My guest today, is Sharan Simmons. She's joining me from Sydney, Australia. She is the president of the Pilates Alliance Australia, which we're gonna talk about a little bit more in a minute. But we're gonna start off by just chatting and oh, and I should of course say that she's been a pilates teacher for over 17 years. And she's had a studio, she's been a studio manager, a mentor, all lots of things and volunteered lots of times, she's done a whole range of things but she's gonna give us an update on what's happened in Australia with COVID, how the government responded and how the organization that she is the President of, has worked with the government to represent the pilates industry in Australia.
So, perhaps Sharan you can start off by telling us what's happening with COVID in Australia right now? Well hi everybody. It's nice to be here. We're getting, well I suppose compared to other places, we're doing really well. We have very few cases in Australia.
And it is maximum, the deaths at the moment are 102, just 102. Just a hundred-- And no thousands, on, no thousands on the end, just 102. We have very few cases. I mean, the past few days, the average has been eight cases throughout Australia, notified a day so that it's quite, the sort of spread is quite low and 62% of that is from return travelers. So they're in isolation for two weeks when they return from traveling from being overseas.
And that's actually where, they're testing positive in a hotel in isolation, so it doesn't allow community spread which is great. And do, if you come back in, you're tested at the airport or port. And if you-- No you're put straight into, well, I think they're doing sort of temperature tests. So that in case they need to isolate people immediately, and then you're going to a hotel in isolation, for, basically for quarantine for two weeks. And tests are taken out taken then, if you show any symptoms.
Cool. That's not everybody tested just if you said, as you show symptoms. Yeah and actually just for context, how many people live in Australia? 25 million, 25 and a half million.
You've been, you've had good leadership and you're being very fortunate here. It's, we got locked down what we seemed fairly quickly so we closed our borders fairly early, early on and only returning travelers were, have been allowed back in since then. And there has still been, a slow but steady stream of those even, up until recently. So, they're coming back but everybody, and once they started putting isolation in that was really, that started to make a difference. It wasn't pleasant, I don't know, I think for the first, few thousand people that needed to go through that because there was, quite variations in their experiences of that.
But I think that's getting better. You know how that is because that's the hardest thing to come back and then be, locked away and not be able to go home. When, that's what you think, if that's what you think you're getting and that's not what you're getting. That was a challenge for a lot of people. Yeah, finally home and I can't go home.
So tell me what happened to, the community in Australia, did everybody have to stay home? Have a strict-- So the first thing was all nonessential businesses were sort of shut down. So if you were a supermarket, a chemist, health care, those sorts of things were allowed to be open, any essential services and, water and power and the basics. So that was allowed but the rest of us were told to work from home and to only go out for three reasons, you can go to the supermarket and go for health care and if you have to go to work. So basically that was the initial sort of starting to keep everybody at home, but it wasn't I think you had shelter in place.
We weren't as, strict I don't think is that, but everybody was really definitely staying at home. You were allowed out, you could go out to exercise. But, you weren't able to gather in groups, two people sitting on a park bench was classed as a group. So you weren't allowed to do that. You could go out for exercise but you couldn't sit down on a park bench.
If you're exhausted you had to, exercise, get home. Right. So, that was how they did it. You could go out with, say your spouse, your partner and go for a walk together or? Family members, yes, friends or others, not.
Right. Initially that then started to change as we were able to meet with more people, they started to then gradually ease the restrictions and you could meet with more people, you could have several people in your home, and that was even before businesses were really opening, they just started, they started to release it like that. You could exercise outdoor, just two people, so it could be you and your trainer. Right. So it works well for personal trainers, a little bit harder for pilates instructors.
You couldn't take the Reformer out with you to the park. Some people did it with a Wunda Chair. Oh. Wunda Chair in the park. I like that, I think that's fun.
Yeah, innovative. Yeah, but I think we all need to be innovative. Yeah, we've had to be. You've had various sort of phases, have you where, now we can do this, now you can do that? Yes so, I think, the first bit to really to shut down I mean in that first initial stage, they shut down things, they stopped all elective surgery, because we thought that there was a big wave come and go based on what everybody else, the other countries had seen.
