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History of the Australian Music Therapy Association
The Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA
™) was established at the first music therapy conference in Australia, held in Glebe, Sydney in 1975. The conference was organised by Ruth Bright, and she had drafted a Constitution for AMTA™, which was provisionally approved on Saturday August 2nd 1975.  It came into effect at the 2nd music therapy conference one year later.

Prior to the establishment of AMTA™ a number of significant events had laid the path for the development of music therapy in Australia. These events can be divided into two periods – 1903-1950, and 1950-1975. During this time many pioneers initiated music therapy in different parts of Australia, and in the early 1970s plans were underway to establish a professional organization, and Australian music therapy training.

Early History – 1903-1950

(This section is reprinted from Bright and Grocke’s (2000) Twenty-five years on. Music Therapy in Australia – The early history of AMTA. Note: The historical account outlined below is based on the archives of Esther Kahn (mentioned below) that were researched by Ruth Bright in 1987-1988, and on a search by Ruth Bright of the NSW government archives at the Dept of Corporate Affairs, and discussions with Esther Kahn’s niece. The Kahn family archives were lost during a cyclone in 1996).
Interest in music in healing has had a long history and in 1903 in the USA a society was established for the promotion of the therapeutic uses of music – the National Therapeutics Society of New York (Davis, Gfeller and Thaut, 1999), also known as the International Society for Musical Therapeutics (archives of Esther Kahn).  Those responsible for the founding of the National Therapeutics Society of New York were Eva August Vesculius and her sister Louise Vesculius Sheldon.  Their ideas attracted many writers, including the poet and journalist Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1855-1919) who wrote of this new way of curing diseases stressing the need for preparation and education of practitioners including the need for skills in music and in psychology, allied with a suitable personality (New York Journal 20/02/1903).
The Australian musician Esther Kahn, and her work as composer and teacher were described in the Sydney newspaper “The Sun” on April 21st 1938 along with the work of Mirrie Hill, Marjorie Hesse and Miriam Hyde.  There was a musical link between the Kahn family and the USA: Esther’s cousin Gus Kahn composed the popular American song “Blue Moon” and another cousin, Percy Kahn, accompanied Mischa Elman (an internationally renowned violinist) on his first Australia tour in 1912.  Whether it was through this family link, Esther became aware of music therapy in the USA and with a group of interested people set up an Australian association named the International Society for Musical Therapeutics (ISMT), stated as “an Australian branch of the American society of the same name.”  This was established either in 1924 (according to Esther Kahn’s autobiography) or 1922, according to a newspaper article. ISMT was formally incorporated in 1927 as a limited company.  The Memorandum and Articles of the ISMT stated the aims of the Society as follows:
“to advance the cause and practice of musical therapeutics (being a system of treating the sick by means of music, including mental, nervous and abnormal cases) by personal service, by distributing literature on the subject and by engaging speakers of workers.”
Other aims included: a) holding entertainment and concerts; b) setting up a library or libraries for musical instruments, both for the amusement of members and for carrying out the objects of the association; c) influencing the public; d) obtaining legal advice when required – especially regarding remuneration of persons for services rendered; e) furthering the aims and objectives of the association; and f) collecting subscriptions, donations, and setting up a club for member’s social needs.
Original subscribers to the company were musicians and other interested people: Esther Kahn was President, Randal Woodhouse, Professor of Music, was one of the subscribers to the company, as were Nellie Kay a piano teacher, and Ivy Wallace who was described as “independent”.  The Society set up a training program including a correspondence course in “Voice Culture and Breathing.”  A booklet entitled “Music-A life Renewer” was also published. There was an advanced course in musical therapeutics which included:
  • Relaxation
  • Singing of prolonged notes on the sound ‘OM”
  • Breathing techniques described as Circular Breathing
  • Philosophical theory that the world comprised “organised vibrations” with each person having a ‘keynote’
There was an emphasis on the receptive use of music to soothe those who were disturbed in mind, with reference to music having specific therapeutic effects. Music was intended to “cheer people up”, and any music that stirred people emotionally was forbidden including:
  • Wartime music for those recovering from the effects of war (lest it remind them of painful memories)
  • Religious music (lest it remind them of their eventual death)
  • Modern music (referred to as “futurist” music) as it was said to be “poisonous.”
An article headed “Music as Poison” in what appears to be an Australian newspaper 25/06/1922, describes the notion that modern music “grows on you”, creating a dependency on narcotic drugs.
On August 21, 1926, Esther Kahn spoke at the Lyceum Club in Sydney and described the effectiveness of using music for depression, speaking of specific cases, and she referred to work at Gladesville Hospital as having been in progress “for several years”, and having met with enthusiastic responses from medical staff.
Music Therapeutics at Gladesville Hospital (circa 1920-1930).
Music sessions were typically held on Saturday afternoons.  An article published in “The Sun” newspaper on Sunday October 16 1932, and titled “Music-healing in Sydney” described the individual and group work that had taken place for “over two years.” Although singing was part of the program, there was more emphasis on listening rather than performing. There was mention that people regained the ability to play the piano after treatment. The article also quoted American specialists in psychiatric hospitals in USA using musical therapeutics, e.g. at Allentown State Hospital and Central Islip Hospital in New York.  There was an emphasis on choosing music to suit each patient’s needs, presumably in accordance with the principles set out above regarding what music should, and should not, be played.
Cultural differences were also recognised.  W.van de Wall, then an executive of the Pennsylvania Board of Health, was quoted as saying that music is useful in curing jealousy and overcoming laziness!  But he also commented that the choice of music is influenced by the patient’s cultural background, an unusual viewpoint at a time when specific pieces of music were seen as effective for specific problems.
Documentation and Assessment.
The importance of documenting the music therapeutic sessions was recognised by the ISMT, and there were accounts of physiological functioning tests (including pulse and respiratory rates), which were administered before and after different types of music. Data was also collected about the mood of the patient before and after music, based on the patient’s own assessment.  The documentation and assessment procedures indicate the beginnings of a scientific approach to music therapeutics.
Colour and music (synaesthesia) was also of interest to the ISMT, and one meeting was recorded on this topic, which was attended by artists and medical specialists.
Applications of musical therapeutics
It seems that the early therapeutic use of music was only related to psychiatry, although in “Music and Health”, one of the booklets published in the USA by Eva Vesculius Sheldon, there is mention of music for a “mentally backward child” (p. 19) and comments on the therapeutic value of music in the penal system (p. 24). But these areas of work were not developed in Sydney at the time.
The end of the Society
It is not known what led to the demise of the ISMT in Sydney.  The Department of Corporate Affairs in Sydney recorded only that the association was wound up sometime early in World War II, and relevant documents are no longer in existence.  The Kahn family believes that the war, with consequent changes in priorities, and perhaps the voluntary nature of the work, led to the demise of the ISMT.

