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Australian Medical Association

Australian Medical Association
Company typeProfessional association
Founded1962; 62 years ago (1962)
Area served
Key people
Professor Steve Robson (president)
Dr Danielle McMullen (vice president)
RevenueAU$21.9 million (2020)
Members~30,000 (2021)
ParentAustralian Medical Association Limited

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is an Australian public company by guarantee formed as a professional association for Australian doctors and medical students. The association is not run by the Australian Government and does not regulate or certify doctors, a responsibility which lies with the Medical Board of Australia[1] and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.[2] The association's national headquarters are located in Barton, Australian Capital Territory, in addition to the offices of its branches in each of the states and territories in Australia.

The organisation aims to lead health policy debate. It is based on a structure of state branches and committees. The AMA supports patient care and uses a variety of mechanisms that promote and protect the interests of doctors in Australia. It has around 30,000 members forming the largest voluntary association of doctors in Australia. The AMA has traditionally been a conservative (rather than progressive) body. The AMA officially endorses trials to use pill testing.

The AMA offers an Indigenous Medical Scholarship. It has formed an Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee. The current president is Steve Robson. The BMA Branches of the Australian states and territories formally merged into the Australian Medical Association in 1962.

Aims and objectives

The AMA has a range of representative and scientific committees. One of its stated aims is "leading the health policy debate by developing and promoting alternative policies to those government policies that the AMA considers poorly targeted or ill-informed; responding to issues in the health debate through the provision of a wide range of expert resources; and commissioning and conducting research on health issues.".[3]

Organisation structure

The AMA uses a representative structure involving state branches and committees to work with members to promote and protect the interests of doctors in Australia.[citation needed]

The mechanisms that allow this include:[citation needed]

  • working with governments to maintain and increase provision of world-class medical care to all Australians;
  • tracking and reporting government performance on health;
  • challenging government on policy that potentially harms the interests of patients;
  • providing a resonant and authoritative expert medical commentary on health issues;
  • responding to issues in the health debate through provision of a wide range of expert resources; and
  • commissioning and conducting research on health issues.

The AMA supports patient care by serving the medical profession across a broad range of services, including:

  • protecting the academic, professional and economic independence and the well-being of medical practitioners;
  • promoting and advancing ethical behaviour by the medical profession and protecting the integrity and independence of the doctor/patient relationship; and
  • preserving and protecting the political, legal and industrial interests of medical practitioners.

Membership and demographics

The AMA with slightly fewer than 30,000 members is the largest voluntary association of doctors in Australia. When compared to Royal Colleges in membership, it is the second largest association of Australian doctors, behind the RACGP, but slightly bigger than the RACP.[citation needed] However, the AMA does not have the regulatory role that the Colleges have as part of the Ahpra and Australian Medical Council system.

The AMA represents slightly fewer than 30% of all Australian doctors, down from previous levels of 95% in 1962 and 50% in 1987.[4][5][6] The rate of membership amongst Australian GPs is lower than for other doctors, with approximately 6,000 out of 45,000 GPs being AMA members. Engagement of GPs by the AMA is lower than for the RACGP and ACRRM.[7] In 2020, the incoming AMA President Omar Khorshid claimed in an interview that the AMA could still advocate on behalf of all doctors, even though only 30% of doctors supported the AMA through membership.[8]

There are 15 officially recognised specialty medical Colleges in Australia. The AMA offers only the 11 largest out of the 15 representation on AMA Federal Council[9] with the smaller Colleges currently ineligible for representation. The official Australian medical colleges that do not have representation within the AMA are Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, College of Intensive Care Medicine and the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators.