And so, they shut down elective surgery to make room for additional hospital beds, additional ICU, get more rest space. So they were really trying to be well prepared for what was expected. But the lockdown has done a lot. And, that very low community transmission, which I think is, having that not been circulating within the population and it really being only travelers and close contacts or, like there's been small clusters from a cruise ship, aged care home and a meat packing facility. There's sort of been the major types of places where there's been clusters of people that have affected outside the initial area.
And then sort of as that as the, well, as we all top the curve, trying to get the curve, to flatten the curve to come down was the strategy of the government here and, that was where, really what they were trying to do and that sort of, that has worked. I think well for us and the government has put in a lot of support packages for people, both unemployment and employment protection, I think you you have something similar there as is called JobKeeper, employee for more than 12 months, and it could be casual, could be, on full-time, part-time casual. Whatever it was, and that goes through to September. Right. So, yeah.
If you, let's just pretend you're a pilates teacher for a second here. So you're a pilates teacher working in a studio, the studio has been closed, is that's what happened to the pilates industry? Yes so, that on the 23rd when all nonessential businesses got shut down gyms, pilates studios, we're all included in that. And so we have been shut down for 11 weeks. Some of us have gone back.
So there has been like you were just saying, there has been staged return to business, but most people were shut down for at least, I think it's eight weeks. Right. So, gradual return in those States where there is very low cases. And the more isolated States have had less cases, the States where there's more traffic in and out, so Victoria and New South Wales, more overseas travelers come into those ports and so that is, there were much higher cases in those States. So the other States have started back and that started back with you being allowed to do outdoor exercise.
Started one-on-one, it then went to one, you could have a boot, they were going boot camp, so you could have 10 people in a group class outdoors. Right. It's only more recently for us in stage two return, that you have been allowed to start to get back to inside training. And that's been and I think that's what you're finding as well people are happy that to do it outside because there's plenty of airflow, easier to distance, all of that. The indoors has been the real issue, and particularly in an environment where you are exercising and where they could be, hanging out more easily drop it transmission.
So that's been, the medical officers most concerns for everybody here. So that's, and that's been hard for us to get around, like in our work to try and figure out how we could get back and what we were doing. That's actually been our biggest challenge point is that they're not, they weren't at all flexible on that. Right, so now that you, some parts of Australia you can go back into the studio. They, in here they're talking about six feet apart, like one and a half meters.
Are there kind of guidance on-- Absolutely, not even guidance it's rules. Okay. So and there's compliance. So they are saying that people are checking what you're doing. So that if you were closest, so if you're outdoors and you were closer there would be, there were at times policing that.
Yeah. So just saying, move apart, you can't be here that's too many people in a group. So there were things like that. So inside now, it is one point five meters apart. And they have, we have a four square meter rule.
So within a space, within a studio or a gym or whatever, the space is four square meters per person and that tells you the maximum people that can be in the space. And then there's other limits, like there's only allowed to be 10 people in that, in a, in any space. Right, now maybe Gio can do a quick calculation on, four square meters what that is square feet for our, (mumbles) friends here in the U.S. and myself here. Yeah. But so, if you have a certain size of pilates studio, even if you can get the Reformers, one and a half meters apart so about six feet, you may find the square footage issue is another constraint on-- Yes, yeah.
So if they say that you can have 10 people, 10 people can gather together which is basically what, the restrictions tend to be that first level is, 10 people are allowed to be together. You still have to stay one point five meters apart but if your studio is quite small, you won't be able to have that many people in, and be able to still, have equipment because the thing is, you're too close when you're actually exercising. So it's not just the people as if you were, if you were standing in and perhaps just had a mat, equipment takes up more room than that. So then that's I think been a restriction but I think most, in Australia, most studios will work on the, equipment studios anywhere will work on, Private, Semi-Privates in only small groups. So, that, 10 people in a Reformer class, perhaps you might have to take out a couple of the Reformers and maybe you could work with six.
So there'll be some, there will be a few restrictions to that, for now. But one of the States has moved as of, I think it was last Friday the sixth, to a two square meter rule, purpose and now. So that will change a little bit but, they, I was speaking to somebody yesterday and they said they actually can't get that many people in, when you use that rule. So, it might help other situations like it might help the park or it might help, a gym but it doesn't really make a lot of difference, that dramatic change doesn't make a lot of difference in a pilates studio because you've got equipment. Right, and what about face masks?
