Today’s question relates to paramedic qualifications in Western Australia.  The children of a proud paramedic

… are seeking a career in the same field. My son is in his second year of studies at Edith Cowan University here in Perth and has along with a number of his student cohort are considering how to further their careers and gain experience on road.

WA is unique (along with the NT) in that the ambulance provider is (as you are aware) St John Ambulance (SJA), a private company contracted to provide the service to the WA government not a government agency.

It seems that when inquiries were made as to the possibility of employment with SJA after the completion of their degrees they were told that if they were to be employed each would have to complete the degree offered and endorsed by SJA at Curtin University in Perth.

As a private entity I understand that SJA seems to be able to do whatever it likes with impunity, but my question is this, how can the ECU degree be totally disregarded? Would this be grounds for discrimination? My son like many others does not wish to go interstate or overseas to practice their profession and this treatment does seem manifestly unfair.

Please could you offer your thoughts on this for me, and should this be raised with Paramedic Australasia/ AHPRA?

If St John (WA) will only employ people with the Curtin University degree that would appear to be a very short-sighted approach and very much limit the pool of potential employees.  The website for St John (WA) says, with respect to graduate employment that the essential qualification is a ‘Bachelor Degree of Health Science – Major in Paramedicine or equivalent’.  It does not specify the Curtin degree. (It also says candidates have to have a ‘Current First Aid Certificate (HLTAID003)’ which seems a bit odd).  St John Ambulance (WA) is a member of the Council of Ambulance Authorities. That Council has endorsed degree programs which qualify a candidate for employment as a paramedic – the degrees from both Edith Cowan and John Curtin universities have been endorsed by the CAA.

The Paramedicine Board has indicated that with registration, the CAA approved degrees will be accepted as degrees that qualify the graduate for general registration.

The reference to the Curtin degree is made by St John (WA) when talking about student employment.  The information package says:

It is important to note that candidates who are successful in gaining a position as a Student Ambulance Officer (SAO) with St John will undertake a Bachelor of Science, Major in Paramedicine at Curtin University.

It would appear that if the question was asked about employment after graduation, the advice that they would have to complete the Curtin degree was simply wrong.

If that were the position it would be odd.  It wouldn’t be unlawful discrimination.  An agency can’t discriminate on prohibited grounds (gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion etc) but an employer can decide that they want to accept a particular qualification.  To get NSW on board, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (s 312) says that the Diploma of Paramedical Science issued by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales is an accepted qualification for general registration in paramedicine.  The Paramedicine Board will have to accept students with this qualification even though they have not ‘approved’ it; they are directed that this is an accepted qualification.  But it is the only diploma that must be accepted.  The Board may refuse to register someone who has completed an identical diploma by another registered training organisation.

To return to St John (WA) it would be pointless for St John to take the view that they would only employ Curtin University graduates as that would stop graduates coming to WA from interstate or overseas but I don’t suppose it’s illegal.  No doubt the issue will be solved (if it exists) with registration when one would anticipate the required qualification for employment will be that the candidate is a registered paramedic.


Looking at the information provided by St John it appears that the advice, given to students at Edith Cowan University, that for employment they would ‘have to complete the degree offered and endorsed by SJA at Curtin University in Perth’ is not correct.  It is not what St John says. Their website says a candidate needs a ‘Bachelor Degree of Health Science – Major in Paramedicine or equivalent’.  The Edith Cowan degree is endorsed by the CAA and will be a qualification for registration as a paramedic so no-one could sensibly argue that it’s not equivalent to the Curtin University degree.

If however St John did for some reason elect to only employ Curtin graduates, it would be stupid, but I don’t know that it would be illegal.

See also: RPL when converting from paramedic diploma to degree – but do you even need a degree? (May 2, 2018)