History of The Diversional Therapy Association of Australia from 1976 - 1996

This history was presented at the 18th Annual Convention of the Diversional Therapy Association of Australia Hosted by New South Wales 18th and 19th May 1996.


The Australian Red Cross selected students and trained them in handcraft as a diversional therapy activity under the direction of Miss Leila Bloore. The courses ran from 1945 until 1976.

The mid 1960’s saw a greater awareness of the need to improve the quality of care of the increasing aged population. Part of this care included craft, recreation and social activities. New teaching positions were created in day care and community centres, nursing homes and hospitals, and the Royal Blind Society, etc.

It was then recognised that diversional activities were far broader than handcraft alone, and that those offering this service should have the skills and expertise to adapt, modify and instruct a client in the performance of many and varied activities, thus assuring a greater interest and more participation for all clients.

In 1967 diversional therapy was introduced into nursing homes at the time the New South Wales State Government was looking to transfer psychiatric patients from the large Schedule V institutions, to the community.
To soften the impact and to prepare nursing homes for this event, a pilot study was conducted, aiming to improve the quality of life for patients in these facilities. the study involved every member of the staff in some way, with a programme consisting of reality orientation, games, singing, handcraft and exercises. Although the study was completed in three months, the programmes continued because of its proven value to both the residents and the education of all staff members.

Seven students undertaking the last Handcraft Instructors Course offered by the New South Wales Red Cross Society formed the Diversional Therapy Association in 1976. The first meeting was held on the 8th September 1976 at Red Cross House in Sydney.

The first newsletters were printed and distributed to members in 1977; at this time there were 30 members. The first newsletter editor was Elizabeth McPherson, followed by Jeannette Black and the present editor Jennifer Dreise.

The Association published three journals between 1985 and 1986; the editor was Barbara Nash.

From 1979 to 1984 the Association, with approximately 560 members completing three courses, conducted twelve In-Service Courses.
Participants included members from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand who travelled to Sydney for the courses.

The Association has held an annual convention since 1979 and until 1992 all conventions had been held in New South Wales, with then in Sydney, and four in country areas: Albury 1984 - Dubbo 1987 - Tamworth 1989 - Wagga Wagga 1991. Since the formation of the DTAA National Council Steering Committee in 1991 the conventions have been held in New South Wales in 1992 - Queensland 1993 - Victoria 1994 and Tasmania 1995. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Association, the 18th convention was held in Sydney in 1996.

In 1981 the first groups of the Association were formed and began holding regular meetings. There are now 26 groups in New South Wales and Incorporated Diversional Therapy Associations in the six states.

In 1989 a code of ethics and a basic statement of duties for diversional therapists was worked on at length by members of the DTA committee and a small working party, this incorporated a broad aspect of ideas from diversional therapists employed in a variety of settings. A Mission Statement, and the revised Philosophy and Code of Ethics were adopted in 1995.

1985 was the year the Associate Diploma of Applied Science (Diversional Therapy) commenced at Cumberland College of Health Sciences, as a two year, full time course. In 1990 the College became affiliated with the University of Sydney. This course was upgraded to a degree in 1995 - Bachelor of Applied Science (Diversional Therapy) Commencing in 1995, Charles Sturt University offered a Bachelor of Health Science (Leisure & Health) and Associate Diploma of Health Science (Leisure & Health) via distance education.

A Bachelor of Applied Science (Diversional Therapy) was established in 1996 at the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur. This has subsequently become Bachelor of Applied Science (Therapeutic Recreation).

The first New South Wales State Conference was held in Sydney in 1993. The proceedings of this and the 1994 and 1995 conference have been published, providing a valuable resource of literature for anyone working in the field of diversional therapy or undertaking related studies.

The Association organised two mission statement meetings in Sydney in 1990. The primary objective was determined: to ensure that the structure of the Association is responsive to the needs of its members’ and one further objective being to ‘ develop a national /state structure for the Diversional Therapy Association of Australia.’ The DTAA National Council Steering Committee was formed at a meeting in 1991 at Wagga Wagga, preceding the annual convention.

After a period of negotiations between the State Associations, The Diversional Therapy Association of Australia National Council became a formal Company Limited by Guarantee in 1995, with five State members - New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. To become part of National Council a major decision had to be made by members in New South Wales to change the name from DTAA to ‘The DTA of New South Wales Inc.’

