February Update from Australia and New Zealand

I am pleased to share the following update from the Australia/New Zealand region.

2023 World Congress of Music Therapy

The most important news from our region at this time is the announcement that after much deliberation, the AMTA Board in consultation with the World Federation of Music Therapy Council has made the difficult decision to withdraw the offer to host World Congress of Music Therapy 2023 in Melbourne. The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic has made the proposition unviable.


The recently published 2020 New Zealand Journal of Music Therapy includes a collaborative article, authored by 16 music therapists, discussing their responses to the pandemic; and the Australian Journal of Music Therapy is planning a Special Edition for publication in 2021, that highlights the innovative practices that Australian Music Therapists have developed and adopted during this time.

Practitioner Activity in New Zealand

While 2020 was certainly a strange and difficult year for us all, the majority of New Zealanders have the privilege of being relatively unaffected by the COVID 19. As two of our neurological choir leaders note, “we all feel so fortunate to be able to sing together again, while so many people around the world are still unable together in person”.

Regional groups have continued to be active with meetings, sharing resources, and workshops as possible; supporting each other to maintain resilience during these difficult times; and developing telehealth initiatives. During Music Therapy Week in October, many music therapists were still able to successfully facilitate many activities to increase awareness of our profession.


We were delighted to learn two New Zealand Registered Music Therapists, Kimberly Wade and Alison Talmage, have been awarded Kiwi Bank Local Hero medals for their work with people living with neurological conditions. Each year 100 medals are awarded to people who are doing extraordinary things in their local communities.

Upcoming Events

Music Therapy New Zealand symposium (focusing on collaborative work with allied health professionals) and AGM in Christchurch, August 13-15.

MThNZ Activities

Music therapy New Zealand:

  • Held a successful AGM in September.
  • Has been reviewing internal and external communication strategies, optimising the website to ensure it is a vital communication platform. The work is due to be completed in March.
  • Is focusing advocacy efforts in 2021 on progressing professional relationships with the government’s Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) and the Health Professionals Competency Association (HPCA); obtaining funding to maximise possibilities that the Aotearoa Crisis Intervention special interest group will be able to respond meaningfully to m
  • Music therapists and communities affected by crises; and working with the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University of Wellington, to support the successful integration of students and graduates into the music therapy community.
  • Has updated the Code of Ethics for the Practice of Music Therapy in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the new document is available at https://www.musictherapy.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/PS1-Code-of-Ethics-2020-Final-8-Sep.pdf. The Standards of Practice have also been revised and have been distributed for international consultation.
  • Are considering the adoption of te reo Māori (Māori language) term for music therapy, ‘haumanu ā-puoro’. Haumanu ā-puoro is a concept recently developed by language consultant Keri Opai. Hau means wind while manu is a bird - so therapy is interpreted as wind beneath the bird’s wings that helps it to fly and prosper. The Māori name of Music Therapy New Zealand is Te Roopu Puoro Whakaora O Aotearoa (Healing Music Group, New Zealand).

AMTA Activities

The Australian Music Therapy Association:

  • Facilitated an enriching online conference in November 2020. The 46th National Conference, ‘Connection: Evolving, Reflecting, Responding’, included moving keynotes by Dr Marisol Norris and Prof Susan Hadley who called for music therapists to reflect on and explore more deeply issues of systemic injustice and unconscious bias that influence music therapy practices. The conference also celebrated Australian music therapists innovative and inspirational responses to the pandemic including the utilisation of online and other delivery approaches, some of which may continue in the future beyond this emergency.
  • Held a successful AGM in October with 134 members present online.
  • Continues to liaise closely with Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) and the Department of Health advocating for music therapy's inclusion in Medicare Benefits Schedule funding scheme.
  • Have been contributing to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. The final hearing culminated in 124 proposed recommendations, one of which specifically mentions music therapy and/or art therapy to be provided in approved aged care facilities by 2024. .
  • Are continuing to work with the Mental Health Productivity Commission to ensure consumers have equitable access to mental health music therapy services.
  • Were represented at the Vision 2030 Blueprint and Roadmap for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention - Consultation Forum. Dr Jen Bibb and Prof Katrina Skewes McFerran advocated for a consumer-focused approach to mental health and suicide prevention that supports equitable access to a broader range of consumer preferred allied health treatments (including music therapy).
  • Successfully advocated, with the support of allied health colleagues, for funding to support music therapy clinical placements and new graduates within the state of Victoria's Public Health Services.
  • Contributed, via their Disability Working Group, to the National Disability Strategy; the proposed Independent Assessments process proposed by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); and the NDIS strategic plan. The primary focus of the Disability Working Group is to maintain and increase the music therapy workforce within the disability sector. They have been successful in including AMTA voice in critical NDIS planning issues.

Contact Information:

Dr Vicky Abad completed her 3 year term as AMTA’s President with Dr Jeanette Tamplin commencing as AMTA’s new President.

Dr Jennifer Bibb has been appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Journal of Music Therapy.

Prof Katrina Skewes McFerran has taken up a new appointment with AMTA as Mental Health Advisor on AMTA’s Industry Engagement Committee.

Hannah Halloran has joined the AMTA and will provide support to the Board/EO and Industry Engagement Committee to develop an advocacy plan that raises awareness of music therapy and promotes its inclusion in public health policies.

Linda Webb has stepped down as Chairperson of Music Therapy New Zealand. Helen Dowthwaite has been appointed Chairperson, supported by Amanda Reid in the interim.

Devon Brooks is moving to South America and has resigned as chair of the MThNZ Aotearoa Crisis Intervention Special Interest Group but will remain on the WFMT Global Crisis Intervention Commission.


Dr Daphne Rickson

Regional Liaison, Australia and New Zealand

World Federation of Music Therapy

Associate Professor (Music Therapy)

New Zealand School of Music—Te Kōkī

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington