Past Presidents

2017-2019

Marion Rivers

In 1981/2 when I was first elected president of OA we were steeped in past history of the orthoptic profession, insular, concerned about surviving the onset of substantive changes to education and training in health. We worried about whether there would be a future for orthoptics in the world of health care. We were isolated and much more focused on state-based governance and support. However, we survived, grew and now have two university-based training courses.

36 years later I stepped into a different professional world but the orthoptic professional association needed substantial reforms if it was to meet the expectations of the new order of health care, members expectations and consumer rights.

During my term of office, we achieved substantial reforms in governance. We employed a management company for our day to day management, appointed an Executive Officer, to in part, help with sponsorship and contractors. We reformed the constitution, moved to a national company with a small board to provide a nimble and easier management structure. We reviewed our audit processes, updated the website and put the journal online and free for all to review and search.

Our member engagement improved with a fortnightly newsletter, regular on-line access to CPD points and industry information. We negotiated on behalf of members a better professional indemnity package. We restructured our conference management to achieve a more professional conference experience.

We engaged with health policy and policy makers at state and federal level, became active members of Vision 2020 and Allied Health Professionals Association. As part of this process we made submissions to Parliamentary enquiries and policy development for DVA, My Aged Care and NDIS, engaged with colleagues in Macular Disease Foundation, Glaucoma Australia and RANZCO. 

We also looked to our international colleagues and won the bid for 2024 IOA conference to be held in Brisbane, which has since been postponed due to the flow-on effect of COVID-19.

2016-2017

Julie Hall

During 2016 - 2017 Julie Hall instigated a review of the OA Victorian office management and its associated processes. Office management was looked at with a view to streamline, revamp and bring the office in line with a contemporary best practice professional management model for allied health entities. Under Julie Hall’s leadership a number of alternative options were carefully researched. The options presented to council resulted in council agreeing to a change in professional management of the OA office. The office was moved to the new professional management entity “Associations Professionals” in October 2017. This change in management enabled the council members to meet the new managers at the 3rd Council meeting in November held in Perth, and for OA members to meet them during the Perth conference. Julie Hall commented that in the short time that Associations Professionals (AP) had come on board that there was an immense change in the administration workload alleviated from the President by Association Professionals. During the 3rd Council meeting a list of priorities was devised to move the OA forward together with AP over the next 12 months and in the longer term. The change in Office management and moving to a new office platform enabled Julie Hall to hand over the reins of OA to the next President Marion Rivers with a well working professional office that would enable Marion to move the profession forward and enable time for the President to promote OA within government and the broader health systems. 

Julie also created a MOU between Vision Australia and OA.

Julie introduced at the beginning of her term a Charter of Meeting guidelines for council members. These guidelines ensured that the council meetings ran smoothly.  Council members worked extremely well as a team in a cohesive and productive way during Julie’s term.

2015-2016

Paul Cawood

Queensland-based practicing orthoptist, Paul Cawood was Orthoptics Australia’s President 2015-2016.

Key achievements during Paul’s time as President included:

  • A new Code of Conduct document for members was drafted, passed by Council and published to the OA website. 
  • Developed and finalised a new Scope of Practice document for the profession.
  • Prepared a lobbying submission applying changes to the Therapeutic Goods Act to have orthoptists officially recognised as ‘Health Professionals’ as individual states continued work on their Drugs and Poisons legislation submissions. Council aware of a possible move toward a federal Drugs and Poisons legislation covering all states and began investigating this development.
  • Review and redrafting of the OA constitution so that the document met current standards.
  • After successful implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Orthoptics Australia and Glaucoma Australia in early 2016, Council, with the help of the advisory committee, moved forward with developing MOUs with other associations including Vision Australia, the Macula Disease Foundation Australia and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, with the aim of strengthening ties with fellow members of the health care community.
  • During the year Orthoptics Australia became increasingly aware of the challenges members are facing in the current working environment. A position statement and guidelines for Orthoptic Australia members working with Ophthalmic assistants was developed in conjunction with the OA Advisory Committee and approved by members.

All these accomplishments helped to strengthen and move the profession forward into 2017. 

2013-2015

Meri Vukicevic

The motto of Meri’s presidency was to “strengthen the association and promote the profession” and as part of this vision, she led a legal and financial audit of Orthoptics Australia (OA) which revealed issues of incorporation and banking and finances which need to be re-evaluated. Following the audit, the finances of the OA were re-aligned and an application to ASIC was made to enable the OA to be recognised as a legal entity in all Australian States and Territories, where it had only had legal recognition in New South Wales.