The Diversional Therapy Association of Western Australia was registered as an incorporated body and became a member of the Diversional Therapy Association of Australia National Council in 1996.

Western Australia has a long history of networking and support groups for people working in the field of leisure and recreation for frail aged and disabled clients, however without any formal structure these groups often had difficulties surviving over the long term.

In August 1995 Wendy Butler and Margaret Stephens held a workshop ‘Never too Old to Learn’ in South Perth attracting 124 people. Due to everyone’s enthusiastic response to the workshop a group of those attending with encouragement and financial support from Wendy and Margaret started on the journey of forming The Diversional Therapy Association of Western Australia Inc.

From that first workshop in 1994 the association went from strength to strength. We now host a Seminar in August, two half day and one full day hands on workshops each year, publish a bi monthly a newsletter, provide education through guest speakers at monthly meetings, support members through continuing professional development, provide a forum for networking and the sharing of ideas and actively promote diversional therapy education and practice to members and the wider community.

As one of the smaller state associations we are proud to have hosted two very successful Diversional Therapy Association of Australia National Council Annual Conventions:
1999 Embracing Change: Diversional Therapy Beyond 2000
2005 Diversional Therapy:

"The Sky’s The Limit” Presidents of the Association since 1995 - 2005

  • Colleen Leggoe
  • Margaret Ranson
  • Sr Paula McAdam
  • Sandy Mills
  • Ruth Wilson
  • Sarah Thomas

Recent Years


  • In September 2009 all financial members voted in favour of winding up each state association. In October 2009 the application for change of registration name was accepted from the Diversional Therapy Association of Australia National Council to Diversional Therapy Australia.
  • Diversional Therapy Australia officially comes into being on 14th October 2009


  • 2010 saw the development of the national office, expansion of the office team and development of the national database of members. Diversional Therapy Australia held the National Conference in Sydney and began delivery of workshops across Australia.
  • First president of newly incorporated entity – Diversional Therapy Australia is Renee
    Dunne (now Rizzo). State representatives included in board.
  • Members of separate state organisations moved to DTA
  • First DTA National Conference held Sydney in September.
  • DTA’s first workshop held in Hobart in July
  • Development of National Office and employment of Margie Kennard as Office Manager


  • 8 workshops held around the country
  • National conference held in Melbourne in May with the theme – “The Path Ahead – engaging Professionals, Clients and Communities”
  • Network groups established as member only groups


  • Appointment of National Education Co-ordinator, Steph Bejma
  • National conference held in Brisbane in May with the theme – “Diverse Roles: Heading in the same direction
  • DTA attends CAREX Expo in Melbourne
  • Students accepted as Affiliate Members
  • New membership category introduced – Affiliate Retired members
  • First DTA Network Group Information Day held in Newcastle
  • DTA has stand at the D & R conference


  • MOU signed with DTAJ
  • Louise Absalom elected as 2 nd DTA president
  • Steph Bejma initiates Takeaway café at our workshops


  • New website created together with other social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn
  • Membership categories changed from Level 1 and Level 2 to Full Member – Cert IV Qualified/Diploma Qualified/Degree Qualified.
  • Inaugural Award for Excellence awarded to Lindl Webster
  • New Affiliate Membership for International practitioners announced
  • National conference held in Adelaide – theme, Shaping Diversional Therapy: from Theory to Practice. Partners catered for by initiating a “Men on Buses” tour. Attended by delegates from Japan and New Zealand
  • January/February newsletter last paper newsletter issued. First eNewsletter issued – “Connections”
  • DTA one of the signatories to the Statement of Intent (through AHPA) with Indigenous Allied Health Australia at Close the Gap Day.
  • DTA joins AHPA as an Affiliate member


  • Annual conference held at the Gold Coast, Qld, themed - “Wellness through Leisure”
  • Special Dementia workshop held presented by visiting Prof Sherry Dupuis
  • Trade Directory launched on website
  • Inaugural DTA Connections Collector’s Edition issued.
  • Private Practice group commenced.


