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):


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.

Emeritus Professor Denise Grocke   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 trained at a time when there was no music therapy course in Australia so she travelled to the University of Michigan for her undergraduate studies. On returning to Australia she created a key clinical position in psychiatry whilst working to establish the first Australian course at the University of Melbourne, which opened in 1978. She continued to lead innovation in music therapy training, with the first graduate program, establishing the National Music Therapy Research Unit at the University of Melbourne, and more recently implementing the first blended learning Masters of Music Therapy.  She was chair of the Education and Training Committee of the World Federation of Music Therapy (1992-1999) and became President of the World Federation (1999-2002). She is now retired from her academic roles, but continues to play an active part in the music therapy community.

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.


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 Team Leader, Sensory Experience in Early Development at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, 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 continues to be an active contributor to AMTA and the profession, including serving several times as Scientific Chair and Convenor of the national conference, and serving most recently as Editor of the Australian Journal of Music Therapy (2014-2016).


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.