Early History – 1950-1975

The Australian Red Cross played a very important role in the beginnings and development of music therapy in Australia. In Victoria, concerts organised by the Red Cross began in 1949, and a Music Therapy Committee was formed at the Victorian branch of the Red Cross in 1950.
In 1954 a Red Cross Music Library was established in Melbourne and in 1957 the late Eleanor Barber, was appointed music librarian. She wrote the annotated music programs which were then distributed via boxed music recordings to hospitals throughout Victoria for discussion groups, often led by occupational therapists. In 1962, Eleanor introduced Orff instruments to music sessions for the residents at Kew Cottages (a facility for intellectually disabled children and adults). Another pioneer of music therapy who was employed by the Red Cross was Clare Fedderson.
The Red Cross Music Therapy Service was greatly assisted by a visit on 1968 from Sybil Beresford-Pierse, a graduate of the Guildhall music therapy course in London. (She later became the Director of the Nordoff-Robbins Centre in London).
By 1984, the Victorian Red Cross Music Therapy employed four qualified music therapists (all graduates from the University of Melbourne) and provided music therapy to 14 hospitals throughout Victoria (Boots, 1985).
Queensland’s Red Cross “Music in Action” program began in 1970, instigated by the late Moya Evans. In 1974 an interest group in music therapy was formed, which in 1975 became the Queensland branch of AMTA.  Both Moya Evans and Helen Menzies were integral to the development of music therapy in Queensland.
References for this section:
Barber, E. (1984). Red Cross Music Therapy Service (Part 1).  Bulletin of the Australian Music Therapy Association. 7(4) 8-12.
Boots, A. (1985). Red Cross Music Therapy Service (Part 2). Bulletin of the Australian Music Therapy Association. 8(1) 8-21.
Bright, R. and Grocke, D. (2000). Twenty-five years on. Music Therapy in Australia – The early history of AMTA, Wahroonga, Sydney: Music Therapy Enterprises.
Davis, W., Gfeller, K. and Thaut, H. (1999).  An Introduction to Music Therapy Theory and Practice.  2ndedition. New York. McGraw-Hill.

Early Pioneers of Music Therapy in Australia

Ruth Bright

(Reprinted from Bright, R. and Grocke, D. (2000). Twenty-five years on. Music Therapy in Australia – The early history of AMTA, Wahroonga, Sydney: Music Therapy Enterprises).
Quite independently, and initially knowing nothing of the work established by the Red Cross, Ruth Bright started work in 1960 at what was then the Parkside Psychiatric Hospital in Adelaide.  The Deputy Superintendent of the hospital, psychiatrist Brian Shea, said
“I want music in the hospital, but I don’t want it to be an entertainment.  I want it to be linked to the treatment approach of the people who will be referred to you.”
Ruth had obtained a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Melbourne, and armed with study in psychology she set about establishing the music therapy program. Assisted by the mentorship of the social worker, Beryl Frank (the only social worker for the 2000 patients), and with supportive discussion about the patients with psychiatrists and nurses, the music therapy programs began for:
  • Individual patients and small groups with acute and severe chronic psychiatric disorders, who came each week to the music room (which was equipped with a piano), for singing and discussion of music and its emotional implications
  • In-ward groups – which were mainly sessions taking requests for songs from patients, followed by discussion, and in the maximum security ward, using a portable harmonium, (a relic of the 1st War World Chaplaincy) which was trundled around in a pharmacy department trolley.
  • In-ward groups for persons with ‘senile dementia,’ (so named because the term “Alzheimer’s Disease” was applied only to people with early-onset dementia. Many years were to pass before neurological research indicated that the two were the same condition, but with different age of onset). Songs appropriate to the age of individuals, accompanied on the portable harmonium, elicited many and varied responses.
This period marked the beginning of Ruth’s interest in music for grief resolution that arose from seeing how people with dementia and/or psychiatric illness responded to particular items of music. Much discussion went on between RB and treating psychiatrists as to the potential harm or benefit in allowing or facilitating the expression of grief through music, with the growing recognition that it was not enough to allow grief to be shown; one had to find out how, if possible, to facilitate resolution of the grief in whatever way was appropriate. This was innovative work, in receiving individual referrals by psychiatrists, and in the planning music therapy to meet the needs of individuals.  Those referred to music therapy included patients with: paranoid-type schizophrenia with psychotic delusions, acute anxiety disorder, personality disorders, dementing illness (whether from stroke or other condition), and other disorders. Of particular importance was the realisation that group work was helpful in ‘case-finding’ as well as in providing therapeutic experiences through sharing in music. The benefits of these experiences were particularly clear when working with people suffering from narcissistic-type personality disorders, for whom turn-taking and consideration for others required major changes in behaviour and approach to relationships.
Ruth and her family moved to Sydney in 1962, at the same time as Dr Brian Shea was appointed as Medical Superintendant of Callan Park hospital. RB was invited to start music therapy, both group and individual work, in the male refractory wards, where no woman had previously been. This work had some hair-raising moments, but also times of humour and warmth, especially in the protective attitude of PUDs (Prisoners Under Detention) when it became obvious that RB was pregnant; she was barely allowed to lift a tambourine “that’s too heavy for you, love” came from the men who were so out of touch with reality, she was told, that they would not notice her condition.  RB was appointed Honorary Music Therapist, i.e., there was no remuneration, but she had access to patient’s medical records and was accepted as part of the hospital team, so that the work was perceived as music therapy. This was vitally important professionally.
Milestones for RB included the publication in 1966 of a paper “Music and Mental Health” in the journal “Mental Health in Australia” (no longer published), an invitation to speak to a meeting of the Royal ANZ College of Psychiatrists, and the completion of a survey on how music was used therapeutically in Australian schools and hospitals.  This formed part of her first book “Music and Mental Health” published by the NSW Department of Public Health in 1967.
In 1967, RB began work in the Geriatric Day Centre, and the children’s ward, at Hornsby Hospital. Here the piano accordion and portable percussion instruments were used at bedside. Weekly visits to the Multiple Sclerosis Centre also began, investigating the emotional impact of the disorder and doing research into the role of high ambient temperature on the coordination of persons with the condition.  This led to an invitation by the noted neurologist, Dr George Shelby, to sit in on his outpatient consultations (all patients gave permission for this) to observe the effects on human behaviour and health of a wide range of neurological deficits and diseases.  This was a valuable learning experience indeed.
It was not until 1972 (the year in which Bright’s book “Music in Geriatric Care” was published in Australia and the UK by Angus and Robertson, and in the USA by St Martin’s Press), that music therapy was established as a profession in the Public Service of NSW, thanks to the efforts and support of Dr Bill Barclay, Director of Psychiatric Services.  The qualification required for a music therapist at that time was the qualification from Guildhall (London), “or it’s equivalent,” and since no Australian training was available, RB was glad that her work was acceptable.


Denise Grocke (previously Denise Erdonmez)

(Reprinted from Bright, R. and Grocke, D. (2000). Twenty-five years on. Music Therapy in Australia – The early history of AMTA, Wahroonga, Sydney: Music Therapy Enterprises).
During year 3 of her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Melbourne, Denise Grocke developed an interest in music therapy for her future career as a result of reading an article on music for deaf children in the Journal of Music Therapy (USA).  A subscription to that journal had been arranged for the Faculty of Music’s library by Dr Percy Jones, who had supervised the PhD studies of US music therapist Dr George Duerksen (on the topic of aboriginal music).  On his return to the US Dr Duerksen was appointed to Michigan State University. Denise travelled to the US in 1968 and enrolled at Michigan State University in an ‘equivalency’ program (similar to a Graduate Diploma), supporting herself by casual college work.  On completing 2 years of course-work (including 4 subjects in psychology), Denise completed 1040 hours of supervised clinical training in music therapy at Northville State Hospital in Detroit, which then led to Registration with the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT).
In 1970, Denise (now Denise Erdonmez) returned to Melbourne and Dr Jones suggested she contact Dr Daniel Kahans who was then a psychiatrist at Larundel Psychiatric Hospital in Bundoora Melbourne.  Kahans facilitated the establishment of a music therapy position for Denise, which was the first in music therapy in Victoria (and Australia). The total patient population at Larundel was 550 patients, and initially Denise tried to provide music therapy for everyone, but soon realised that it was like “conveyor-belt” therapy, superficially trying to reach all patients. Subsequently she restricted her program to a few wards, providing a variety of music therapy sessions including singing, group improvisation, music and movement, and receptive music therapy approaches. This enabled her to provide music therapy at a more intense level. She also undertook further study in Rogerian client-centered psychotherapy and group therapy based on Yalom’s theories to enhance her skills. Between 1970-1980, Denise provided music therapy in all areas of the hospital including: admission wards, acute wards (patients stayed up to 6 months), in Fawkner House (a therapeutic community based on the principles of Tavistock Clinic in the UK), and the long-term wards.  At that time patients with Huntington’s Disease were hospitalised in psychiatric hospitals, and Denise conducted a small research project with these patients in 1976.
The Victorian Public Service Board developed a definition for music therapy in order to ratify the position created at Larundel Hospital. Qualifications required included a recognised degree or diploma in music therapy, or equivalent. This enabled other music therapy positions to be created in Victorian hospitals, and at one point in the 1980s there were 14 music therapy positions in the Victorian Mental Health Authority (as it was then called) covering psychiatric hospitals and centres for intellectually disabled children and adults.


Other pioneers

Pauline Walden. A graduate of the Guildhall music therapy course in London, Pauline came to Melbourne in 1974, and joined the staff at the Red Cross (with Eleanor Barber and Clare Feddersen). Pauline was a founding member of AMTA, serving on the Council and the first Certification Committee.  She subsequently held a full time music therapy position at Kew Cottages for intellectually disabled children and adults in Kew.
Marvin Barg. A graduate of music therapy training in the USA, Marvin came to Melbourne in 1974 as music therapist at Willsmere Hospital in Kew.  Willsmere catered for elderly patients and those with dementia.  Marvin initiated early meetings of music therapists and those interested in music therapy in Melbourne, and he held key positions in the early years of AMTA.
Enid Rowe and the early development of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy.
A further development in 1974 was the visit of Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. Their visit aroused much interest and stimulated greater understanding of music therapy with handicapped children.  This visit inspired Enid Rowe to study music therapy in the UK (in 1977), and subsequently the establishment of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre in Dural, NSW. Enid Rowe became Director, and Clive and Carol Robbins made several visits, and eventually lived and worked at Warrah in Dural from 1984-1988.
Early initiatives to establish Australian training in music therapy.
Denise Erdonmez and Ruth Bright had begun formal correspondence in 1972 about the possibility of establishing a training course.  Ideas and plans were exchanged, alongside discussions for establishing a professional organization. Some early discussions were held in 1974 between Ruth Bright and Rex Hobcroft, then the Director of the Sydney Conservatorium on Music, however nothing further transpired at that time in Sydney.  Plans for a music therapy course in Melbourne however were supported by both Dr Daniel Kahans and Dr Percy Jones, and in 1975 Ruth Bright came to Melbourne for discussions on the training course, as well as finalising plans for the 1st music therapy conference. Eventually the course at the University of Melbourne began in 1978.

The Founding Structure of the Australian Music Therapy Association

(Reprinted from Bright, R. and Grocke, D. (2000). Twenty-five years on. Music Therapy in Australia – The early history of AMTA, Wahroonga, Sydney: Music Therapy Enterprises).
The Australian Music Therapy Association was founded at the 1st Music Therapy Conference in Glebe, Sydney, in 1975.
The Constitution.
In the months leading up to the conference, Ruth Bright worked on a Constitution for the proposed Australian Music Therapy Association. The aims and objectives of the first Constitution of AMTA were to:
  • Establish and maintain professional standards for music therapists in Australia
  • Promote interest and research in music therapy by all possible means
  • Promote and encourage training in music therapy to the highest possible level
Other features of the Constitution were:
  • Membership was open to all interested people who paid the annual subscription fee
  • Certification was to be given to those who had appropriate qualifications and experience. (In 1990 the term ‘Certificated’ was changed to ‘Registered’).
  • Office bearers were to be elected at the Annual General Meeting, and the Council to consist of Certificated Music Therapists in the key positions of President, Vice-President and more than half the Council member
  • The President position should not exceed a 3-year period, and three years must pass before the person would be eligible for re-election to that position.
  • Matters pertaining to Certificated Music Therapists were to be voted on by CMTs, and could only pass with a 2/3rds majority.
  • Changes to the Constitution could not be presented and come into effect in the same year; they were to be foreshadowed in the one year, and ratified in the next. (This 2-year process gave protection against one interested party causing controversial matters to be changed by ‘stacking’ a meeting at a conference. The possibility was thought unlikely, but not impossible!)
At the inaugural meeting of AMTA, Ruth Bright was elected as President, Denise Erdonmez as Vice-President, and Colleen Westhall (who had been integral to the organization of the 1st music therapy conference) Secretary.  Council members included Marvin Barg and Pauline Walden. The maximum term of President is 3 years.
The Certification Committee
A Certification Committee was formed at the 1st music therapy conference in 1975, and comprised the three persons with overseas academic qualification in music therapy (Denise Erdonmez, Marvin Barg and Pauline Waldon).  This committee developed requirements for Certification that came into effect immediately. Under E2a of the Constitution, those with qualifications in music therapy (from abroad) were automatically Certificated.  Those with qualifications in music, or a therapy field, who also had experience in music therapy were assessed under E2b) of the Constitution, and those with no tertiary qualifications, but extensive clinical experience over 8 years were assessed under E2c) of the Constitution.  Within the first years of the certification process, the pioneers of music therapy had been Certificated, including Ruth Bright (NSW), Eleanor Barber and Clare Feddersen (Victoria), Helen Menzies and Moya Evans (Queensland), Marie Reynolds and Margaret Donald (South Australia).
The E2.c category allowing persons without tertiary qualifications to apply for certification was terminated in 1984, and later the Certification Committee was renamed the Registration Board, and is currently the Registration Committee.
In response to the needs of the profession, the Certification Committee has changed its name and formation several times, and at various points combined with either clinical training or education.  
Certification Committee                           1978 – 1983 
Certification & Clinical Training              1984 – 1990 
Registration & Education Board            1991 – 2000 
Registration Committee                          2000 – Present
In the late 1980s the association engaged an external business consultant to undertake a comprehensive review of both the association’s structures and the issues of the profession in the wider community.  As a result of this two year process, in 1990 the term Certification was changed to the more acceptable Registration.  Other structures  and processes within the association were streamlined to promote communication within the organisation. 
From its inception, AMTA published the proceedings of its annual conferences (1975-1988).  The newsletter began in 1976 with Ruth Sainsbury (College of Advanced Education, Armidale, NSW) as the editor. In 1978 the newsletter was transformed into a more professional publication entitled the Bulletin of the Australian Music Therapy Association. It was published four times per year, with articles on clinical work and professional issues such as ethics, changes to Certification, and reports from State branches.  It remained in print until 1990.
The fully refereed Australian Journal of Music Therapy was established in 1990, alongside Network, a forum for discussion amongst Registered Music Therapists.
