Reformed Bonded Programs addressing doctor shortages across rural and remote areas by enhancing bonded programs

Addressing doctor shortages under the Bonded medical program.

Page last updated: 14 August 2018

What is the measure?

The Government is building a more flexible system that will enable the Bonded Medical Places (BMP) Scheme and Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) Scheme to encourage and support more doctors to work and stay in rural and remote areas.

The measure will:

  • significantly improve bonding arrangements by moving from individual contract arrangements to a legislated regulatory model
  • better support bonded participants to fulfil their return of service obligations
  • allow participants in existing programs to opt-in to these new arrangement
  • provide a consistent three year bonding period for opt-in participants
  • fund an interactive web portal and other digital communication channels to help bonded students and doctors to better understand and manage their bonded obligations.

Why is this measure being introduced?

The current administrative arrangements for bonded programs are complex and do not provide the support participants need to be able to meet all requirements.

The improvements will attract new medical students to the bonded programs and make it easier for bonded doctors to work in locations of workforce need.

When do the changes come into effect?

The new arrangements start from 1 January 2020.

All existing bonded medical students and bonded doctors will be able to move across to the reformed arrangements from this date onwards.

From 1 January 2020, new medical school students entering a bonded program will enter under the new arrangements.

Who is eligible?

Students who are planning to apply for a bonded medical place at a university, and the 9,000 students and doctors who currently participate in bonded programs can benefit from the new arrangements.

How will the reforms affect current participants of the MRBS / BMP schemes?

Current participants of bonded programs will be able to choose whether they move across to the new arrangements or not. Participants who choose not to move to the new arrangements will keep their current contract arrangements.

BMP Scheme participants who joined between 2016 and 2019 (inclusively) will be able to move across to the new scheme and retain their 12 month return of service obligations.

What are the key benefits of the reforms?

The reforms will simplify the way the Government manages bonded programs, making it easier for participants to complete the program.

The Government will also provide a mobile friendly web portal to make it easier for participants to self-manage, plan, track and undertake their return of service.

Reforms will make return of service obligations a standard three years for all participants, except for participants who entered the scheme between 2016 and 2019 (inclusively).

How will the reforms affect participants who have already started their return of service?

To have access to the reformed arrangements, participants will need to register into the new scheme. The Department will let all participants know how they can do this.

If a participant opts in to the reformed program and meets the requirements of the new arrangements, including the required length of return of service, they may apply to complete and exit the program.

Why aren't the reforms available now to existing participants?

The government needs to build the legislative amendments, data systems and web portal to support the new arrangements. The Government expects to introduce the reforms from 1 January 2020.

Will participants who entered the BMP Scheme in 2016 and had a 12 month return of service obligation now have a longer return of service?

No. Participants who entered the BMP Scheme between 2016 and 2019 (inclusively) and choose to move across to the reformed scheme will retain a 12 month return of service obligation.

What training and support can participants expect to receive?

The Government will offer on-line e-training modules and other supports to help participants register and use the new on-line portal.

How will the Government help participants transition to the new program?

Look for updates on the reform progress from:

You can ask a specific question by emailing or