  • International Liaison Group led by Darren Robinson makes contact with other international groups from England, Hawaii, Canada, America, New Zealand and Japan.
  • DTA members undertake study tour to Japan and are hosted by Takako Serizawa, DTAJ president.
  • Annual Conference held in Sydney – theme – “Navigating an Inspired Future”
  • DTA Forums commenced on website
  • DTA initiates CST training with visit by Drs Gary Cheung and Kathy Peri.
  • Kylie Rice becomes DTA’s 4th president.


  • First “Workshop on the Waves” held in February visiting Vic and SA
  • DTA changes name to Diversional and Recreation Therapy Australia to reflect alllevels of membership represented by DRTA.
  • Annual conference held in Brisbane with the theme of Innovation & Expectation.
  • President, Kylie Rice and international Liaison Officer, Darren Robinson meet withreps from USA, Canada, South Africa, Japan and New Zealand for first International Therapeutic Recreation Coalition meeting.


  • Annual conference held in Melbourne, theme “Out of the Box’
  • Conference attended by 2 USA reps of National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification with the move by DRTA to move towards credentialing.
  • New Online Training modules provided on website.
  • DRTA Rep attends meeting with Minister for Aging regarding Draft Aged Care Standards and upcoming Royal Commission into aged care.
  • DRTA beginning to move to credentialling – announced at the conference


  • DRTA celebrates 10 years as the national body for Diversional Therapists and Recreation staff.
  • Annual conference held at the Gold Coast Queensland with the theme of “Thriving on Change”. A special presentation evening is held celebrating the 10 year anniversary with guest speaker Robin Gallen OAM, a DRTA life member. It is also attended by all presidents of DRTA from 2009.
  • In February DRTA holds the second “Workshop on the Waves” cruise, this time visiting destinations in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Two courses, “Respond to suspected abuse” and “Provide loss and grief support” are studied. 22 people including partners and family attend.
  • All full members are automatically credentialled for 2 years at no extra cost, but after this members can choose to be credentialled or not and pay an extra membership fee. An MOU is in place with NCTRC
  • In August, the President, Kylie Rice and the International Liaison Officer, Darren Robinson attend the New Zealand National Conference in Auckland.
  • At the AGM held after the conference, Charlise Bennett is elected as DRTA’s 5th president.
  • Western Sydney University is accredited again for a further 3 years


  • DRTA only manages to hold 5 face-to-face workshops before Covid 19 stops all physical events. DRTA’s first virtual workshop is held in May with a second held in June.
  • An online Covid 19 – ‘Impact on Practice ‘meeting is held in Early April to support members. This proves so popular that weekly meetings are held before becoming the first DRTA online Network Group.
  • PDF newsletters are started again and emailed to all members at the beginning of every month.
  • In January DRTA meets with CTRA, ATRA and NCTRC
  • In March a letter is written to the Aged Care Royal Commission on behalf of DRTA
  • In April, DRTA takes on 10 HSM students. The NSW Mental Health Minister announces $78 000 000 for Diversional Therapies in Mental Health and DRTA sends a letter to the Minister about how Diversional Therapy is used in mental health. The Minister calls DRTA to thank us and inform us that the money will be used to employ a Diversional Therapist in every sub-acute mental health unit in NSW.
  • May sees the 7th Allied Health Professional update by NSW Health with over 100 submissions for “Diversional Therapy” funding
  • DRTA submits a Covid submission to the ACRC. In November DRTA sends a submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care. With encouragement from DRTA a number of members also send in submissions.
  • A white paper is sent to all members regarding changes to membership in 2021
  • In September DRTA holds its first Virtual conference as a 2 day online webinar

A brief history of the Diversional Therapy Association of Tasmania

The Diversional Therapy Association of Tasmania was formed in Launceston, June 1988 after seminars were held around the state in May 1988. The Department of Community Health Services sponsored the meetings and Pamela Bauze conducted the seminars on behalf of Diversional Therapy Australia.

Associate membership was available to representatives of facilities, the fee was $20.00 plus $10.00 for a badge. There was also an interested person’s membership available to volunteers and any others who may have an interest in Diversional therapy, the fee was $30.00 plus a $10.00 joining fee. All members received an invitation to attend workshops and seminars.   In 1989 this changed to only those working in the field could apply for membership at $20.00 per annum. Through out the next twenty years the inclusion of membership for facilities was discussed from time to time at regional groups and state meetings but never again came to fruition.

