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Australia Facing Shortage Of Registered Music Therapists 

AMTA highlights clinical benefits of music therapy in treatment of chronic and complex conditions 

Thousands of people living with chronic and complex conditions including brain injuries, cancer, mental health issues, neurological disorders and autism will be unable to access clinically beneficial music therapy, as the number of Registered Music Therapists, or RMTs, across Australia is failing to keep up with Australia’s ageing and growing population.

Figures released today by the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA) confirm that with limited accredited degree-level music therapy courses available in Australia, there are not enough RMTs qualifying to meet future healthcare needs. The potential capacity gap, already quite considerable in some regions, is significantly more pronounced in the States and Territories without an accredited degree-level music therapy course available.

Currently, Victoria and New South Wales are the only two States that offer an AMTA-accredited course, yet the demand for RMTs still outweighs the number of services available, with statistics showing that the average ratio of RMTs to people in these areas is approximately 1:50,000.

For those States and Territories that don’t offer music therapy courses, the ratio is even more alarming, with Western Australia representing the highest disparity of 1:200,000.

As Australia’s population heads towards 40 million people by 2050, the need to create a more equitable distribution of RMTs across Australia is critical and requires AMTA-accredited training courses to be offered in more States and Territories.

To ensure Australians in all States and Territories have access to life-changing RMTs now and in the future, AMTA’s RMTs Change Lives campaign is raising awareness of the critical work conducted by RMTs, and is encouraging more tertiary education providers around Australia to consider offering an accredited degree-level music therapy training course.

To illustrate how RMTs change the lives of thousands of Australians every day through their music therapy practice, AMTA has created a series of animated videos and supporting interviews with music therapy researchers and senior practitioners, based on six different case studies in varying areas of health care – paediatrics, child disability, rehabilitation, adult cancer, mental health and aged care.

Released over coming weeks, the videos can be viewed on the RMTs Change Lives website www.rmtschangelives.com.au and the RMTs Change Lives Facebook page.

Registered Music Therapist and AMTA President, Dr. Grace Thompson, is excited to be launching the RMTs Change Lives campaign, and the opportunity to provide more insight into the clinical benefits of music therapy.

“RMTs are skilled musicians, trained to understand the impact music participation has on behaviour, cognitive processes and emotions, so we’re excited to be launching the campaign to highlight some of the impacts RMTs can have on individuals. Australia needs more RMTs and we want to ensure that Australia’s most vulnerable don’t miss out on the life-changing services that RMTs offer – we believe by raising awareness of the work RMTs do, we can increase demand for accredited courses in States and Territories that need it most,” Dr. Thompson said.

Currently the University of Melbourne and Western Sydney University are the only two tertiary establishments in Australia offering the AMTA-accredited music therapy training course, and both are turning prospective students away each year because of limited space and training capacity.

“There’s a clear demand for more RMTs’ services, not only from vulnerable people who require medical attention but students who want to study music therapy but don’t have access to courses. RMTs are a vital element of our healthcare system and ensuring their services remain accessible is our main priority,” Dr. Thompson said.

Background Information

As qualified allied health professionals, RMTs play a critical role in Australia’s healthcare system, changing the lives of some of Australia’s most vulnerable through music-based therapy techniques informed by research.

The RMTs Change Lives campaign is a part of AMTA’s ongoing efforts to raise the profile of music therapy in Australia to the Government, health care professionals and prospective students.

AMTA is the professional peak body providing registration and regulation for Registered Music Therapists (RMTs) in Australia and was formed in 1975.

To learn more about music therapy or how to become a Registered Music Therapist, visit www.rmtschangelives.com.au

Related population facts: 

There were 4.3 million people with a disability in Australia in 2015, which equates to 18.3% of the total population. Disability, Ageing and Carers Australia Report, First Results 2015 (released April 2016) – Available here.

The number of Australians over the age of 65 years is set to increase from 13.5% of the population in 2010 to 22.6% by 2050 (Treasury 2010). 

Key facts and figures about music therapy: 

 Registered Music Therapists (RMTs) can help people with acquired brain injuries, disabilities, life-threatening illness or mental health challenges to achieve wellbeing and positive health outcomes

 The RMTs Change Lives campaign highlights the growing need throughout Australia for Registered Music Therapists

 All Registered Music Therapists have a Masters or Post-Graduate tertiary qualification in music therapy from AMTA-accredited courses, including a minimum of 640 hours of supervised clinical training

 There are currently only two universities in Australia that offer an accredited degree in music therapy – the University of Melbourne and Western Sydney University

 All RMTs are registered with the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA) which abides by a Code of Ethics and Continued Professional Development program

About the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA) 

The Australian Music Therapy Association was formed in 1975 by a small group of music therapists who recognised that for the profession to progress it needed to have a representative body which also accorded professional standards. From the vision of that small group was born the AMTA and what is now the Registered Music Therapist status.

An RMT is a music therapist who has completed an accredited tertiary course in music therapy and who then maintains their skills through continuing professional development as approved by AMTA. Currently RMTs study for a Masters qualification at the University of Melbourne and Western Sydney University. Typically a Masters student’s undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Music, but other undergraduate qualifications are accepted if the individual’s musicianship is sufficiently high. The association currently has more than 500 members of which 475 are RMTs. This is a growing profession.

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