It's been a big point of discussion here in the U.S. What's the strategy around face masks in Australia? So some people are wearing face masks here, to the supermarket. But as the health advice is, in Australia is that we, that only if you have it or only for medical people, so it's not a general use. And I think that's partly because there is such low community, transmission. Right.
So I think that's really part of it, we're able to, I mean pilates studio some people will decide that they will wear a mask or that the clients will feel more comfortable to wear a mask but that isn't in any of the guidelines. And even the guidelines to go to the supermarket that is not a, like wearing a mask is not part of that. Whereas I know in other countries that's actually how you're getting out because they track the community transmission or the community load of virus disease is much bigger. And in here it is quite low. So that hasn't been their advice.
Yeah, they're different here, there's a lot of community transmission going here. I live in Los Angeles, I'm within the community here so, polite to other people to wear the mask because, sometimes the asymptomatic transmission-- Yep. Of the virus. Yes now I've been, I've been tossing up. I think for people that come in the, high risk category, that there is that you wanna protect yourself and do everything that you can to protect your clients.
So, I'm certainly considering, that particularly with it, certain of my clients, cancer patients or, people with other immune deficiencies. I think we really need to be mindful of the impact for somebody else, not just ourselves. So, I'm really, that's what I'm sort of concerned about. Yeah, was there any time where people were taking people's temperatures when they came in using one of those, non-touch thermometers? Some places are doing that.
I think that was in Singapore that was the, that was, everybody was getting their temperature taken no matter where you went, in and out of the building anywhere. Don't, some places will be doing that. But I think that's probably at places where there's sort of a little bit more risk for clients, as well. Right. I think it's probably good.
It's a good strategy, there is a set of we all have to have, to open your business you have to have a COVID safety plan. That isn't a defined part of it, but a set of questions to say, do you have any of these symptoms? Have you been in contact? Have you just returned from overseas? As I said there's a list of questions.
Have you had raised temperature? Some people will be, that has been part of, proposed plan for people as an extra precaution but it's not required here. Right. Interesting, yeah, the world is very different, the people have been impacted different by this virus. When you think about are you able to teach in the same way?
That kind of traditional on the hour, or, here in the US some studios are choosing to have like 15, 20 minutes between clients just to make sure that they've cleaned everything. That's not happening with you? So the people that have gone back the ones I know, how they're structuring it is they're just shortening the classes slightly. So this is one, there's time for cleaning and there is limited crossover of the clients. And we've been suggested in one door out another if you can manage that within your studio.
So setting up a flow of work, like a flow for the clients to do that, is a good way have them minimize the stuff that they bring, keep it all together, look at them what cleaning practices that you can implement? How you're covering straps? All of those things that I have been the talk of so many forums and so much discussion about what's the right thing. I think it's, you need to do the best that you have available to you. And everything that you can overkill is better than, than go light on the things I think that gives safety and security to the clients that are coming in.
They will feel more comfortable, you show that you're doing everything that you care I think that's, it's better to go overboard. Yeah, do you think it's too early to know whether the, clients feel confident to come back to the studio? Mine aren't back yet. So we start back on Saturday. So in a few days.
But the people, even my older people who are 80 and 90, are ready to come back, like they don't have an issue to come back and I would say, they are in that, and obviously age-wise, they're in the risk category. But, for other conditions as well, that puts them in that, high risk category. They are ready themselves to come back. They've been doing classes, they've been walking, they've been, keeping up their routine or a routine, but they are certainly ready to come back knowing the type, the spacing that we can do, already before they left we were doing enhanced cleaning so that they know how serious we are about that. So, I think in that way, we've set ourselves up for them to feel comfortable about coming back.
I think it's if there's, they feel comfortable for themselves. I think it's if you have somebody else in your family that you're caring for, all that's an older parent or that's where, you start to feel like I'm the one bringing, who is putting somebody else at risk and I think those clients are the ones not that they're at risk themselves but they've got somebody else that is and I think they're the ones who are probably a little bit more hesitant. Yep, yeah. Yeah I think, if I was living with my parents, if they were still alive, I'd be very concerned that I, (mumbles) my care and so. Exactly, you know that responsibility on you is a lot for people.