At the DTAT 1989 AGM, Lee Turner was elected Chairman, Lyn Caminada as Secretary, and Brenda Carter as Treasurer. Meetings were held every two months.

Tasmanian Constitution From 1988 until 1993 the groups known as branches in Tasmania, used the Australian Associations Constitution as a guide.

In 1993 we became an incorporated body and the Tasmanian constitution 1993came into being.  This formalised the management committees roles and duties of office bearers at a state level. 

Reviewed 2000 State committee looked at other states constitutions.

Reviewed 2004 State committee looked at other states constitutions

February  revised constitution 2008 to include a wind up clause Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Association.

YearPresidentVice PresidentMember Numbers
1988Jeanne McKenzieNo one appointed17                 ($20.00)
1989Lee TurnerAnne Ashford40
1990Lee TurnerAnne Ashford40
1991Lee TurnerGwen Wakeling18 in the south joined unsure of exact numbers for this year
1992Lee Turner  
1993Marcia BrownLee Turner46                 ($25.00)
1994Rae (Huett) HoodAlison (Underwood) Hodges75
1995Alison HodgesRobyn George55
1996Alison HodgesRobyn George($30.00)
1997Robyn GeorgeAlison Hodges69
1998Aileen WrightAlison Hodges69
1999Aileen WrightSue Waters100
2000Sue WatersRuth Taylor122
2001Sue WatersRuth Taylor52
2002Christa JonesKaren Robinson96
2003Aileen WrightKaren Robinson  85               ($60.00)
2004Karen McIntyreKaren Robinson78
2005Karen McIntyreKaren RobinsonLevel 1 -21  Level 2 -60   Total     81
2006Karen RobinsonRuth Taylor77
2007Karen RobinsonLee Turner76
2008Sandra ReeveLee TurnerLevel 1-14  Level 2 -56   Total 70        ($80.00)

National Conferences hosted by the Tasmanian Diversional Therapy Association, Parliamentary support and Memorandum of Understanding

1989- MayThe first Diversional Therapy Awareness Week was organised and has continued yearly
1995- May

150 national members attended the National Convention including 47 Tasmanians

Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st May 1995  CSIRO Building Hobart  (17th Annual National Convention)

1997 -12th MayDiversional Therapy Week was launched at Parliament  House with a cocktail party
2001- MaySaturday 19th and Sunday 20th May 2001 Launceston (23rd National Convention )
2007- MayDTAANC Convention Wrest Point Convention Centre Hobart 20th and 21st May “Directions in Diversional Therapy where ever you are!”
20th MayMemorandum of Understanding between Australia and Japan signed at the  DTAANC National Convention held in HobartDTAJ President Takako Serizawa ,DTAANC Chairperson Vanessa Ogborne and International Liaisons Officer Linda Martin
2008-27th FebruaryMemorandum of Understanding between the Community Partner Program with the Migrant Resource Centre and the Diversional Therapy Association of TasmaniaCatherine Meredith (DTAT) Suzanne Fieke (CPP)

Formation of a National Council

Friday 26th1991April became a momentous and historical day for the Diversional Therapy Association and profession as a whole. Representatives from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and members of the working party to develop a “National Structure” met in Wagga prior to the 13th Annual Convention, and formulated the following recommendations.

  • The name Diversional Therapy Association of Australia National Council was selected from five suggestions.
  • Two state representatives from each state where Diversional Therapy Association is formalised are to be appointed at the respective annual general meetings
  • The two delegates will comprise one state committee member and one other eligible member.
  • The appointment is for a two year period, but this is not necessarily a maximum term
  • A steering committee comprising two representatives from each state is to be formed immediately to “care-take” the council prior to appointment of two representatives at respective 1992 general meetings.
  • The steering committee of eight would elect their own chairman and secretariat.
  • A nominal levy from existing membership would at this time be deposited in a special state account on 1st July 1991 (DTAANC minutes 26.4.91)

The Diversional Therapy Association Australia National Council is committed to promote, foster and advance the development of the profession of Diversional Therapy in Australia and internationally, and to support and advocate for the State Member Associations. To ensure for its members that the practice of Diversional Therapy continues as an ongoing, viable and relevant practice, contributing to consumers and society. DTAA National Council representatives develop the strategic plan and expected outcomes for the future growth and development of Diversional Therapy across Australia.

