Introduction: The Relevance to Psychology to the Oceania Region

Psychology is the science of behaviour. One might ask to what purpose does psychology have for the Pacific region. We hope to explain not only what psychology can offer, but also to raise an awareness of what psychology cannot offer or even should not offer the region.

To answer the point about relevance to the Pacific region, psychology is entirely relevant in ANY area in which an understanding of behaviour is important. There is not a place in the world where psychology is not a potential asset to the local community. For instance in the Pacific region people want to understand:

  • why people are committing crimes and how to offer viable alternatives?
  • how to effectively mediate between modern democratic governments vs. the concerns and rights of traditional ethno-cultural practices of the Pacific?
  • how to increase productivity, well being and good governance in modern Pacific governments
  • why there are increasing suicide rates in some Pacific communities?
  • how to better implement effective education and behavioural alternatives to prevent contracting or passing on the HIV virus (or other STDs)?
  • how to offer effective and relevant guidance and counselling for victims of:
    1. spouse abuse
    2. political instability
    3. natural disasters?

This is quite aside from more traditional commercial concerns where psychologists have an important input such as:

  • Effective personal management in larger firms, corporations or institutions.
  • Conducting quality research on productivity in commercial firms.
  • Implementing effective market research.

Psychologists in the Region

The Pacific region is rapidly attracting psychological professionals or professionals with psychological skills training. There are broadly three types of such people. The first is the regional person that goes outside the region to receive psychological skills training. The Second is the ex-patriot who comes into the region with training from abroad. The final group are students who are graduating from regional institutions with qualifications awarded by these same regional tertiary institutions.

These diverse set of people in the Pacific with psychology skills have distinct positive and probably some negative aspects of their training and how they implement their psychological skills, depending on where they have come from and the training they have received. The purpose of the Oceania Psychology Register is to offer a professional standard to which psychologists working in the region can adhere to.

The Oceania Psychology Register

We’ve chosen this name to reflect the function that we do. Our group is currently not a ‘society’ or ‘association’ which normally implies a stronger presence that we are currently able to offer. What we can offer though is a code of professional conduct, and a list of members who have had appropriate psychological training and who voluntarily agree to abide by this code of conduct.

One might ask why should people volunteer to place themselves under another level of bureaucracy? The answer is that most international psychological skills training includes a strong code of conduct since it is possible to abuse the status of being called a ‘psychologist’. Belonging to a group such as the Oceania Psychology Register, is a way of giving the community an assurance that the members of such a group adhere to a minimum professional standard, that they will not abuse their training and that there is a mechanism for the community to voice their concerns if they feel the need to do so.

We have called ourselves the Oceania Psychology Register to show our pan-Pacific association. However, there are other small island states such as the Maldives who have individuals who would also like to be part of a professional organisation that is sensitive to small island states. Oceania implies a region that is bounded by the oceans of the world, although it’s centre is (currently) in the Pacific.

The Aim of the Register:

In fact we have one central aim and that is:

“To provide a code of ethical and moral conduct to be disseminated and adhered to by such a group’s membership.”

However to achieve this aim we have a charter which specifies what the ethical and moral conduct is, what kind of people state they will adhere to this code and what kind of procedures can happen if people feel that individuals are not following this code. Much of the rest of this document is an explanation in non-technical (or non-legalese) terms of this charter

A Non-Profit Organisation

First of all, we are a non profit organisation. This means that there is no commercial pressure in conducting the business of the Register. We hope that this will give assurances to the community that no commercial conflict of interest will compromise the professional conduct and appraisal that the Register offers.

Where to find the membership list, the charter, the code of conduct:

The main means of dissemination of this information is via the world wide web. You can find our main pages on Follow the links from there.

Membership of the Register.

Members of the Register have completed the minimum of an undergraduate degree in an appropriate behavioural science. This means not just a psychology degree, but also degrees in which there is a strong psychological component. The Register keeps certified documented copies of the members degrees. We have stayed deliberately ‘loose’ in our criteria in part because the region has such a small number of trained degree holders in psychology. However, in part we also acknowledge that many modern social science degrees overlap in their subject material. Sociologists, anthropologists, zoologists and medical degree holders may have undergone significant skills training in psychological skills.

The Administration of the Register

The Register elects five elected officers (collectively called ‘the Executive’) for each year during our Annual General Meeting. The five members are:

    • President: Public figurehead of the Register
    • Treasurer: overseer and keeper of the financial accounts of the Register.
    • Public Relations: Marketing and advertising of the Register and it’s activities
    • Secretary: Administrative Officer of the Register
    • Media Liaison Officer dealing directly with the media.

What Happens if a Member is less than Professional?

So what happens if someone or some parties are promoting themselves as ‘psychologists’ and are members of the Register and yet it seems as if they are in fact NOT behaving professionally? Such actions might include:

    • Breaking the Code of Ethics of the Register; or
    • Someone who has been admitted as a Member under false pretenses; or
    • Someone who in the opinion of the Executive, has been guilty of conduct rendering him/her unfit to remain a Member of the Register. This is a kind of miscellaneous clause to cover instances not specifically identified in the code of ethics but might be part of a different set of laws (such as the law of the Land).

The steps are something as follows.

      1. A complaint is lodged with any member of the Executive.
      2. The President calls the Standing Ethical Code Committee (SECC) together which includes a Community Advocate – someone who is not a member of the Register but has the interests of the affected community at hand.
      3. The SECC investigates the affair and then reports to the Executive, probably with a recommendation.
      4. The Executive may uphold the investigating committee’s decision or adopt or reject its report (wholly or partly).
      5. Members may appeal within a time frame.

Discipline of an OPR member (if required) might include:

      • Educational advice to the Member or insist that they take a specified programme of education, supervision, or review of practice;
      • An invitation to leave the OPR by resignation (less embarassing), or;
      • Public expulsion of the Member from the Society, or;
      • Reporting of the matter to another investigating body (with comment, if appropriate), usually without reference to the Member concerned (such as a legal entity of the Land).


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