Yeah. Now you can make that decision for yourself but to do that and put somebody else at risk is another whole level. Yeah. The question of, how are you communicating all the things you're doing? Are you emailing?
Are you ringing up? How are you talking to your clients to say, yeah we're open again on Saturday, this is what I've done. How are you sharing that? So multiple channels. We started with, like with the general email, like building up to so we've only just last week got to, we've had a week notice.
So it'll be effectively two weeks notice to prepare, but in other States they've had one day, like, literally 24 hours. And so somebody said, okay, so I'm getting ready for this. I'm getting ready and then the government just goes, okay, we've revised our plan, it's tomorrow. So, we've had warning, other States have absolutely not. So, it has been whatever you can do.
Email I think is that and social media is that general broadcast people get to know, we welcome you back. Some people that have sort of said, well it's gonna take me a week to get ready. I can't actually open tomorrow, it's going to take us a week to get a new schedule, you'll already have your virtual classes booked for the week. So and it's that transition from how do we then talk them through okay, so this will be our last week of virtual classes, we're still gonna keep this online, we'll, and then we'll get you back in the studio to these classes, are you ready? What do you wanna do?
And that survey of clients of, are you ready? Do you want your old time slot? Great. And what concerns, just actually asking them what are their concerns? Well, that's a really good point, asking for, back.
Virtual classes or online classes have they been very popular, a lot of people switch to that in Australia? They've been able to run virtual so, either live classes, so live group classes, mat classes, getting innovative with what you are using as props. So, that's been interesting. And some people have, set up so that the clients can buy stuff and, have it at home and that gives them that workout stuff. So people have done live classes, recorded classes so that they can be on demand and then virtual sessions, so private sessions.
Some, mat class, some people have rented out equipment so that they're able to do equipment classes, virtual equipment classes as well. So, like that's been like, depending on what your studio has, and, who your clientele are. It, that sort of depends on how you did that. I think the older people are liking the same idea of that virtual class, that one-on-one where I can tell them, what their alignments like all of those sorts of things, whereas I think the younger people are liking oh, I can jump into this class and I'll try that one. And it's a little bit more mixed up.
I've sort of, that's sort of just been my experience from talking with people. Yeah, do you think it's gonna stay, that we're gonna have this sort of hybrid between teachers doing online classes and working in the studio? Do you think that's gonna become like the new normal? I think the transition will be a little bit like that. And I think some people will take that as their new business model.
I actually think it's a really good opportunity for people to take on that, that their clients have found an affinity with them and are really enjoying it. It's good for traveling clients, it's good for, people who can't get out, it's good for, people who work late. There's lots of people that can't get to your studio or struggle to get to your studio. I think it's a great way, it's really made us all think about how we do it, I don't think many of us valued it as much as we do now. Yeah. Or saw
that opportunity as much. So we've been thrust into that and I think that a lot of people will take it onboard and have it as an offering as part of their studio. And in the transition it might be a little bit more hybrid of, you do one class online, you do one this but then I think it will just become part of the general offering that you then schedule. Yeah, interesting. Yeah, obviously I come from the video on demand world.
So (mumbles) I'm Very comfortable with it as a way that, I do, I used to go to a pilates studio twice a week and I have a private class, I still have my private class, I have them in my home. But this, here in L.A. studios have not reopened. And, my teachers enjoying the fact that she doesn't have to drive around the Los Angeles road to get-- Absolutely. Knows that she works there and so. But some of the clients.
The clients are enjoying not having that stress of getting from work to get to the studio or whatever. If they're getting interaction, if they're getting that social interaction in other ways, for a lot of people, that on demand or, virtual classes, it, solves a lot of issues for them, gives them more family time and less travel, all of that. But a lot of people come to the studio for different reasons, and they're coming for that social connection. So for those people, they're gonna, they've been craving that, and that the sessions where they're having interaction, I think are working better for those people because there is that two way sort of discussion, it's about them, they have the opportunity, to talk. Yep, yeah.
Take you back to a subject we began to touch on. And if other people have any questions about what's happening in the pilates industry in Australia, please add it to the Q and A. I think because they're successful in really reducing the infection rate, I think that they have lessons for lots of people to learn. So please add the questions there. I wanted to go back now to the Australian Government and how they have supported your small business owners, by your studio owners and also what was going on for the individuals like you said they could be employees, part-time, casual worker. Yeah.