Another significant achievement during Meri’s presidency was the establishment of a Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships for higher degree orthoptic research students. This Scholarship Fund was granted Direct Grant Recipient (DGR) status meaning that anyone who donates money specifically for the scholarship would be able to claim the donation as a tax deduction. The aim of this fantastic initiative was to promote orthoptic research and raise the profile of the profession.

The greatest challenge facing Meri during her presidency was the closure of the orthoptic program at the University of Sydney. However, soon after becoming President, she had the great pleasure of announcing that a new home for orthoptic training had been found, at the University of Technology Sydney. This achievement was borne out of the hard work by the Orthoptics Australia Tertiary Education Working Party and an expert consultant (Emeritus Professor Stuart Campbell) who worked tirelessly to achieve this goal. The members of the working party included: Neryla Jolly, Sue Silveira, Ann Macfarlane, Julia Kelly, Mara Giribaldi, Handan Otay and former OA President Connie Koklanis. In addition, A/Prof Kathryn Rose and her staff at the University of Sydney were also instrumental in this achievement, as was former NSW Branch President Michelle Courtney-Harris and the NSW branch council. Each of these people gave their time selflessly, over many many months in order to ensure the future of our profession, not just in NSW but throughout Australia.

2010-2013

Connie Koklanis

2008-2010

Zoran Georgievski

Zoran held the title of OA President from 2008-2010. He was the Australian representative to and member of the Council of International Orthoptic Association and deputy President of the IOA. Zoran worked tirelessly to achieve his vision in all of these roles.

In 2008, Zoran was appointed associate professor with a conjoint appointment at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH), where he was the manager of orthoptics and diagnostic eye services and at La Trobe University, where he was head of the clinical vision sciences department.

He was an academic leader in orthoptics and a strong advocate of the profession. He encouraged the development of the relationship between the La Trobe University and the RVEEH because he strongly believed that creating links between clinical care, education and research would promote excellence in the delivery of clinical services and ensure the development of a high quality network.

Zoran’s activities extended to his professional association as he lobbied federal and state government in various issues and consistently advocated for initiatives providing opportunities for the orthoptic profession.

2006-2008

Heather Pettigrew

2005-2006

Julie Barbour

Julie’s term as President of Orthoptics Australia (OA) commenced in November 2004. During her Presidency, Julie, along with the Federal OA Council, introduced the first of the Upskill Courses. These were introduced to provide a course level education to OA members through a series of modules. The first two modules were held at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne in May.

The OA Council at this time also helped to rewrite and update the Workforce Survey and continued the involvement with submissions to the State Governments regarding Optometry Acts around Australia along with other political issues that affect the profession of Orthoptics. These submissions helped pave the way for the successful achievement for Orthoptists to gain refracting rights in several states.

“Orthoptics is a small profession and we are often frustrated at the slow outcomes of issues politically that are important to our everyday work. As President it was always so positive to see the level of personal commitment by OA councillors and individual members of the profession. Many of the successful outcomes of the Association would not have been possible if not for the dedication of our members. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to be President of OA for a two year term.” – Julie Barbour

2002-2004

Val Tosswill

Val Tosswill has been a member of Orthoptics Australia (formerly OAA) since graduating with a Diploma of Applied Science (Orthoptics) and Diploma from the Orthoptic Board of Australia in Sydney in 1985. Val has been an active member of the association, including NSW Treasurer (1993 – 1996), Federal Sponsorship Manager (1996 – 2002), Federal Promotions and Development Officer (1996 – 2002), Federal HPCA and ARRHT representative (2003 – 2005), Federal President-Elect, President and Vice-President (2001 – 2006) and was NSW State Representative on Federal Council for over 10 years.

In 1999 Val was the first recipient of the Paediatric Orthoptic Award and has published works in the Australian Orthoptic Journal a number of times. From 1996-2002, Val was an active participant in the Strategic Planning of Federal OA and has involved OA in numerous public relations exercises. Submissions to the “Review of National Competition Forum” and the “National Eye Care Project” enabled OA to be a prominent entity in these two Australian projects. In 2001, Val approached Vision2020 and paved the way for OA to become a Partner of this national eye care icon. Between 2002 – 2005, Val was instrumental in updating OA’s Rules, Duty Statements and Procedure Manual for Councillors and the Council Body. From 2004 – 2005, she chaired the committee for updating the Professional Competency Standards for Australian Orthoptists and from 2003 – 2007 she co-represented OA by lobbying government bodies in an attempt to gain GST exemption for Australian orthoptists.

In 2007, OA bestowed Val with the honour of Orthoptics Australia Fellow.