The AMA offers an Indigenous Medical Scholarship.[10] It has called upon the Federal government to spend more on Indigenous Health in a number of areas.[11][12] However, the AMA lobbied against equitable time-tiered Medicare consultation rebates for different specialists,[13] which was proposed by the MBS Review Taskforce.[14] Inability to access equitable time-tiered MBS rebates for Sport & Exercise Medicine specialists under Medicare is an important issue for Indigenous Australians.[15][16] In 2020, the AMA President Tony Bartone criticised attendees at the Black Lives Matter rallies in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic for attending a large gathering,[17] although AMA (WA) President Andrew Miller was supportive.[18]

The AMA formed an Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee (EIDC)[19] in 2016,[20] which produced an anti-racism statement in 2018 . The AMA held a Gender Equity Summit in 2019[21] and set targets to improve female representation on AMA Boards and Committees, aiming for >=40%. The AMA has only had two female Presidents in its history. In early 2020, less than 20% of members on AMA Federal Council were female. After elections in mid-2020, this had increased to 27% of members on Federal council being female. In 2017, 42% of doctors were female in Australia.[22]


Colonial medical associations

New South Wales

Surgeon William Bland, inaugural president of the short-lived Australian Medical Association established in 1858

The Medico-Chirurgical Association of Australia was formed in 1844 aiming to "maintain and secure the dignity and the privileges of the medical and surgical profession in this colony". Prominent surgeon and former convict William Bland was a founding member, but the organisation was short-lived.[23] In 1850, Irish-trained physician Henry Douglass revived the Australian Philosophical Society (later the Royal Society of New South Wales), which included Charles Nicholson and a number of other doctors as members.[24]

In 1858, English-trained physician James Robertson established a body called the Australian Medical Association (AMA), whose members were primarily from Sydney but also included some Queenslanders. Bland was elected as the organisation's president and it recorded over 110 members in its early years. However, it did not survive Robertson and Bland's subsequent deaths and was wound up in 1869.[24]

Following the demise of the original AMA, unsuccessful attempts at revival were made by Frederick Milford and Charles Nathan. In 1876, Nicholson established a medical section of the Royal Society with the aid of Normand MacLaurin and Philip Sydney Jones.[24] A New South Wales branch of the BMA was established in 1880, receiving official recognition on the same date as the South Australian branch.[25]


The Queensland Medical Society was established in 1871 with Kearsay Cannan as president and Joseph Bancroft as secretary.[26] Following conflict between members, it was replaced by the Medical Society of Queensland (MSQ) in 1882 with Kevin Izod O'Doherty as inaugural president, later replaced by Bancroft.[27] The society was complemented by the Queensland Medico-Ethical Association led by surgeon John Thomson. After Bancroft's death in 1894, Queensland followed the other colonies in establishing a branch of the BMA, with ophthalmologist William Frederick Taylor as inaugural branch president.[28]

South Australia

The South Australian Medical Association was established in 1872 with surgeon William Gosse as president, but it was wound up in 1881. Many physicians were also prominent in the Royal Society of South Australia, including Joseph Verco, George Mayo and Edward Charles Stirling.[29] South Australia was the first colony to establish a branch of the British Medical Association, doing so in 1879 with Gosse as president and Thomas Wilson Corbin as secretary. The South Australian branch of the BMA proved to be the most active in Australia, lobbying for the creation of a medical school at the University of Adelaide, organising the first Intercolonial Medical Congress in 1887, and encouraging other colonies to also affiliate with the BMA.[30]


Several physicians were prominent in the Royal Society of Tasmania, established in 1843, including state premiers James Agnew and William Crowther. However, it was not until 1896 that Agnew established a medical section of the Royal Society, which functioned as the main medical organisation in Tasmania for 15 years. Attempts to establish a branch of the BMA were made as early as the 1880s, driven by Victorian-trained doctors. In 1897 a sub-branch of the Victorian BMA was formed in Launceston, which lasted until 1904.[31] A Tasmanian branch of the BMA was eventually established in 1911, but was marked by conflict between groups from Launceston and Hobart. The branch was split into northern and southern sections in 1925.[32]


