I am pleased to share the following update from the Australia/New Zealand region.
Celebrations and Congratulations!
This week, in New Zealand, we are celebrating our national holiday, Matariki. Matariki marks the start of the Māori New Year. This is the first year in which this special occasion has been marked with a public holiday. Signified by the Matariki cluster of stars reappearing in our night sky, this is a time when we reflect on the past year, celebrate the present, and plan for the year ahead. Music therapists might be interested to listen to Songs that celebrate Matariki | Te Papa.
Dr Daphne Rickson, New Zealand RMT, was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to music therapy in the Queen's Birthday and Platinum Jubilee Honours. This is a wonderful personal milestone, but also an important recognition for music therapy in New Zealand.
Prof Felicity Baker and the team of music therapy researchers at The University of Melbourne have had their work published in the prestigious Lancet journal series. Positive findings from the Australian cohort of a larger international randomised controlled trial found group singing interventions developed and supervised by RMTs significantly reduced depression and neuropsychiatric symptoms for people living with dementia in residential aged care.
Music therapists Iani Sojuno and Rob Devlin from Sound Expression in Sydney Australia were listed as State Finalists in the 2022 Telstra Best of Business Awards. These awards are prestigious and fiercely competitive (24,000 businesses entered!) so to be listed amongst a select few was an important achievement and powerful advocacy for music therapy.
We also congratulate Drs Carolyn Shaw (New Zealand) and Jennifer Bibb (Australia) on their significant invitations to be keynote speakers at the Australian Music Therapy Association's 2022 conference.
Australian Music Therapy Conference
Music therapists on both sides of the Tasman are very excited about the upcoming conference, which will be held in Melbourne from 30 September to 1 October. This will be a hybrid conference with both face-to-face and online options and, as noted above, Drs Carolyn Shaw and Jennifer Bibb will offer keynote addresses. The theme focuses on mental health and well-being, and music therapists will be considering how they can move beyond humanistic approaches which focus on the potential of the individual. That is, they will be exploring how music therapy impacts families, groups, communities and how music therapists can advocate for broader changes in the systems that are responsible for many challenges people face.
Music therapists in Australia are continuing to offer webinars on topics such as growing music therapy in regional rural and remote Australia; music therapy and mental health; neurological music therapy and mindfulness. AMTA is again offering a New Graduate Webinar Series in 2022 with a series of short workshops to provide new graduate RMTs with an overview of the professional body of AMTA, the professional standards that they will have to participate in (CPD, Recency of Practice, & Provisional Year requirements) and an opportunity to meet the AMTA Board Members. Special interest groups such as that for music therapists working in schools have also continued to meet via zoom. Face-to-face workshops have continued too, including those focusing on music and imagery, and drum circle facilitation.
In New Zealand music therapists have had the opportunity to join a webinar to learn about cloud software that has been tailored for music therapists, by music therapists, to support the organisation of practice, tracking sessions, assessment processes, organisation of client files, collection of qualitative and quantitative documentation, and the generation of clinical reports.
As reported in my earlier blogs the AMTA engages in a range of advocacy efforts to promote music therapy, to ensure equitable access for those who would benefit from it, and to ensure a sustainable and successful music therapy workforce. Australia has recently appointed a new government, so the AMTA has renewed efforts to work with them to ensure access to music therapy for those Australians who need it most. Priority advocacy areas are currently aged care, disability, mental health, and workforce. This is reflected in the AMTA Facebook page which has many examples of commentaries demonstrating how crucial music therapists are in the multidisciplinary allied health care workforce. In other examples AMTA has
- recently added a new page to their website’s public resources, which enables people to learn more about music therapy and mental health: https://www.austmta.org.au/consumers-resources/music-therapy-for-mental-health/.
- music therapists have been encouraged to invite children with autism to participate in Autism CRC self-advocacy projects, where they can communicate their experiences of music therapy. Autism CRC is leading the development of a national practice guideline to support the development and participation of children on the autism spectrum.
- AMTA’s has initiated a workforce survey to help them understand more about the location distribution and diversity of the music therapy workforce in Australia and to inform future workforce strategy for the profession.
In New Zealand, MThNZ are focusing on updating their strategic plan for the next two years. Bicultural relationships and the importance of honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi are central to this work. MThNZ have established a bicultural relationship working group, and as a next step members will be working at a local level to share their perspectives, learn from each other, and discover strategies we can adopt to work towards a more culturally safe profession.
MThNZ are contributing to the NZ Ministry of Education pay equity review for therapists working in special education contexts. The aim is to ensure the ministry are aware of the roles, expertise and responsibilities of music therapists working in schools. MThNZ will also provide a literature review to this project.
Advocacy also continues within communities. For example, to celebrate Hospice Awareness week in New Zealand, people who work in hospices around the country, including music therapist Keryn Squires, shared stories in a heart-warming video series. Keryn spoke about the various ways music therapy can support people during their end-of-life process.
- Helen Dowthwaite has been appointed Executive Officer of MThNZ.
- Stephen Guerin has been appointed new interim Chair of MThNZ (up until elections at the AGM in August).
Over recent years, around the world, it seems that people are experiencing one crisis after another. We are constantly confronted with the effects of pandemic, war, natural disasters, while also managing localised and personal potentially traumatic events. We need to look after ourselves, and each other. I wish you all well.
Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa.
Let us keep close together, not wide apart.