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‘Fresh blood’ helps reunite dispensing associations

Australia’s two largest optical dispensing associations, which have gradually drifted apart since industry deregulation, have agreed to settle their differences and reunite.

In a major development for the profession, the Australian Dispensing Opticians Association (ADOA) and the ADOA’s Victorian chapter revealed to Insight they have agreed to join forces and will once again and represent all optical dispensers, including those ployed at optometry chains.

Ms Amelia Roberts, president of ADOA – the NSW-based national body – told Insight that ADOA Victoria vice president Mr Leigh Robinson was integral to the reconciliation efforts. The appointment of herself and Mr Cameron McLeod as presidents of their respective associations was also essential to the organisations moving forward.

“Fresh blood brings a fresh set of eyes, ideas and points of view. We all agreed in February and voted in March that whilst we can’t change the past we can lead the future and that future is stronger together,” she said, adding that the reunited body will first appear together at the O=MEGA trade show in July.

“We are in the process of having the bylaws rewritten and hope to form sub-committees to ensure we continue to grow as ‘the voice for all optical dispensers’. This is a big deal for us to be united again.”

In November, Insight reported that industry members had been critical of ADOA over a perceived lack of activity and transparency. It was further criticised for an unwillingness to represent all dispensers, rather than only those who are ployed or own independent optometry practices.

Historic rifts and personal politics were also revealed to have been a factor in a lack of cooperation between the associations.

The two entities subsequently drifted apart after industry deregulation, resulting in almost no communication between the boards. During this time, ADOA national aligned itself with independent optometry and the TAFE NSW dispensing program, while ADOA Victoria and another training provider – the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing – were more open to working across the whole sector, including corporate optometry chains.

At the time Roberts said the national association’s bylaws limited it to working with independent practices. However, she engaged a lawyer to overcome this and pave the way for wider industry collaboration.

She told Insight this week: “ADOA national and ADOA Victoria are absolutely for all optical dispensers, as long as they have a Cert IV [in Optical Dispensing], no matter who they work for.

“The bylaws were obviously old and needed to come into line with the current status of the industry. We wanted to be able to form sub-committees for particular subject and research matters as well as allow supportive optometrists to become members and/or vote to the board.”

Roberts said both associations could now combine their resources to raise the profile of optical dispensers, including greater coordination to host member events.

McLeod, who has been AODA Victoria president since September, said it was time “to let bygones be bygones” to make way for a national body that will benefit the whole sector.

“We will also have associate memberships for those who work in a practice but may not be officially qualified with a diploma,” he said.

“We are hoping, by becoming a member of a national association, those people will get more enthusiastic about what they provide to society and their workplace, and hopefully we can get more people to become official dispensers and properly qualified.”

Meanwhile, Roberts defended her organisation against previous accusations of inactivity. “I do not agree that it’s fair to say that ADOA has been inactive. It has been very active in securing the profile of optical dispensing and dealing with government and private corporations, especially health insurers,” she said.

“ADOA is the reason optical dispensers have recognised provider numbers. It has been active in providing speakers and resources for all optical dispensing education streams to optical conferences, conventions, as well as running regular masterclasses for members.”

She added: “Having Victoria back on board will allow us to use the talented people they have on board to represent optical dispensers at meetings in other capital cities. We will also be coordinating conferences for members locally.”