The Port Phillip Medical Association was established in 1846 with a membership drawn from the Port Phillip District of New South Wales. It was disbanded in 1851, the same year that the district became the separate colony of Victoria, but the following year was replaced by a new Victorian Medical Association (VMA) with David Elliot Wilkie as president. A rival Medical-Chirurgical Association of Victoria (MCA) was established in 1853 by William McCrea, joined by a number of independent bodies in gold rush districts such as Castlemaine, Mount Alexander, Bendigo and Ballarat.[33]

The VMA and MCA merged in 1855 to form the Medical Society of Victoria (MSV).[33] With James Edward Neild as honorary secretary, the MSV established a medical library and began publishing the Australian Medical Journal. However, it suffered from a series of internal conflicts between members and in 1868 was joined by a rival Medical Association of Victoria (MAV), publishing an alternative Australian Medical Gazette.[34] In 1879, Neild resigned from the MSV over its failure to support him in a lawsuit and led moves to establish Victorian branch of the BMA, with surgeon William Gilbee as president. The MSV and BMA alternated between periods of enmity and cooperation until 1906, when they formally merged. Surgeon George Adlington Syme and Harry Brookes Allen were prominent supporters of the merger.[35]

Western Australia

Due to its small population and distance from the other colonies, no serious attempts to establish a medical association in Western Australia were made until the 1880s. The Western Australian Medical Association was established in 1897, but lasted less than a year before a local branch of the BMA was set up with Alfred Waylen as inaugural president.[36]

Later history

The entrance of the former BMA House located at 135-137 Macquarie Street Sydney, home to the New South Wales Branch of the BMA and then the AMA from 1930 to 1980.

In 1911, the South Australian branch of the BMA resolved that a federal committee be established to co-ordinate activities with the other Australian branches. The motion was made by William Thornborough Hayward.[30]

The BMA Branches of the Australian states and territories formally merged into the Australian Medical Association in 1962.[37]


  1. Cecil Colville (1962–1964)
  2. Sir Angus Murray (1964–1967)
  3. Clarence Rieger (1967–1970)
  4. Roderick Macdonald (1970–1972)
  5. Gavin Johnson (1972–1973)
  6. Sir Keith Jones (1973–1976)
  7. Rupert Magarey (1976–1979)
  8. Lionel Wilson (1979–1982)
  9. Lindsay Thompson (1982–1985)
  10. Trevor Pickering (1985–1988)
  11. Bryce Phillips (1998–1990)
  12. Bruce Shepherd (1990–1993)
  13. Brendan Nelson (1993–1995)
  14. David Weedon (1995–1996)
  15. Keith Woollard (1996–1998)
  16. David Brand (1998–2000)
  17. Kerryn Phelps (2000–2003)
  18. Bill Glasson (2003–2005)
  19. Mukesh Haikerwal (2005–2007)
  20. Rosanna Capolingua (2007–2009)
  21. Andrew Pesce (2009–2011)
  22. Steve Hambleton (2011–2014)
  23. Brian Owler (2014–2016)
  24. Michael Gannon (2016–2018)[38]
  25. Tony Bartone (2018–2020)
  26. Omar Khorshid (2020–2022)[39]
  27. Steve Robson (2022–present)

Other personnel

  • Natalia Centellas, Secretary General (2022-)
  • Martin Laverty, Secretary General (2019-2022)
  • Dr M.T Schaper (2018)
  • Anne Trimmer, Secretary General (2013-2018)
  • Francis J. Sullivan, secretary general (2008–2012)
  • Kerry Gallagher, secretary general (2007–2008)
  • Ralph Howard, assistant general secretary (1964–1965)