National Council Representatives ( first name denotes voting rep)

1991 26th  AprilLee Turner /Lynne Caminada
1992Lee Turner /Lynne Caminada
1993Lee Turner/Marcia Brown
1994Lee Turner/Marcia Brown
1995Marcia Brown/Rae Hood
1996Marcia Brown/Alison Hodges
1997Alison Hodges/Marcia Brown
1998Marcia Brown/Monica Hastings
1999Monica Hastings/Aileen Wright
2000Aileen Wright/Robyn George
2001Aileen Wright/Robyn George
2002Aileen Wright/Sue Waters
2003Aileen Wright/Christa Jones
2004Aileen Wright/Lee Turner
2005Lee Turner/Sandra Reeve
2006Sandra Reeve/ Karen Robinson/Catherine Meredith
2007Sandra Reeve/Catherine Meredith
2008Sandra Reeve/Catherine Meredith /Margaret Bowkett

Tasmanian Partnerships

1999 International Year of The Older PersonTraveling Suitcase Exhibition of Quiltsalso known as A Stitch In Time

Facilities that were involved were:

ADARDS, Strathaven, Glenview, Lillian Martin, Southern Cross Care, Aldersgate, Huon Elder Care, Karingal, Campbell Town hospital, Cadorna, Aminya, Bishop Davies Court, Adaihi, Queen Victoria, Coroay Park, Eliza Purton and Freemasons.

Supported by Bellerive Quilters, Glenorchy Regional Arts and coordinated by Jenifer Line . Some of the quilts were displayed at Glenview, and other facilities around Australia. All quilts went on show at the Moonah Arts Centre.

2001 International Year of Volunteers Hands On Handing On

Touring exhibition   recorded life histories of Older Persons who reside in Aged Care facilities. The information was collated into a booklet by Jenifer Line and produced by Glenorchy City Council.

2005 50 Favourite Community Attractions in Southern Tasmania for people assisted in wheel chairs

This booklet produced with the assistance and the sponsorship of the Hobart City Council, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Disability Services, Oak Lifestyle Options, Mailhouse Tasmania and  DTAT Southern Group.

The aim of the booklet was to provide those working in the leisure and recreational fields a guide to eateries, attractions, clubs and parks and the types of access and services that were provided. 

2006-2007 Memories Are Made Of This

Jenifer Line from the Tasmanian Quilters Guild and Catherine Meredith from DTAT Southern Group designed guidelines and timeframes for Diversional Therapists and Community groups throughout Tasmania for the creation of the “Memories are Made of This” Tasmanian Quilt project. The quilt was designed by artist Elizabeth Barsham reflecting the Queen Victoria/Fitzpatrick Quilt made in Tasmania at Westbury in 1903. The quilt was displayed at the 2007 Diversional Therapy Australia National Council Convention and subsequently toured the state on completion.

2008 The Community Partner Program with the Migrant Resource Centre and the Diversional Therapy Association of Tasmania Memorandum of Understanding

A formalised agreement to ensure the needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse community members living in Aged Care Facilities in Tasmania are met. A set of objectives and tasks clearly give substance to making this agreement a working document. Catherine Meredith (DT) and Suzanne Feike (CPP) were the key organisers of this agreement. 

Initiativewill include consultation and information to community members to ensure appropriate service provision with respect to lifestyle including culture, language, food and leisure activities. The partnership will also support community development, education and training opportunities for members of both organisations as appropriate. Where relevant it will provide referrals and links to other communities and aged care services.

Taken from the media release 27.2.08

Life Members

The below Members are our own National Treasures! All have contributed enormously to the profession and the association. Members past and present will be ever grateful.

This list is not definitive. If you think someone was a Life Member and is not shown and you have a contact for them, DTA would be happy to get in touch to see if they are interested in remaining Life Members with DTA.

  • Lynne Caminada
  • Dr Leon Earle
  • Susan Fletcher
  • Robin Gallen
  • Jannina Gray
  • Roz Hamilton
  • Jeanette Heynes
  • Gaynor Jackson
  • Vickie Kimlin
  • Sr. Margaret Randall
  • Barbara Richards
  • Louise Robinson
  • Ann Rogers
  • Peggy Skehan
  • Prof Margaret Skropeta
  • Sarah Thomas
  • Lee Turner
  • Mary Ann Underwood
  • Ruth Wilson

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