What is an area of need?

An area of need (AoN) is a location where there is a demonstrated shortage of suitably qualified medical practitioners.

The Western Australian (WA) Department of Health (the Department) maintains a database of all locations and medical services in WA that are recognised as an AoN. The Area of Need database (PDF 24KB) is regularly updated and should be reviewed by health service employers seeking to employ medical practitioners.

The AoN program is a mechanism to assist public and private health service providers in WA to meet gaps in service delivery by recruiting suitably qualified international medical graduates (IMGs) to vacant positions that have been approved by the Department as an AoN.

An underpinning philosophy of WA’s AoN program is that an IMG cannot be employed in an AoN position, if it will disadvantage an appropriately experienced Australian-qualified medical practitioner. 

Determining an area of need

Under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (WA) Act 2010 (external site) AoN determinations are utilised by the Department to support the distribution of the medical workforce to areas experiencing workforce shortage, and provide access to:

  • General medical services: General practitioner/s (GP) working in private practice.
  • Specialist medical services: Medical practitioners who have or will be required to undertake a specialist assessment by the Australian Medical Council and the relevant medical college, excluding GPs.

The determination of an AoN is the process that facilitates providers to extend their recruitment program to IMGs where evidence of a shortage of Australian-qualified medical practitioners to fill a vacant position(s) can be demonstrated through labour market testing.

Applying for an AoN determination is separate to the recruitment process for IMGs and can be time consuming.

Declaration of an AoN is the responsibility of the State or Territory Minister for Health (or their delegate). In WA the Minister for Health has delegated authority to approve AoN applications to the Chief Medical Officer. 

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Medical Workforce