Our History

In 2022, we celebrate 40 years of the Australian Hand Therapy Association.

The idea of an Association of Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists interested in the treatment of upper limb injury and disease was first discussed on 31 August 1982. The purpose of the Association was to establish communication with other hand therapy groups and continue the growth of the profession in this specialised field. 

Just over 1 month later on the 16th October 1982 a formal meeting was held in Sydney, present were Jill Chapman from Victoria, Esther May from South Australia and Judith Morrin, Wilma Walsh, Peggy Whyment and Judith Hague, all from New South Wales. On this day, the Australian Hand Therapy Association (AHTA) was born. 

On 12 November 1983, a meeting was held in Canberra. According to the minutes of this meeting, eight therapists became members, and five applications for membership were received and tabled. 

In 1984 the first AGM was held in conjunction with the inaugural clinical conference in Ballarat, Victoria. Also, the AHTA received a letter of congratulations for the formation of a national association in Australia from Judy Colditz on behalf of the ASHT International Affairs Committee. Inaugural Member Elected Office Bearers: President – Jill Chapman, Secretary/Treasurer – Ester May, Assistant Secretary – Suzanne Clements, Education and Resources Officer – Naomi White (nee Buesnal). From humble beginnings, the AHTA went from strength to strength due to the enormous amount of work, passion and belief from our inaugural therapists and their successors.

1985 The first newsletter was produced by Wilma Walsh. 

1986 The third tier of membership, Affiliate membership, was introduced. Criteria for maintenance of AHTA membership was established. The International Federation of Societies of Hand Therapists (IFSHT) was formed in 1986 which the AHTA promptly joined. Wilma Walsh was elected President and appointed as the AHTA’s representative. 

1987 An executive committee was elected and the secretariat was established. NSW, QLD, SA and VIC had appointed representatives to act as contacts between state members and the executive committee. The first issue of the Journal of Hand Therapy was produced by the ASHT. 

1988 The First logo of the AHTA is developed and printed on formal letterhead and the Jill Chapman Award is conceived. 

1991 The inaugural Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) examinations were held in the USA. A number of Australian therapists achieved certification in this inaugural year: Suzanne Caragianis, Beth McNeish, Rosemary Prosser and Anne Wajon. Wilma Walsh became the first Australian corresponding editor of the American Journal of Hand Therapy. 

1993 Due to increasing membership and membership diversity the constitution was revised and new membership criteria developed. 

1995 AHTA’s first mission statement is developed and the formation of Marketing, Scholarship, Education committees. A Certification committee was also formed but was dropped when the US CHT exam was made available to Australia. 

1996 Total membership increases to 94. 

1997 The AHTA is incorporated under the Queensland Associations Incorporation Act 1981 and employed a professional secretariat, Ray Httenmeister, who gave his valuable experience and guidance to the AHTA for the next nine years. 

2000 The AHTA cements its place on the World Wide Web with the establishment of a website. 2002 Appointment of a professional conference organiser and the allocation of $5000 for research activities. 

2005 Judith Wilton was commissioned to develop Certificate Level Splinting courses: Level 1 (Static or Immobilising) and Level 2 (Mobilising: Dynamic and Serial Progressive). The number of courses provided by the AHTA continues to grow and now includes Advanced Trauma, Fundamentals of Hand Therapy and an introductory course Hand Therapy 101. 

2006 Lorelei & David Broadbent of Agenda Management were appointed secretariat of the AHTA. 2007Australia hosted the Congress of the IFSSH & IFSHT in Sydney. A 5 year Strategic Plan is developed. 

2009 The new logo is launched and membership numbers grow to 353. 2010 A New AHTA website is launched and a new role of Historian is developed with Adrian Jollow appointed.  Sarah Dixon was appointed as Administration Manager in July 2010. 

2015 Accreditation Steering Committee is appointed to develop an Australian Based Hand Therapy Credential.  Sarah Dixon was appointed the Executive Support Manager of (Operations) and we welcomed Kate Noller as Executive Support Manager of (strategy) 

2016 Anne Wajon became the first Australian President of the IFSHT. 

2017 The AHTA files Trademark applications with IP Australia.  

2018 The Accredited Hand Therapist credential as awarded by the Australian Hand Therapy Association is introduced in January and membership numbers grow to 800+. A new website is launched with the inclusion of an Association Management System. Kelly Toner is appointed as Events and Communications Officer and in 2018-19 the association conducts 24 courses including three levels of courses: Introductory: Introduction to Hand Therapy; Core: Fundamentals of Hand Therapy; Advanced Open Trauma' Closed Trauma; and Orthotics Mobilisation and Electives specifically designed for the Accredited Hand Therapist credential including Arthritis; Assessment and Treatment of the Wrist; Elbow and Orthotics Immobilisation. 

2019 Trademark applications are accepted by IP Australia.  

2020 Wendy Rowland is appointed Chief Executive Officer. Kate Noller and Kelly Toner resign. Keri Torney commences as an Education Coordinator. Pain Management Skills is added to the suite of elective courses. 

2021 Members vote to accept a new Constitution, a first step in the process to change the structure from an incorporated association to a company limited by guarantee and regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. 

2022 Michelle Albert replaces Keri Torney to provide education and membership services. Christina Harwood, Accredited Hand Therapist, QLD, is employed part-time as the associations inaugural clinical member of staff. A new elective course, Fracture Management is added to the list of available courses and it is presented in March, in Melbourne for the first time.  

18 May 2022 The Association becomes a company limited by guarantee, regulated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). The Committee of Management becomes a Board of Directors.