Employer groups and practice owners are supporting the Federal Government’s move to retain Optometry on both the new two-year and four-year TSS visa, which is due to replace the 457 visa from March 2018.

Among those, Specsavers Optometry Director Peter Larsen told Spectrum that “the government is to be congratulated for listening to ‘real world’ advice on optometry workforce undersupply, amid inconsistent annual numbers of graduates coming out of Australia’s current optometry schools”.

He added: “The profession is already struggling to keep pace with patient demand, which has more than doubled in the past 9 years and we can see that the growth trend is set to continue. Although the number of optometrists coming to Australia under skilled migration programs is low, we believe the annual cohort forms a critical element of addressing undersupply, especially in regional areas.

“To those who talk of an oversupply situation, I mention two things – an almost zero unemployment rate for optometrists and recent rises in graduate starting salaries. For the first time, in 2016, optometrists became the highest paid graduates in Australia, out-stripping dentists, medical graduates, accountants and even lawyers. There just aren’t enough optometry graduates to satisfy the demand for their signatures.”