The federal government is facing pressure from out-of-work nurses to review their international counterparts working in Australia on 457 visas.
SBS, by Stephanie Anderson, 29 May 2014
A petition posted on Change.org on May 20 has attracted more than 30,200 signatures from nurses and supporters, saying that graduates cannot find work due to the high use of skilled workers from overseas.
"We need to make sure that we are not being passed over and have every opportunity to enter the workforce and build our skill base with valuable hospital experience," it read.
"The rate of graduate nurses unemployed is similar to the intake of international nurses, so we know the work is there, we just need our government to tighten the regulations on these visas and give us a fighting chance to start off our careers."
A review by the Department of Health outlines a "general concern" over the increasing number of nursing graduates, stating that "there are not sufficient opportunities to provide employment for new graduates up until 2016".
The number of students enrolled in general nursing courses almost doubled from 2002 to 2011, surging from 8585 to 16,238.
The government review, dated May 2013, stated that approximately 15 per cent of all nurses and midwives practising in Australia were either born overseas or obtained their initial nursing qualification overseas.
Figures from Health Workforce Australia outline various visas granted to international nurses, which rose by 44 per cent throughout 2011-12.
A report issued by Health Workforce Australia last year stated that registered nurses were applicable under the Skilled Occupation List, meaning international nurses can apply for a permanent visa through the skilled independent pathway without the need for sponsorship.
The number of permanent visas granted to registered nurses has almost doubled from 2005-06, peaking in 2009-10 at 4133.
Data shows that India, the United Kingdon and the Phillipines accounted for almost three quarters of all registered nurses from overseas throughout 2011-12.
Both India and the Phillipines recorded increased in the number of 457 visas granted throughout the six years to 2011-12, with India increasing by more than four times from 207 to 1108.
It should also be noted that a substantial amount of New Zealand nurses work in Australia, but are not subject to the same visa requirements as other nationalities.
The same report stated that of the 290,899 working nurses registered in Australia in 2011, 4458 or 3.9 per cent were looking for work.