On 1 July 2012, after long time lobbying by the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association, the Australian federal government finally set up a regulatory body for Chinese medicine. Most Chinese medicine practitioners took this event as a huge achievement, as they were finally recognized as part of the mainstream health profession. But instead I decided to end my Chinese healing practice.
Before July 2012, I went to an information meeting regarding the requirements for professional registration under the new scheme. The speaker, representing the government, listed a long list of rules that we were now to obey. I asked what this new governing body would do for the practitioners. The speaker said: “Nothing! This is a governing body to regulate your practice, not to support your practice.” I then asked: “If I am not member of this organisation, will I be able to use herbs and needles to treat illness, but not to call myself a Chinese medicine practitioner?” She said: “You will find it very difficult.”
Before 1 July 2012, I worked as an alternative therapist to Western medicine. I handled all kinds of illness conditions from minor to serious without ever needing to send patients to a Western doctor. But after this day, by statute, I would have to support biomedical practices, and it would be unlawful for me to advise people to stop taking pharmaceutical drugs, or other biomedical treatments. And it would be a criminal offence not to send a patient to biomedical doctors if they were suffering something serious. Moreover, there were yet more restrictions on the use of various herbs. In effect the new regime was basically to stop alternative medicine practitioners from regarding natural healing too seriously, and to institutionalize the subordination of Chinese medicine and Chinese medicine practitioners under biomedicine.
Under these conditions I just could not in principle accept such a demeaning of my profession. It was an easy decision to make but a very serious one, because Chinese medicine had been my passion and livelihood for 30 years and now I was giving it up.
As I see it, the only achievement of this professional registration of Chinese medicine is that it has greatly protected the mainstream medical establishment. It severely hampers the practice of alternative medicine and it leaves patients in a worse position, with restricted alternatives.