers from two or more states or territories to jointly declare that specified occupations are equivalent, and also declare any conditions necessary to achieve equivalence. States and territories worked together to agree on equivalent occupational licences and registrations across the country, so that joint declarations by ministers could be made.
The mutual recognition of licences and registrations not included in the declarations will continue to be a matter for decision by the relevant registration authority. It should be noted that not all occupations are licensed in all jurisdictions. More information about ministerial declarations is available here.