Coat of arms

Coat of arms of the Australian Medical Association
Granted by the Kings of Arms (and supporters by Garter) on 10 June 1963 (Earl Marshal's warrant, 30 July 1962).[40]
On a Wreath Argent and Vert, a Kangaroo proper, holding between the fore paws a Sun in splendour Or.
A closed Helmet, mantling Gules, doubled Argent.
Argent, on a Cross formy throughout Gules, within a Bordure Ermine, a Rod of Aesculapius Or.
On either side a Unicorn Argent, unguled armed and crined Or, supporting between the forelegs a Staff proper, flying thereon a Pennant per fess Argent and Vert charged with the Badge of the Australian Medical Association.
A field of Grass Vert.
Latin: Pro Genere Humano Concordes ("All as one for mankind")
A Sun in splendour Or, the face charged with a Cross formy throughout Gules, thereon a Rod of Aesculapius Or.
The red cross is the international symbol of medical services. The Rod of Asclepius in the centre of the cross is a classical symbol of healing and medicine.[41] The Unicorn was also fabled for its healing properties.[40]


The AMA has traditionally been a conservative (rather than progressive) body, often opposing change rather than lobbying for change within medicine. For example, the AMA released a press release in early 2019 claiming an "Advocacy breakthrough" which in fact was to "oppose changes" being considered under a wide-ranging review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule.[42] Historically the AMA has tended to oppose "government interference in the practice of medicine" advocating on behalf of the service-providers (doctors) rather than the consumers (patients). The AMA has been recently criticised for accepting the Australian Federal Government's JobSeeker subsidy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia despite being profitable during 2020.[43]

Climate change

The AMA acknowledges the scientific consensus that climate change is real and anthropogenic.[44] In September 2019, the AMA officially declared climate change a public health emergency, stating that "The scientific reality is that climate change affects health and well-being by increasing the situations in which infectious diseases can be transmitted, and through more extreme weather events, particularly heatwaves."[45]

Tony Bartone, AMA President, noted that climate change will cause "higher mortality and morbidity from heat stress; injury and mortality from increasingly severe weather events; increases in the transmission of vector-borne diseases; food insecurity resulting from declines in agricultural outputs; a higher incidence of mental-ill health".[45]

The AMA has agreed with Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) that the healthcare sector in Australia should aim for a 80% reduction in emissions by 2030, but the AMA is still supportive of medical procedures with a poor evidence-base that could be considered wasteful and a source of excess emissions.[46] For example, the AMA lobbied the Australian government to continue to fund spinal fusion as a surgical treatment under Medicare, even when there was substantial evidence that spinal fusion is an ineffective procedure and plans were in place to de-fund this surgery.[47]

The AMA has called on the Australian Government to:

  • Adopt mitigation targets within an Australian carbon budget
  • Promote the health benefits of addressing climate change
  • Develop a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change
  • Promote an active transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy
  • Establish a National Sustainable Development Unit to reduce carbon emissions in the healthcare sector.[45]

Community pill-testing

The AMA officially endorses trials to use pill-testing at community events such as festivals.[48][49] AMA President Dr Tony Bartone publicly declared his support for pill-testing at festivals, stating that it would provide "an opportunity to try and inform [drug users] about the dangerous consequences and try to get an opportunity to give them education and access to rehabilitation in terms of trying to reduce their drug dependency."[49] NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian rejected the AMA's call for pill testing.[49]


In June 2021, AMA President Omar Khorshid advocated for the construction of “purpose-built quarantine facilities” across each state and territory in Australia, particularly areas with significant international travel.[50]