Now, explain the government programs for the small business, you're the studio and then go on to tell us about, now the individuals. For a studio owner, the government had grants, there's $10,000 grants for business owners, and they were grants, they weren't loans. Loans were available from banks and they were government secured. If you were, in dire, in need. And for some people that really they needed to take that up to be able to keep their employees, still being employed.
So the employers, so studio owners, business owners, were able to get JobKeeper, so which is a government allowance for businesses to retain the employees. So it's a set fee, it's a set amount, 1,500 dollars a fortnight and the employer pays it as they would pay wages, but the government reimburses. It was just that for employers, you had to have that money up front to pay for the first, I think it was nearly six weeks because it really, it only looked like a month. But I think in fact the ways that the way the pay dates worked, it wasn't, you had to have really six weeks. So, it was a big investment if you had a lot of employees up front, and with actually basically, zero income or very reduced income even if you went online, that initial phase of getting clients to just swap over you had very minimal income, at least initially.
So, that was a big thing but the idea then is you're helping your workers, you're keeping them, they're getting paid, they can work, they can still work for you, in whatever capacity is able, online, other duties. And, so that keeps you tied so that once you're open, you're ready to go. You know that people are there, they haven't found another job, they haven't, gone off and done something different, just to make ends meet that's actually being set up. So that was good that replied to employees that were full-time, part-time or casual, who, casual it really you had to be working for the employer for a year, 12 months. So that did, in some industries that cut people out and there was a, there's been a lot of discussion, argument about that.
Casual is a little bit more flexible. So that would be, you have three shifts a week but it's a Monday night or Tuesday and, like a Wednesday. So, that is more casual. It tends to be that the hours aren't as set and they may fluctuate. Right. Okay.
Contractor is different, is contractor you are paid a fee but you are then responsible for everything else, yourself, all your insurance, everything else, your superannuation or that is you're responsible for yourself, you're running yourself as a business basically you're hiring yourself out to that person. So in Australia in general that is not seen as the correct way for pilates studios to employ people. And that most, according to the Australian Tax Office, most people if you do their calculation, in general most people would end up in an employee situation, whether that be part-time or casual. Right, interesting, it'll-- There are variations but in general that's what we've found and there's been a lot of what people would hear, would call sham contracting. Cool, so and now I like to kind of move on to, what you have been up to, as President of the Pilates Alliance Australia.
Perhaps you can just start off by explaining what that organization is and how it fits into the pilates industry in Australia. So we're a professional organizer, we're a not for profit organization. We also are an industry body as well so representing the industry, to government and to various departments within government as well. We have about 500 members. So they're all sort of diploma qualified.
In Australia that's the standard for membership here, for our organization and for others, there are a lot of other, the industry is bigger than that. But, as a professional body that's the requirement to become a member, at the moment. We help set standards for pilates training. And in Australia we have vocational education. So that is, set qualification for pilates at a Certificate four level and Diploma and Advanced Diploma level.
So quite and that sort of all government defined levels of qualification and accreditation by the government for those courses. Right, so is there an exam at the end of those? Is that set by the government or is that set by the-- No that's internal, the exams are individual to the thing but there are guidelines, there are quite a lot of guidelines. So that they are, the training organizations are required to, there's a whole big order process, there are set guidelines of how things, how the syllabus you set out? How assessment is done?
What needs to be in place for students? what sort of safety guidelines need to be there? There's lots of criteria that they must meet there, which goes across all vocational things like hairdressers and plumbers, and, like that whole range of various trades and industries is sort of set standards across and then what we're trying to, what we do, is go well, they need to hit this level of pilates training. And so and just sort of working out that that, that's the big, that's the thing. And so that there is a standard, if you're a cert four, no matter what course you do, there's this standard of qualification and understanding as you come out and go into being employed.
Right so-- Because there's, otherwise it's very up and down and an employee doesn't know what they're getting. Yeah, so the government is sort of standardizing, if you've been at this level, and I think you just mentioned the level four then-- Yes, certificate four, yep. Right. And there's sort of set skill levels that would translate, it's that the type of whether you learn it's basically, can you interpret information? Can you understand information you'd like?
