The ATCA Standard for Therapeutic Communities and Residential Rehabilitation Services (the Standard) was first approved by the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) in 2012.  The first edition of the Standard was released in 2013.  

This government-appointed accreditation body for Australia and New Zealand is responsible for providing accreditation of conformity assessment bodies (CABs) in the fields of certification and inspection. Accreditation by JAS-ANZ demonstrates the competence and independence of these CABs.

Approval of the ATCA Standard by JAS-ANZ brought to a conclusion more than 12 years of work by the ATCA Board, beginning with the 2002 Towards Better Practice in Therapeutic Communities project, and the development of the Modified Essential Elements Questionnaire (MEEQ), which became the basis of the ATCA Standards project, funded in 2008 by the Australian Government.

The ATCA Standard provides a two-tiered approach to certification for residential rehabilitation services and therapeutic communities. The first two editions of the Standard were designed to include (Performance Expectations 1-6) and therapeutic communities (Performance Expectations 1-13).  All Expectations were based on the Australasian Therapeutic Community Essential Elements (ATCAEEs) which were modified in consultation with the membership in 2002, to 79 statements, divided under three broad headings:

  • TC Ethos (21 statements)
  • Aspects of program delivery (50 statements)
  • Quality assurance (8 statements)


In 2019 a third edition of the Standard was produced. This third edition included an additional Expectation (14) addressing Governance and Financial Management; the intention of this change was to provide flexible, cost effective options for agencies seeking certification/accreditation under the Standard.


In addition to the ATCA Standard, the ATCA Board in consultation with the membership, has developed a series of Interpretive Guides to provide examples of the way in which the criteria contained in the ATCA Therapeutic Communities and Residential Rehabilitation Services Standard might be applied. They are not intended to be a definitive guide, but rather to provide a framework for reviewers and agencies to both prepare for and to review against the ATCA Therapeutic Communities and Residential Rehabilitation Services Standard.

The First Interpretive Guide to the Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association Standard for Therapeutic Communities and Residential Rehabilitation Services was released in July 2013.  This was followed in 2015 by the Interpretive Guide for Youth Therapeutic Communities and Residential Rehabilitation Services.  The second edition of this guide (March 2017) is included below.

A special working group was then established to develop a third Interpretive Guide – this time the Interpretive Guide for Therapeutic Communities and Residential Rehabilitation Services working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Clients and Residents.  This Interpretive Guide has been designed for use by Residential Rehabilitation and Therapeutic Community services whose prime population are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resident and client groups.

ATCA has formed a partnership with Breaking New Ground (BNG) to offer ATCA members and organisations wishing to adopt the ATCA Standard, with an online service that provides an easy, electronic system for managing quality, risk and compliance.   The Standards and Performance Pathways (SPP) is a patented online platform and integrated quality management system for service provider organisations and assessors.

ATCA has its own tailored version of the SPP – the ATCA Quality Portal, carrying the ATCA Standard for Therapeutic Communities and Residential Rehabilitation Services. The ATCA Quality Portal features quality standards assessments, an automatically generated quality improvement plan, with guides and resources to support organisations in meeting the ATCA Standard, as well as other relevant quality or service standards.

Through the standards cross referencing system, a way of completing multiple sets of standards through a single assessment process is provided. It also provides progress graphs, benchmarking, global reporting, as well as a document management system and compliance registers, with calendar and email alerts.

The general SPP is now used widely by service providers, peak bodies and government departments throughout Australia. For more information about the ATCA Quality Portal and the 15% discount to ATCA members, please refer to the information below.


Please download the ATCA Standard and Interpretive Guide below: