Honoured Members

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Over the years many Registered Music Therapists and others have made a significant contribution to the profession. To honour them and their contributions AMTA™ has created a number of awards including Honorary Life Member, Honorary Member and the Lifetime Achievement Award.

These are the recipients of those awards (in date order, starting with the most recent):


 Dr. Grace Thompson

Honorary Life Member 2019

Dr Grace Thompson is a Registered Music Therapist and senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne. Grace has worked with children, young people and families within the early childhood intervention and special education sector since 1994. In her clinical work, Grace developed a collaborative approach to music therapy practice with families guided by ecological theories and family-centred philosophy. Her PhD, titled “making a connection” was a mixed-methods study that found positive social and relational outcomes following home-based music therapy sessions with preschool-aged autistic children and their mothers. Grace’s research continues to explore the ways music therapists can foster relationships and social connection through participating in engaging and accessible music making.

Grace has presented over 40 conference papers locally and Internationally, and was keynote speaker at the 2014 National Australian Music Therapy Conference, and a spotlight speaker at the 2014 World Federation of Music Therapy Congress in Krems, Austria. She has published 27 peer reviewed journal articles and is a graduate research supervisor for PhD and Master’s projects at The University of Melbourne. Grace is co-editor of the book “Music Therapy with Families: Therapeutic Approaches and Theoretical Perspectives”. She is currently an Associate Editor with the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy.

Grace has been actively involved in service to the profession through her fulfillment of several roles with AMTA. She was treasure and co-chair of the Victorian Branch from 1995-1998, a general member of the National Committee from 2003-2004, Chair of Ethics from 2010-2013, and President of AMTA from 2014-2017.

Why do you think music therapy is important?

"Music therapy is a diverse profession, and this diversity is a great strength. In my work with children and families, music experiences create opportunities for family members to connect, play and share together. A musical-play space is a rich field of possibilities, as each person can cultivate their imagination and creativity, while also sharpening their awareness of others. Music therapists gently scaffold the music experiences to promote a sense of mastery that is often felt to be joyful and affirming for those involved." 

What was the most significant impact that you've seen music therapy have on a person?

"In my work with children and families, significance is captured in the small shared moments. It is those times where you can see in a child’s response that they understand the adults are following their musical lead. It is when a child anticipates that their parent is going to tickle them in an action song, or when they sing the next word or note in the melody. It is when a parent laughs as loudly as their child when something unexpected happens, or when they shed a tear because their child handed them an instrument to play. These moments of connection are the building blocks for growth and development." 

 Prof. Felicity Baker

Honorary Life Member 2019

Professor Felicity Baker PhD RMT, has been practicing and researching music therapy since 1992. She has held posts at the then Ivanhoe Manor Rehabilitation Hospital, University of Sogn of Fjordane, Norway, University of Queensland, and now at The University of Melbourne. Her research expertise is in therapeutic songwriting, neurorehabilitation, and dementia. Felicity has held an ARC Future Fellowship, an ARC Discovery Grant, and currently has three National Health and Medical Council research grants, two of which she is leading, and one where she is the international principal investigator.

Why do you think music therapy is important?

"Music therapy is an important therapy for the health sector because it enables people to flourish when they may otherwise be isolated and excluded from society."

What was the most significant impact that you've seen music therapy have on a person?"I have witnessed seeing music therapy enable a person who had a diagnosis of severe aphasia and verbal dyspraxia to access verbal communication for the first time. No other therapy was able to facilitate her ability to communicate with others in the verbal domain."

 Louise Miles

Honorary Life Member 2019

Louise Miles graduated from the University of Queensland in 1996 with a post-graduate diploma in music therapy. She has always had a strong belief that if AMTA was going to grow and have a voice, then it was important for members to get involved. So Louise became AMTA’s National President for five years and served on a number of committees within AMTA over the past 24yrs. Initially she served as a general member of AMTA’s National Council (as it was called back then). She also served on the Ethics Committee (twice), the inaugural CPD Committee, and has been the State Representative for WA for a number of years. Louise is now the branch secretary for WA and loves staying connected with colleagues.

As an RMT, Louise has worked across a range of jobs from special education, aged care, palliative care and private practice. For the last 15 years, she has been the senior RMT in oncology at Perth Children’s Hospital.  Ever eager to learn new skills, in 2020 Louise completed a Masters in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, including a minor thesis on the experience of RMTs working with infants. She now looks forward to exploring ways to blend these skills with her music therapy work.

Why do you think music therapy is important?

“Music therapy offers something of a unique space in which the patients and their families can be reminded of wellness and competence, particularly in the hospital environment. This is really valuable in an environment which has the potential to feel so disempowering. I love the way music therapy is a strengths-based intervention that is truly tailored to the individual’s unique needs – whether that’s energising, stimulating, motivating or calming. The shared experience of music making with an RMT helps give voice to those strengths and can traverse age, gender, cultural and spiritual domains to support meaning making. Most of all though, on the oncology ward, I have seen music therapy offer hope.”

What was the most significant impact that you've seen music therapy have on a person?

“There have been so many memorable moments of connection that it is hard to describe just one. If I had to think of what they all might have had in common though, it might be the way music therapy can help a client or patient feel brave enough to connect again with the world outside of themselves – either through speaking for the first time, engaging in playful music making and becoming less withdrawn, expressing a full range of emotions which then helps to regulate or connect with loved ones, or simply by allowing someone else to be with them in a difficult experience.  I have learned not to underestimate the impact a shared moment of meeting in music making might have for a client and their family even many years later – music therapy supports connection and re-connection, something that is pretty essential to human existence.”

  Mary Rainey Perry

Honorary Life Member 2019

After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1976, Mary worked for three years in Milwaukee before emigrating to Australia to take a position as music therapist at Willsmere Hospital. In the following years she worked in a variety of positions in aged care and with adults with a range of neurological conditions. She was also involved in the Victorian Branch of AMTA and lectured and supervised students at The University of Melbourne, including supervising clinical placements of the first cohort of music therapy students in Australia. She later shifted the focus of her clinical work to children and adults with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injury. Mary completed a Masters degree by research. Her thesis related improvisational music therapy to the communication development of children with multiple disabilities. She has published and presented her work at a variety of publications and conferences. Mary served on the AMTA National Council, then as National Vice President and President. She retired from work in special education and early intervention in 2018.

Why do you think music therapy is important?

"The powerful combination of music and the attentive human presence exemplified in music therapy has relevance throughout the life span and during a range of challenges. Music therapists are continually using their adaptability and creativity to develop new techniques and approaches and to use music not only to alleviate problems or symptoms but to support and highlight strengths and capabilities. As I used to discuss with my coworkers in special education, even children with complex needs understand music. They “get it”. This is despite struggling with so many other things."

What was the most significant impact that you've seen music therapy have on a person?

"It is very difficult to nominate a single impact or use a single person as an example. Rather, I remember many moments large and small impacting not only the individual but the larger environment around the person. Examples would be a parent gaining new joy in interacting with their child and appreciation of their capabilities or other workers witnessing a child with severe physical disabilities being able to initiate interaction and express identity and individuality."

Florence Holligan   Florence Holligan RMT

Honorary Life Member 2015

Florence Holligan came to music therapy after around 25 years of experience in general nursing, psychiatric nursing and pastoral care as a Sister of St John of God. She completed music therapy studies at The University of Melbourne in 1989, and worked both in psychiatry and in palliative care, establishing music therapy programs at St John of God Psychiatric Hospital, Brighton and Caritas Christi Hospice, Kew (both Melbourne). In 1995, she published the Clinicians’ Manual for Music Therapy in Acute Psychiatry. Music therapy led Florence into Guided Imagery and Music (GIM). She was a founding member of the Guided Imagery and Music Interest Group that operated for some years under AMTA™. She undertook GIM training with Madeleine Ventre from the Creative Therapies Institute, New York, and became a Fellow of the Association for Music and Imagery (USA) in 1993. She co-founded The Music and Imagery Association of Australia (MIAA) in 1994, and was its inaugural president. Florence became a primary trainer with AMI (and MIAA) in 1995 and was trainer for Level 1 and 2 GIM courses and co-trainer of the Graduate Diploma in GIM at The University of Melbourne for many years. She continues to combine music therapy skills with guided imagery and music in a small private practice in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

Why do you think music therapy is important?

"Today’s world is largely focused on the external, the economic outcomes, the results……and the inner, non-visible world often takes second place. (Maybe COVID 19 has changed that focus just a little?) Music therapy allows the WHOLE person to be addressed and honoured and nourished and cared for. It affirms the value of each human being, no matter how that person may present. Music therapy can offer people HEALING in deeply personal ways, without the necessity of aiming for a ‘cure’."

What was the most significant impact that you've seen music therapy have on a person?

"In my years of offering music therapy in a small mental health facility, I had the privilege of working with a young woman who had a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. She was estranged from her husband and children because of her illness. She avoided eye contact and rarely spoke to staff or other patients. She had frequent periods of hospitalisation, and also attended the facility regularly as an outpatient. On those occasions, she would stand in a corner with her face to the wall waiting for her appointment. She expressed an interest in the autoharp, and over a couple of years of regular music therapy sessions, she became warm, friendly and sociable, and proudly played her autoharp at the facility’s Christmas celebrations. Music enriched her life in many ways."

Helen Shoemark RMT   Helen Shoemark PhD, RMT

Honorary Life Member 1997

Dr Shoemark is Associate Professor of Music Therapy at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA  and an Honorary Senior Fellow in the Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne. She was trained in the first intake at the University of Melbourne music therapy course (1981), and was the first graduate to be registered by AMTA™. That same year she joined the Victorian Branch Committee, becoming State Chair in 1986. She chaired the various incarnations of the registration, certification and education committees from 1987 to 1993, was Vice President in 1992-3, and President from 1993-6. She has served several times as Scientific Chair and Convenor of the national conference, and was Editor of the Australian Journal of Music Therapy. In 2019, thAMTA™ initiated the Helen Shoemark Award to honour Helen's contribution to Australian music therapy as "an excellent clinician, mentor, researcher and educator in the field". 

Why do you think music therapy is important?

Music is a primary pathway to share synchrony with another human being; the skill of the music therapist is in knowing how to scaffold that moving, breathing, singing or playing together for the person who cannot achieve it for themself. When a person's psychological, cognitive, physical or social structures need intense understanding, the music therapist uses their knowledge and skill to help that person find their music to open, strengthen, recover or rest. 

We understand that the unique contribution of music to health, learning and well-being is its fundamental humanity.  While that shared experience of music connects people so beautifully, the skill of the therapist is in understanding the needs and capabilities of the person in front of them, and knowing which aspects of music they need to open, strengthen, repair or rest  in that moment.    

What was the most significant impact that you've seen music therapy have on a person?

Helping a father realize that his life's passion for music was actually a gift for his newborn son who was born deaf.

   Emeritus Professor Denise Grocke AO, PhD, RMT

Honorary Life Member 1985, Lifetime Achievement Award 2013

Emeritus Professor Grocke has held almost all the key positions in AMTA, including President from 1978 to 1981, and from 1988 to 1991. She completed her music therapy qualifications in 1970 at Michigan State University, USA, and holds a Masters degree in Music Therapy, and a PhD in Guided Imagery and Music (GIM), both from the University of Melbourne.

She established the music therapy course at the University of Melbourne in 1978, and for 33 years was Head of Music Therapy. From 1998-2012 she was Director of the National Music Therapy Research Unit (NaMTRU), which she established to promote research in music therapy at a national level.  She co-founded the International Consortium of Music Therapy Research Universities in 2002, which enabled large international multi-site trials to advance evidence for the profession.

She was President of the World Federation of Music Therapy (WFMT) from 1999-2002, having served three terms as Chair of the Commission of Education, Training and Registration. She has written extensively on music therapy and Guided Imagery and Music.

In 2012 she was presented with an Award of Merit, by the American Music Therapy Association, in recognition of service to the field of music therapy and in 2016 was made an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) for services to music therapy.

Why do you think music therapy is important?

Music therapy has always been important for the most vulnerable members of our society who do not have access to music themselves, either because of severity of illness, or restrictions caused by a condition.  Music is a fundamental right for all people as a means for engaging emotionally with a medium that is uplifting and inspiring.

What was the most significant impact that you've seen music therapy have on a person?

The most significant impact I have witnessed is in receptive music therapy, when the recipient is supported by the music and can feel an embodied sense of internal strength and resilience that is life-changing.

Dr Ruth Bright   Dr Ruth Bright AM, DMus Honoris Causa, RMT (retired)

Honorary Life Member 1978, Lifetime Achievement Award 2012

Dr Bright has been integrally involved with the establishment and development of music therapy in Australia. She was the AMTA™ first National President in 1975 and served twice, from 1975-79 and again from 1981-84. She was a member of the working party that established the music therapy course at UTS, Sydney. She has been a member of many committees and was State Chair for NSW for many years. Ruth is the Past President of the NSW Branch of the Association for Loss and Grief, and the NSW Branch of Australian Association of Gerontology, as well as the Chair of the Gerontology Foundation of Australia. She was also a co-founder of the World Federation of Music Therapy and served as President from 1990-93. She presented her first paper in 1966 and wrote her first book, Music in Geriatric Care, in 1972. In total she has authored ten books in a career spanning 40 years. She was awarded an Order of Australia in 1992 for services to community health and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Melbourne in 2002. Ruth is now retired.

Richard Thompson BA DipMusTh, RMT

Honorary Life Member 2009

Richard Thompson qualified as a psychologist before joining the music therapy graduate course at what was then Frankston Teachers College (now Monash University). He served on National Council from 1987-90 and 1991-93, and was Chair of Government Relations from 2005-6. He is responsible for creating the still widely used information booklet on music therapy for older adults. Richard Thompson passed away in 2009.

Sue Coull RMT Honoured Member AMTA   Susan Coull BMus(Thrpy), RMT

Honorary Life Member 2005

Susan Coull trained at the University of Melbourne with Denise Grocke, and was fortunate to undertake a three-month placement with Carol and Clive Robbins in Sydney. After travelling overseas she  joined the Victorian Branch of AMTA™ in 1990. She became a member of the National Council in 1992 and was National Secretary-Treasurer from 1993-6.  She was Chair of Ethics from 1994-96 and President from 2001-2004. Sue was the lecturer in music therapy at the University of Queensland between 2000 and 2001.  At the World Federation Congress in 2002, Sue presented a bid from AMTA to host the first World Congress of Music Therapy in the southern hemisphere. Sue was then appointed Chair of the Congress of Music Therapy  in 2005. The National Council  of AMTA™ acknowledged Sue's diverse and committed contribution to the profession through her many and varied roles within and beyond the AMTA by awarding her honorary status in the months following the 11th World Congress.

Christine Elliott

Honorary Life Member 1999

Christine Elliott was a physiotherapist by training, but recognised the power of music in health and was a stalwart of the Queensland Branch. She served for many years as Treasurer, building significant financial security for the branch which served it well. She is now retired. The honorary membership was awarded in recognition of her services to the Queensland Branch of AMTA™.

Dianne Allison MMus (MusThrpy), RMT

Honorary Life Member 1997

Dianne Allison served initially as Victorian State Chairperson in 1985-1986.  She was national Secretary in 1984, and became President first in 1986 – 1989, and a second term (1991-1993).  Dianne was the first Australian trained music therapist to take leading roles in the Association and heralded the new generation’s participation in the profession.

Helen Menzies RMT

Honorary Life Member 1994

Helen Menzies trained and worked as a nurse before retraining to become a music therapist. She, along with Moya Evans, was instrumental in the establishment of music therapy studies at the University of Queensland. She served the Queensland Branch for more than 20 years and served on National Council three times across three decades (1975-77, 1982-3 and 1992-3). The honorary membership was awarded in recognition of her services to music therapy in Queensland.

Margaret Evans

Honorary Life Member 1993

Margaret Evans was not a music therapist but was passionate about the role music plays in people’s lives. She served the association for almost 20 years, managing the professional administration service and maintaining the records. She was also Secretary-Treasurer from 1985 to 1992, in a time before computers.

Margaret Donald

Honorary Life Member 1990

Margaret Donald was recognised for her service to the profession in South Australia and for the accompaniments she wrote for the second Ulverscroft book, which was widely used with older adults throughout the 1980s and 1990s. She is now retired.

Wendy Taylor

Honorary Life Member 1989

Wendy Taylor was involved with AMTA™ from its first days. A music educator by training, she was passionate about the role of music in people’s lives, especially children. She was National Secretary/Treasurer from 1978-1981, a member of National Council from 1981 to 1984, and a founder of the Australian Journal of Music Therapy, serving as co-editor from 1992-96.

Claire Fedderson

Honorary Life Member 1984

Claire Fedderson was accorded an Honorary Life Membership in recognition of her work with the Red Cross Music Therapy Service.

Eleanor Barber

Honorary Life Member 1984

Eleanor Barber was accorded an Honorary Life Membership in recognition of her work with the Red Cross Music Therapy Service.

Moya Evans

Honorary Life Member (no year known)

Moya Evans was instrumental in establishing music therapy in Queensland. Renowned in Queensland as a music educator, she was passionate about music and early childhood, and the role music therapy could play. She championed the establishment of the music therapy program at the University of Queensland.