So there's layers of hierarchy of learning. And so, certificate four is at this level of learning, and that's the expectation across multiple industries. And then, so they've got, in Australia they're called AQf level, there's different levels for that different thing and that translates across multiple industries. Right. Interesting.
And how long have you been president? A year and a half, maybe now. It's been (mumbles). I've been with the PAA for a long time since 2000 and then I think in 2011 I started to help on a conference. That was sort of my first, get in and see what it's all about and do that.
So, and, a lot of work and then you just get in and then came on in 2012 I think. So, I've been around a while. Yeah. Seen lots of different variations of, things in the industry and just trying to keep moving forward with the industry. And I think that's the thing it changes.
There's, as in the States, there's lots of things and I think training is one of those things that is quite variable. The rise of the group, Reformer studios, that sort of thing that's quite different that's come about since I've, well, not since I've been president but since I've moved back to Australia and have been here that that was quite, that's quite different from how, we originally sort of saw pilates and how I still do privates and small group on, mostly on apparatus. So and quite tailored today. So that sort of made but there is this bigger, movement of studios, a lot of them don't have as extensive training as perhaps we do. Interesting, yep, it is interesting.
So, tell me what you, I know that you were very involved in the terrible fires earlier in the year but let's use this time to focus on how is the PAA helped since COVID started and all of these things have happened, what's your approach been? So as an association, sort of one of the first things we saw, everybody basically we, our businesses were shut down whether that was our business or our income, if we were, teachers. So we sort of, first up we did an automatic three months extension on everybody's membership. So we extended everybody's membership by three months. So that wasn't part of, their stress and their worry level.
So we did that for all of our, for all of our members. We also got our insurance company that do insurance for our members to give us a three month extension on their renewal policy. So that was for free, for a three months extension on their insurance. So that was it, that was a good win. I thought that was something really tangible that, they could then do, it covered their online teaching, and gave them a bit of a breather for knowing that that is there.
It took a bit of negotiating. But, when they saw that people's income was, either taken away completely or down, 80 and 90 percent, it really was, they came to the party with that. The other things that people were struggling with was their first day so we suspended the requirement for, to be current with your first date, while you weren't able to do it face-to-face, because that was putting people at risk, for them saying, I have, whether they had to go and do their first day. So that was suspended as a membership requirement until we can get back in the studio and those facilities will open up again. We've put on, we got out any of the workshop providers to try and see if they could offer their workshops as online courses instead, either as recorded or do them virtual.
So that was a really good way to get them to still stay involved, still have the commitment, if somebody had already booked for that they could still do it, gave people things, they're able to work on their self development or their up-skill while they were not teaching as much. So, that was a good way to do that and we just gave extra, additional points for that type of professional development. And then we really started to think about how else we could help members. So that was sort of, what we could do just with the memberships. And then we said what other facilities and resources do they need?
Like what are people needing out there? So we started to just toast regular webinars a bit like what you're, not to the scale that you're doing here, but we would get a panel of people and, get in talk about, whatever. We did different ones on legal considerations, how to teach online, what was working, what wasn't working, some of the funny stories of things that really didn't work. The horror stories, when you first go online, a bit of zoom bombing.
some interesting as we all were learning, it was good to hear that oh, my goodness that happened to somebody else, I'll be careful. So, those sorts of things and now we're sort of getting, switching it around, we've done a lot on hygiene and on, cleaning processes and what we can put that in either webinars or newsletters and gathering up all that information. We try to do an update on what the government said, each time we have a webinar all times, sort of say, okay well, this is where we're at, this State's ready, this State's not, this is what we've found out, to really, just help people. It's like, pilates news, instead of the other news just trying to keep up with that. And then now we've sort of trying to focus on, how do we reopen?
What are the processes? How can we support each other with that? And the business of getting back to, getting back in the studio. Yeah, yeah. What about your interaction with the government?
You were telling me yesterday when we were researching this, that there were these various phases that are tryna impact where pilates was put in the reopening. So it was, and it was passed from department to department. So it was really challenging to find out accurate information, in a timely manner in that first week. That was, it was a big challenge. They were scrambling, and it was, really trying to get on to them.