The State branches.
In 1975 there was sufficient interest across the States to establish formalised State branches in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. Each State branch functioned according to the Constitution of AMTA.  The membership subscription fee was paid to the National body, however a system of ‘capitation’ fees was introduced in which a percentage of the membership fee was paid to the State branch, to enable them to conduct workshops and other activities of interest.
Education and Training.
Guidelines for establishing training courses in music therapy were developed in 1977.  These initial guidelines covered five required areas:  1) Music Skills, 2) Psychology Studies; 3) Clinical Studies of disorders and diseases, 4) Music Therapy Methods, and 5) Clinical Practice.
The first course in music therapy was developed at the University of Melbourne between 1974-1978. Dr Percy Jones and Mr Max Cooke were instrumental in getting the course approved through the University’s committees and the first students began in 1978. The course was a 4-year undergraduate degree, with subjects in music therapy introduced in years 3 and 4. The inaugural group of students went on to play major roles in music therapy:  Dianne Allison, Helen Shoemark and Alison Short all served as Presidents of AMTA; Renate Marek was the first music therapist to work in the Northern Territory, and Veronica Cosgriff relocated to Norway where she practised music therapy for many years.
Clinical training was set at 1040 hours of supervised training, and originally was taken after the end of the course.  However this was soon changed to allow clinical training to be undertaken during the course so that skills learnt in the clinical setting could be discussed and explored in class at University.
Denise Erdonmez (Dr Denise Grocke) was appointed inaugural lecturer in the Faculty of Music in 1980, to teach the undergraduate course, and subsequently expanded the program to include a graduate diploma in music therapy (1990). Both programs were merged to become a coursework Masters program (2006).  A graduate diploma in guided imagery and music was established in 1995, the Masters by research in 1994 and PhD program in music therapy in 1999.
A course in music for therapy was developed at Frankston State College from 1978-1983.  The course was designed as an enrichment course for teachers, and several graduates met the requirements for certification and developed careers in music therapy, including Richard Thompson, Jeanette Milford and Dot Newland. The course was initiated by the late Jim Ogden who had trained in the US.
The 4-year undergraduate degree at the University of Queensland was established in 1990. Moya Evans provided sessional lectures, then in 1993 Dr Jane Edwards was appointed the inaugural lecturer in music therapy.
Graduate diplomas in music therapy were established at the University of Technology, Sydney (1994) and Dr Alison Short was appointed inaugural lecturer to that course. Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy had created a privately-run Creative Music Therapy course at Dural, NSW (1994), but gained affiliation with the University of Western Sydney in 2002. Enid Rowe was instrumental in the early years of that course. Mr Robin Howat came to Australia from England in 1993 and made a major contribution to the training course now at UWS.
Later, in 1996, the National Registration and Education Board (now the Education Committee) chaired by Dr Jane Edwards undertook a substantial overhaul of the education documents, and validation of training courses was implemented in 1996. All four universities up-raded the graduate diploma courses to Master’s coursework degrees (2005-2006), and the University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland offer Masters research and PhD programs. All four universities
Annual Conferences.
Since the very first music therapy conference in 1975, an annual conference has been organised on rotation amongst the major cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane,  and on one occasion in Adelaide and  Canberra.  At most conferences a Keynote Speaker (often an international speaker) has addressed the theme of the conference. Since 1991, a Professional Development Seminar (PDS) has also occurred before the conference. The PDS is open only to Registered Music Therapists and the content focuses on professional issues.

Later History

Ethics committee
An ethics committee was established with the task of producing a Code of Ethical Behaviour for all members of the Association.  This first Code of Ethics was produced in 1978,which included guidelines for professional conduct, standards of practice, research ethics, procedures for enforcement on the Code and avenues of appeal. The Code of Ethics revised in 1992, and again in 2001.

Continuing Professional Development
In 2004, the membership of AMTA voted to implement Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as a requirement for ongoing registration.  This process was implemented in January 2005.