Australian policy on overseas-trained doctors

Robert J Birrell
Med J Aust 2004; 181 (11): 635-639.


  • Since the late 1990s Australian employers have recruited an increasing number of overseas-trained doctors (OTDs) to hospital and “area of need” general practice positions.

  • While assessment standards vary by state and field of medicine, most OTDs are appointed without a formal assessment of their medical knowledge and clinical skills, with registration to practice being conditional only on their working in hospitals and “areas of need”. By comparison, formal assessment is required before an OTD can practise medicine in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

  • Most of these doctors hold temporary resident visas, but a minority are permanent residents who have not completed their Australian Medical Council accreditation examinations.

  • In 1997–98, most OTDs arriving under temporary resident visas were from the United Kingdom and Ireland, and by 2002–03 this had dropped to under 50%; OTDs now come from a greater diversity of countries.

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  • Robert J Birrell

  • Monash University, Melbourne, VIC.



I thank the Monash Institute for the Study of Global Movements for financial assistance for this research. The research was conducted as an independent enquiry and the author was not accountable to any funding agency for the results.


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