It's been a long time on the phone. We would, they said, please email in the form. Well, a month later, we're getting replies to those emails that we did, on that on that first day. So, that was obviously not a good solution because they were absolutely overwhelmed and not ready for all the questions. A lot of the detail that we needed to know was just not there.
They just stayed shut, you're up, you're categorized here, this is the general category and they're really we're trying to cut down sectors, so shut down sectors of businesses. And so they weren't interested at that early stage about any nuances within that at all. There were a few people, physios, chiros things like that were classed as nonessential health services. And so GPs and doctors and all of that and medical facilities. So, they were excluded and so the then, of who else fits in that category became our way to decide how we might be able to work towards, getting back to work.
So we started going, we're not a gym, we don't fit in that we'd go by appointment, this is what's different. The standard we can manage appointment, we can do one-on-one, we can then build two, small groups. So we hadn't a really staged plan about how we could get back, then it was the fact that it's indoor and that it is exercise. So, that's been the sticking point. So, so far you haven't been able to reclassify pilates studio in the same group as a physiotherapist.
No, no. So physiotherapists and chiropractors are at, classed as allied health and they have different registration within Australia. So there's an actual registration body that they are and that's probably quite a way forward for us to be there. A lot of that is requirement, is a university degree. As part of, that's actually the standard across those particular industries or professions, is that that four year university degree course and is pilates going to be that.
Does pilates want to be that, to be in that, to be considered equal there. We certainly see ourselves as allied, in that allied health sector. But getting to that same level of qualification and it comes with a lot of restrictions and, controls, as well, so, there's that side of, whether that's where the industry actually needs to go. And I think that's a discussion that we're really gonna have to have here in the industry, is how would we get to that? Is that something that the industry actually wants?
Or does that then provide that there is two sectors, there is that, providing a health service or providing fitness service. And, for my clients I would say that I do the full range of that depending on who they are. Yeah, it's tricky. And what they come in with on that day. So, that's an interesting sort of, question.
Yeah. And I don't think we have really an answer for that but it's certainly something we're gonna have to work with the industry here to find a way through and to see what that looks like for us. Yeah, do you think that the community is leaning more towards, tougher academic studies, the PT route, or stay in that kind of hybrid model or move towards more that the fit the gym kind of fitness thing or is it just a panel you talk to? The trouble is that it is the gamut of the whole thing and we can do tailored, post rehab work, various specialized to health conditions and to injuries and all of that, that is within that level of training that we have but there's also that side of fitness and that demand for, of the younger people or of a sector of the community that want that, that want that sort of level of fitness and that is pilates as well. If it isn't that, it's one or the other, it is all of that.
So, yeah, it does split the industry a little bit, but we want, we can't be split, we're too small, we need to be combined. Yeah. To have any say and that's the thing. I would bring up and talk to a minister or talk to their office and they go, this, I want to be listened to, I represent and you go and represent 500 people and that sounds like a lot initially but some of the other industries are representing thousands and tens of thousands. And so, that level of cut through and what you have to say, has to be very clear, it has to be very defined.
That's why we had this Return to Work Plan which gave them the framework of how we saw that we could apply their guidelines. So all of the restrictions and the information that they put out about, why, how they were keeping safe. We put that into a plan how we saw we could get back to work. Yeah. And so.
Were you able to provide, I know Australia is this massive country but were you able to provide your members with the tools to lobby their own local political entities? Oh, we did, yep. So once we had our letters and our message down and we had sent, now there was multiple letters to all levels of government and all health, small business, sports ministers, everybody. So, once we had done that sort of initial, here's what we think, this is what we can do. We want to get back to work.
Here's how we can do it safely within your guidelines. We then got okay, we're not getting the cut through that we want. So we then did a template letter for members to then send out to their local members and also to their State, their State jurisdiction, so their State health minister, the State small business minister because they, there's different States and they have all of those. We did get a bit of cut through when we, with the federal government but then that little bit of sunlight which seemed yay, here's a win, it was then cut down fairly quickly by the fact that that meant they said, you can, a pilates teacher can provide clinical treatment, if it, to patients, if it meets State guidelines, within jurisdictional guidelines. So that meant that yes, a pilates instructor would be able to provide clinical treatment.