See also


  1. ^ Medical Board of Australia
  2. ^ Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
  3. ^ "About the AMA - Advocacy". Australian Medical Association. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  4. ^ Coote, Bill (30 April 2018). "How low can the AMA go? • The Medical Republic". The Medical Republic 30 Apr 2018. Medical Republic. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  5. ^ Glauser, Wendy (8 January 2018). "Some medical associations see modest growth despite challenges". CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal. 190 (1): E32–E33. doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-5530. ISSN 0820-3946. PMC 5760264. PMID 29311108.
  6. ^ Duckett, Stephen. "Patient advocate or doctors' union? How the AMA flexes its political muscle - Grattan Institute".
  7. ^ Knibbs, Jeremy (6 June 2020). "RACGP, ACRRM and AMA all facing survival inflection points • The Medical Republic". The Medical Republic. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  8. ^ O'Rourke, Geir (18 August 2020). "Is the AMA wobbling? Its new president responds". AusDoc.PLUS. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  9. ^ AMA Federal Council
  10. ^ "AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship". AMA.
  11. ^ "AMA Submission to the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Performance Audit on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage". Australian Medical Association. AMA. 21 May 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  12. ^ "AMA calls for greater investment in Indigenous health". Australian Medical Association. AMA. 18 June 2020.
  13. ^ "AMA submission to the MBS Review Taskforce" (PDF). AMA. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  14. ^ "Report from the Specialist and Consultant Physician Consultation Clinical Committee" (PDF). MBS Review Taskforce. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  15. ^ Luies, Nathan (28 April 2020). "Sports and exercise medicine helps manage chronic disease. It needs better funding | Nathan Luies for IndigenousX". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Masters, Roy (24 January 2020). "Australian of the Year nominee highlights forgotten cut to Medicare". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  17. ^ "AMA President speaks on BLM protests". The Age.
  18. ^ "'Leading by example': AMA commends Perth BLM protesters". The West Australian. 9 June 2020.
  19. ^ "Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee". Australian Medical Association. 21 October 2022. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  20. ^ "AMA acts to promote diversity and inclusion". Australian Medical Association. 12 December 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  21. ^ "AMA Gender Equity Summit I 23 March 2019 I Sydney". Australian Medical Association. 13 March 2019. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  22. ^ Aubusson, Kate (22 July 2017). "Female GPs outnumber male GPs for the first time in Australia". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  23. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 23.
  24. ^ a b c Nagle 2012, p. 24.
  25. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 25.
  26. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 26.
  27. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 27.
  28. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 28.
  29. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 29.
  30. ^ a b Nagle 2012, p. 30.
  31. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 32.
  32. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 33.
  33. ^ a b Nagle 2012, p. 18.
  34. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 19.
  35. ^ Nagle 2012, p. 20.
  36. ^ Nagle 2012, pp. 38–39.
  37. ^ "About the AMA - History". Australian Medical Association. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  38. ^ AMA (29 May 2016). "Dr Michael Gannon elected as new AMA President".
  39. ^ Health, Australian Government Department of (3 August 2020). "New AMA leadership team elected at 2020 AMA National Conference". Australian Government Department of Health.
  40. ^ a b Low, Charles (1971). A Roll of Australian Arms. Adelaide: Rigby Limited. p. 7. ISBN 0-85179-149-2.
  41. ^ "AMA History - AMA crest and logo". Australian Medical Association. Retrieved 7 October 2023.
  42. ^ "AMA advocacy breakthroughs in MBS Review". Australian Medical Association. 1 February 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  43. ^ Roddan, Michael (2 July 2021). "JobKeeper spares Australian Medical Association pile of cash". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  44. ^ "Climate Change and Human Health - 2004. Revised 2008. Revised 2015". Australian Medical Association. 28 August 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  45. ^ a b c "Climate change is a health emergency". Australian Medical Association. 3 September 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  46. ^ "Drop wasteful procedures to do our bit for climate • The Medical Republic". The Medical Republic. 26 March 2021. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  47. ^ Mannix, Liam (2023). Back Up: Why back pain treatments aren't working and the new science offering hope. Australia: NewSouth Publishing. pp. 176–177. ISBN 9781742238081.
  48. ^ "AMA FORMALLY BACKS SUPERVISED PILL TESTING TRIALS". Australian Medical Association. 22 March 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  49. ^ a b c "AMA backs pill testing at festivals". Australian Medical Association. 10 January 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  50. ^ Clun, Rachel (25 June 2021). "Purpose-built quarantine facilities proposed in Queensland and Western Australia". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 28 June 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2023.

Further reading

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Australian Medical Association
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