It's time: A new era for paediatrics and child health in Australia


  • Conflict of interest: None declared.

Professor Frank Oberklaid, Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia. Fax: 9345 5900; email:


The Australian College of Paediatrics (ACP) was established in 1978; part of the stated rationale was to ‘acquire equal status to other colleges in medicine’ . . . and to become . . . ‘to which governments, or other organisations dealing with children, could officially turn to for advice’. After less than 2 decades, the ACP ceased to exist, and paediatricians became members of the Paediatrics and Child Health Division of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP). Many would now argue that the decision to dissolve the ACP and instead become a division within the RACP, though not taken lightly and made for what seemed at the time to be good reasons, might have been a mistake. While there have been some benefits, overall the public profile and national influence of paediatricians has been diminished. Paediatricians as a group have had little influence on policy formulation as it pertains to children and families, and the present administrative arrangements within the RACP raise considerable bureaucratic barriers for paediatricians to be able to contribute in a constructive and timely manner. It is suggested that paediatricians cannot be effective advocates for the health and wellbeing of children when they are but a relatively small and powerless group that resides within a large body of professionals whose primary interest is in various aspects of adult medicine. It is time that paediatricians (re)established their own college and controlled their own destiny. While such a step is not without its challenges, many would argue that it is an essential and timely step if we are to address our political and public health responsibilities.