World Federation of Music Therapy (September Update from Australia and New Zealand)

From: Dr Daphne Rickson, New Zealand
Regional Liaison for Australia / New Zealand Region

Date: 4TH September 2021

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


As I write this blog, New Zealand and several states in Australia are experiencing new or ongoing outbreaks of Covid-19. Yet as we juggle with family members for computer time, exercise on our deck or lawn, or line up for vaccinations and tests, many of us still consider ourselves fortunate that down under, particularly in New Zealand, there have been periods when we have been able to meet our colleagues and music therapy participants in person.


Music Therapy New Zealand Symposium

For example, it was hard to believe that we were able to hold Music Therapy New Zealand Symposium live in Christchurch, a week before the country was plunged into lockdown. An interactive workshop with the Cantabrainers Choir, a therapeutic choir for people with neurological conditions, was a highlight of the symposium. The choir members sat amongst us, and we sang together, pausing occasionally to learn more about the chosen exercises and repertoire, and to hear some choir members talk of how the choir has supported their recovery or quality of life. This was beautifully complemented by presentation reporting on songwriting with another neurogical choir, the CeleBRation choir, the following day. In other stimulating presentations, music therapists shared their work with children in hospital and schools, with young Takiwātanga (autistic people), and people experiencing effects of trauma; discussed processes of transitioning to a new position, registration, how music therapists might empower community support workers to use music to help adults with learning disabilities, and the weaving of indigenous music practices and beliefs with western music therapy approaches.

The symposium, with its theme of ‘Collaboration’ provided an opportunity for me to remind participants of what might be considered the primary aims of the World Federation, which are to foster the exchange of information and collaboration among professionals. Participants were interested to hear the variety of work the WFMT undertakes and to consider how they might become more involved. I have submitted a paper based on this presentation to the New Zealand Journal of Music Therapy, and hope this will encourage members in our region to engage with the work of the WFMT in an ongoing way.

We were so grateful that we were to be able to meet face for a wonderful weekend of music making, learning and collegiality. But we recognise that meeting and working online has become the norm for many music therapists across our Australia and New Zealand region, just as it has in many other regions of the world. And so, it’s not surprising that my blog predominantly reports, and celebrates, some of the ways in which music therapists have risen to this challenge.


The Australian Music Therapy Conference

The Australian Music Therapy Virtual Conference will be held on the 16 and 17 October 2021. The central theme “Amplify, Integrate and Evolve: the voices of music therapy” encourages music therapy clinicians, researchers, service providers, and service users, to reflect on the innovative changes that have occurred in our profession over the past 12 months. It is exciting to note that the keynote speakers are Dr Melissa Murphy who will speak on music and music therapy in the disability sector; and Dr Sue Bains who will discuss anti-oppressive music therapy. Two stimulating Spotlight Panels will bring together 1) music therapists from South-East Asia who will share their unique perspectives “of how music therapists are bridging larger intersectional themes of healing, amplifying indigenous music roots…” and 2) music therapists who work with people at the end of life, to explore “how music therapy can amplify and evolve the resilience and strengths of the patient and family, support wellbeing and living fully, facilitate moments of sharing and support, and provide enduring legacies”. Professional development workshops will be held a week earlier, on the 9th of October, facilitated by Esther Thane, who will be focusing on Meet In The Music (MITM), a music therapy curriculum for children with autism, and Andrew Knight who will be focusing on songs, interventions, and theories for early childhood music therapy.


Online Professional Development Opportunities

Lockdowns and the need for online interaction have opened a wide range of opportunities for music therapists to share and learn from each other. AMTA published an impressive list of fifteen online professional development opportunities, presented by a range of international music therapists, for members to engage with during August and September alone. ‘Local’ webinars by AMTA branches, such as the one discussing the importance of Critical Disability Theory within a medical dominant industry are likely to be informative, and to spark lively international debate. The WFMT webinars are also being well advertised, and we are looking forward to meeting online with Dr Michael Viega in just two weeks’ time. While it might not replace the richness of human interaction, these are exciting developments.


Online Vignettes and TedTalks

Australian music therapists have continued to promote music therapy to the public by sharing vignettes or discussing their work online. During National Stroke Week and on Cancer Council’s ‘Daffodil Day’, for example, the highlighting of beautiful vignettes and TedTalks offered the public helpful insights in the practice of music therapy.



Staying with online developments, the University of Melbourne are about to launch a feasibility study investigating a music therapist-supported program that uses social media and other online platforms to create opportunities for older adults to share music, stories, and experiences, interact and socialise, and build connections through music.

Music Therapy New Zealand’s first research webinar series was deemed to be a success and plans are underway to offer a further series in 2022.

Music Therapy Week New Zealand: 27th September - 3rd October 2021

Music therapists across New Zealand are gearing up to highlight what is happening in their local area. The intention this year is to raise the profile of individual music therapists across the country, and in turn to directly improve community’s and individual’s access to music therapy. The dates were chosen to coincide with mental health week.


Noho haumaru noho pai

Stay safe stay well