Now we didn't define exactly what clinical treatment was, but that was to provide treatment for an injury or condition or whatever and have, all of that background, necessary background information, and recording, et cetera. But then, you go okay, well, I can do that if I work into trouble with the States head facilities that were, prohibited. So a studio had to be closed, a gym had to be closed, like their leisure center had to be closed. So, the facility was closed within the States. That was how they had interpreted that.
So, that it was you might be able to work but you had no way to work, unless you worked in an allied health practice and, not everybody does. But they were, said that made another level of challenge and, for a lot of people frustration, I think that's the thing, it's the frustration that that caused by thinking, okay, we should be allowed to work but the local, guidelines and regulations wouldn't, didn't, we didn't see a way through that. And down to the point that people would go to their local police station and said, If I open my health studio, will I be fined? And they go, it will depend on the officer that attends the scene of the crime. So, what do you put that?
Exactly. Very hard. So it made it very hard that you needed to be able to justify on an individual level. It's difficult. Yeah.
So, I've seen a series of questions from David here. Hope that we have given you the answers you want David. If there's something else that we haven't approached yet that you'd like, please add an additional question and I'll do my best to answer. Okay, yeah. But-- What else beside?
Is the challenge between, I guess if you have a pilates teacher working in a physiotherapist office, you could probably have continued working. Yes, yeah. But that information wasn't available until like, we didn't get notification until sort of well into April.
So, like it was, it wasn't quick incoming and it was a matter of us following up at all levels of government that even had that sort of cut through. And, of course, they're going, oh, we'll send it off to a task force. We've got a committee, we've got a, so that any communication was always, was often directed off to, somebody else. So, but, we kept at it. I mean, the first two weeks, I didn't teach classes virtually.
My job was full-time was basically, how do we get contact with government? How do we, what are the registry we're gonna send, who are we gonna send to them? Getting all of that and getting that stuff out. We ended up after that, we did our first blitz to everybody that we could, health ministers, all States, federal, everything. And then we go, okay, are we doing everything?
And we engaged a, advocacy consultant to really help us target, one, probably target the message and then target who we needed to be speaking to and help us try to get a little bit more, response.
Right. Thank you. So if people want to contact you, Sharan, should they do that through the Pilates, postulate Alliance Australasia? Is that the best way to get in touch with you? So yes, so on the website, there's a contact form.
We have there, so it's www.pilates.org.au. And-- So and, then just firstname.lastname@example.org, will get to us. So yes, any questions if you've got, want to know specifics, I was fairly general because I know it's a worldwide audience. But certainly for people in Australia, we've have been providing and our website provides, we've got a special COVID, information hub with what's going on in each State, which shows that they are doing, which is just recognition that they are meeting the guidelines and there's a checklist of guidelines for, hygiene for, client processes, for distancing and for staff, looking after staff and staff processes as well. Great.
Thank you very much. If you have any last questions, I'll try and answer those, with Sharan's help but, Sharan do you have a last piece of advice here? I think for everybody, it really is, we've found a lot of things about, out about ourselves in lockdown. And, some of those things have been difficult but there's been some really wonderful discoveries, with ourselves and with our practice. And I think that we need to take those, those gems that we've found and move forward with that.
Make that part of whatever else you do, moving forward. I think, got to take the best out of what's been and try to make that, move forward with you. Fantastic, thank you. Yeah, I think it's been a challenging time for all of us. And it is an opportunity to reimagine what we're gonna do.
Yeah, exactly. So, thank you so much for your time, Sharan. Oh, thank you. Everybody who joined us and we will be back here on Thursday with Braenda Anderson, who is the head of Pollstar. And we'll be talking about the kind of future of education giving this kind of hybrid online, in person world that we will probably be living in certainly here in the US (mumbles).
And kind of excited about that. But-- Now that sounds, interesting, I know that the education people here have been having to do both. And they've just been, they're allowed back in face-to-face now but they're still going to, I'm sure that they're, a lot of them are still gonna keep some of that hybrid model for their training as well because it's just so good for connection of people all over the State. Cool, Thank you Sharan. Thank you so much. Okay.
Bye, everybody. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you, thanks everybody. Stay healthy, wash your hands. Bye.