Kia ora koutou, Greetings from Australia and New Zealand.
Once again it feels important to begin this message with words of support and sympathy for people around the world who continue to be affected by natural disaster, conflict, or other traumatic events. As we continue to experience unprecedented weather events here in New Zealand and Australia, we are reminded that there may be no place in the world that can provide the sense of safety we may have experienced in the past. This of course has significant implications for music therapists, and it is no surprise that we are seeing an important increase in trauma informed training and practices. It is reassuring to observe and experience how music therapists come together to support each other, and to provide comfort to members of wider communities, when times are tough.
However, we need to ensure that we are ready to respond, not only with our hearts, skills, and knowledge, but also with funding. In January AMTA CEO, Bridgit Hogan attended the Mental Health Equity and Access Forum at Parliament House, Canberra. The purpose of the Forum was to discuss ways to improve equity in service access, address gaps in services for people with mild to moderate mental-ill health and identify appropriate referral pathways for people with severe and complex mental-ill health. Bridgit was encouraged by the Government’s willingness to listen to people from across the mental health sector, but noted that
“Allied health, including music therapy, needs to be better funded if the Australian Government is committed to addressing the current workforce shortage and improving equitable access to more appropriate psychological therapies. Many Australians impacted by trauma or challenging mental illnesses may not have the emotional vocabulary to engage in traditional talking therapies. It is for these vulnerable individuals, that music therapy is often more appropriate, effective, and preferred. But right now, these individuals cannot access music therapy. This needs to change”.
Further, in these times of great stress, we need to look after ourselves. Music Therapy New Zealand is hosting a Hui alongside our Annual General Meeting in the Hawkes Bay 16 & 17 September, the theme of which is “Music for Self-Care: Enhancing and supporting our own Waiora and Hauora (health & well-being) as professionals”. Executive Officer Helen Dowthwaite notes that one concerning result of the recent MThNZ survey was that 46% of NZRMTh have previously experienced burnout, and 14% were not sure if they had. Recent weather events in our country added even more pressures and stress to the community in Hawkes Bay/East Coast region, and it seemsappropriate to run a weekend of workshops about self-care.
Regarding keeping ourselves and our participants safe, it seems pertinent to report on New Zealand music therapists’ ongoing discussions regarding the potential for music therapy to be a government regulated activity. Music therapy is currently a self-regulated profession, with voluntary registration offered by the NZ Music Therapy Registration Board. It is not regulated under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance (HPCA) Act (2003), which “provides a framework for the regulation of health practitioners in order to protect the public where there is a risk of harm from professional practice” (Ministry of Health, 2015). Music therapists are increasingly observing their potential to cause harm, so ensuring systems are in place to protect our participants is extremely important. Nevertheless, with only 83 RMTs in New Zealand, the process to join HPCA is not only complicated but potentially financially unviable. This is a complex ongoing issue.
These issues also highlight the importance of workforce analyses, which has been a recent focus of both the AMTA and MThNZ. The AMTA 2023 Music Therapy Workforce Analysis is launching soon. The findings will describe interesting facts about the current workforce of nearly 800 Registered Music Therapists across Australia including: 85% female workforce; 29% born overseas; 24% of respondents speak languages other than English, across 21 languages; 27% RMTs work in rural and regional locations. The NZ Registered Music Therapist Workforce survey is also complete, with an outstanding response rate of 65%. This valuable data will be crucial in the next stages of music therapy development and growth in Aotearoa. A full report will be included in the 2023 edition of the New Zealand Journal of Music Therapy.
Music Therapy New Zealand is continuing to consider the ways significant changes in the structure of our health system will impact on referrals and delivery of music therapy services, such as Child Development Services (CDS). Similarly, the AMTA is monitoring Australian Government plans to repeal and replace their Disability Services Act (1986). The review of the Act provides a significant opportunity to shape the vision and long-term direction for the rights of people with disability in Australia. AMTA was able to endorse the joint submission made by Disability Representative Organisations (DROs), and to correspond with Disability Support Services to reinforce the role of music therapy in rehabilitation and accommodation services. AMTA are also monitoring proposed changes to the 2018 National Guideline for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Australia. This document provides information on the ways autism is understood, assessed, and diagnosed in the Australian community, and AMTA is encouraging all members of the autistic and autism communities to contribute to the review.
While advocacy is undertaken by a wide range of individuals across a variety of contexts in both our countries, two more pieces of work warrant mention. Firstly, AMTA representatives met with the Australian Minister for Disability, to discuss the ways taxation can impact on the availability of music therapy. Secondly, Liesel Higgins, was recently appointed Board Director on the National Alliance for Self-Regulating Health Professions (NASRHP). The NASRHP set standards that satisfy national and jurisdictional regulatory requirements, including the National Code of Conduct, and this provides assurances to consumers they are receiving a quality service from a certified health professional. It is great to have music therapy representation on the Board.
It is also exciting to be able to celebrate the success of our advocacy efforts! In February the Australian Government launched its National Cultural Policy called, ‘Revive: a place for every story, a story for every place’. As part of the Policy, the Government is injecting pilot funding of $4.2 million over the next five years to support access to art and music therapy programs.
Music Therapy Week in New Zealand
Music Therapy Week in New Zealand was extremely successful. Of note is the fundraising efforts which enabled the production of the video ‘Please Believe’ focusing on music therapy with Becky, which had over 3.2K views.
World Music Therapy Week
Both countries enjoyed celebrating the very first World Music Therapy Week, highlighting and appreciating our skilled and talented music therapists. Stories were shared on social media and on the new section of websites.
Two issues of the Australian Journal of Music Therapy (Vol 33) were published in 2022 and are now available on the AMTA website. The 2022 online issue of the NZ Journal of Music Therapy was also published in December at https://www.musictherapy.org.nz/journal/2022-2.
Monica Zidar has been newly appointed as AMTA Vice President. Monica has an impressive CV, including being finalist for ‘Music Therapist of the Year’ at the 2022 Australian Allied Health Awards, and is a passionate advocate for the recognition, inclusion, and consideration of music therapy as a respected and valued allied health profession. Dr Lucy Forrest, who has over 20 years’ experience in oncology and palliative care, has been appointed Chair of the Ethics Committee. Dr Jason Kenner will be AMTA’s Mental Health Working Group Representative and Advisor. Jason has been a Registered Music Therapist (RMT) since 2005 and has a PhD in mental health. Chantelle Fulton has been appointed as AMTA’s inaugural Professional Standards Liaison Officer (PSLO). Chantelle is passionate about supporting RMTs to maintain their professional status, whatever stage of their career they may be in.
Following on from last year’s cultural competency workshop called ‘The Grounding Workshop’, in January this year MThNZ Executive Officer attended a comprehensive Te Tiriti O Waitangi workshop run by Allied Health Aotearoa New Zealand (AHANZ). The primary aim was to find out how theMThNZ can actively make changes to enhance our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi). In addition, council have endorsed funding for all council members and others who hold leadership roles, to attend a focused and strategic full day workshop exploring a revised Tiriti.
Constitutions and Rules
As previously reported, both countries have been working on a revision of their organisation’s rules. AMTA™ members have been invited to attend a Special General Meeting in May where the adoption of the proposed new Rules of the Association will be considered. This follows a process during which the board worked with Associations Forum and their law firm to review the AMTA Constitution and incorporate member feedback. In New Zealand, MThNZ Council are still engaged in this process with consultation meetings taking place around the county to ensure that all regulations in the Incorporated Societies Act have been considered and incorporated into the draft constitution, and that members’ views have been captured, inputted, and discussed.
• MThNZ Registration Board has organised an online supervision course for music therapists, to be held in August. The course is heavily subsidized for members, and completion of the course and the assessment requirements will enable attendees to gain an NZ Qualifications Authority credential.
• The Music and Imagery Association of Australia annual conference will be held in Melbourne on April 29-30 April. The theme of the conference is "Walking on – Exploring our new world".
• Music Therapy in Schools is a whole day workshop to be held on 23rd June, facilitated by Dr Meg Steele (Creative School Support) and Professor Kat McFerran (The University of Melbourne).
• AMTA is proposing to host a series of webinars suitable for all RMTs working with, or considering working with, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants. The content is designed to be relevant to RMTs new to the NDIS and experienced RMTs who have been working in the NDIS for many years.
• Performing Creativity, Culture and Wellbeing was an event hosted by the Creativity and Wellbeing Hallmark Research Initiative (CAWRI) and the Creative Arts Music Therapy Research Unit (CAMTRU) of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne. The event was underpinned by the growing need to value, understand, and develop evidence-informed arts routes to health and wellbeing for all.
• Supervision Training Supervision training is continuing to be offered by Natalie Jack, experienced RMT, supervisor, mental health practitioner and allied health leader.
• In both New Zealand and Australia, there is continued interest in drumming workshops, using approaches such as DrumPower and Rhythm2recovery.