2000-2002

Kerry Martin

1997-2000

Kerry Fitzmaurice

1995-1997

Jan Wulff

1993-1995

Barbara Walsh

1991-1993

Anne Fitzgerald

1989-1991

Leonie Collins

1987-1989

Margaret Doyle

Margaret felt quite strongly about the need for Orthoptics as a profession to break away from the control of the Orthoptics Board of Australia during her time as President. Fortunately, the incoming President, Leonie Collins from Melbourne, agreed with Margaret’s philosophy and followed it up during her term of office.

Margaret constantly examined why the progress of the development of Orthoptics was slow and believed that Orthoptics should be a truly independent and professional organisation.

She also believed that during this time, Orthoptics relied heavily upon the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists who established the esteem and recognition from the community and that this somehow reflected on Orthoptists too. However, Orthoptists neglected to earn this in their own right. Margaret encouraged Orthoptists not to weaken the liaison but to recognize it in a different state.

“The standards of our association must be so high that membership is in itself synonymous with good, professional work and a high code of conduct – it should be the password for acceptance as skilled, health scientists.” – Margaret Doyle

1986-1987

Alison Terrell

1985-1986

Geraldine McConaghy

1983-1985

Neryla Jolly

1982-1983

Jill Stewart

1981-1982

Marion Rivers

1980-1981

Keren Edwards

Keren Edwards recalls her time as President of the Orthoptic Association: In 1980-81 I was living in Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast. As the 38th Scientific conference was to be held in Queensland that year, I also became conference convenor. My mind was constantly on the task ahead. Typewritten letters in carbon copy entrusted to Australia Post and the very odd phone call was my means of communicating with my southern Orthoptic members. The theme “Time for Review” encouraged some thoughtful examination of our profession in an atmosphere of great fun.

At the time I was employed as an Orthoptist at the Nambour Hospital and with a private practice group. The private practice group serviced Gympie, Maroochydore, Noosa, Caloundra and Kingaroy. We travelled to Kingaroy in a 4 seater Cessna. Being young and fearless, the suspense of flying all the way in cloud and just popping out to land on a small country runway did not then appear dangerous. Apart from comprehensive Orthoptic assessments and ophthalmic technician duties, I had to extend into contact lens fitting, low vision management, assisting minor surgery and clerical duties. Our Ophthalmic service had to cover a very large area well outside a major city.

At that time there were fewer than 10 Orthoptists in Queensland. We had a branch with Jess Kirby as our President. She would have meetings at her private rooms on Wickham Terrace. Jess was always well organised and really knew how to chair a meeting. I remember with pride the loyalty and commitment of our small group. I would travel the two-hour journey down the old Bruce Highway, as did others from the opposite direction. In bad tropical weather my little car could almost become airborne. Purchasing a box of potatoes from a roadside stall would help weigh down my car to deliver me safely home.

I am still doing a session at Caloundra Hospital. The eye clinic moved from Nambour Hospital some years ago. I have my 35-year badge of service and enjoy even more today my chosen Orthoptic profession.

1979-1980

Mary Carter

1978-1979

Patricia Dunlop

Patricia Dunlop has been in the orthoptic world since graduating from the first orthoptic training school in Moorfields in 1949. She met her future Australian husband at Moorfields and later came to live in Australia after getting married in 1950. She lived and practiced orthoptics both privately and publicly in Newcastle.

She met Patricia Lance in 1952, which led her to join Orthoptics Australia. She was then elected President on two occasions.

After the initial NSW orthoptic course was set up, Patricia, along with Patricia Lance and other NSW orthoptists arranged for all students from Victoria and NSW to qualify equally.

Patricia has attended numerous conferences and received many prizes and awards for her work as an orthoptist. She and her husband Donald have been part of a team investigating binocular vision, stereopsis and dyslexia. They were one of the first to bring Botulinum toxin A to Australia and investigate its efficacy in squint.

1977-1978

Helen Hawkeswood

1976-1977

Vivienne Gordon

1975-1976

Megan Lewis

1974-1975

Patricia Lance

Patricia Lance’s achievements are many and her influence on orthoptics in Australia, significant. She was always interested in the orthoptic profession and encouraged enthusiasm and knowledge development in all eye related fields, particularly neurology.

Patricia became an orthoptist in 1941 and was a founding member of Orthoptics Australia (OA) in 1944. With the formation of the association, the profession met annually for a General and Scientific Meeting. Patricia saw the conference as an opportunity to talk about issues of mutual interest; see subjects from a different point of view; know others are experiencing the same problem; learn of other experiments and results. In 1953, Patricia was key in the establishment of the Emmie Russell Prize to encourage young presenters.

Patricia was president of OA for a record six years, over four terms, and represented Australia during the formation of IOA. Patricia was an orthoptist tutor in 1948 in NSW; Head of School – NSW Paramedical Studies (later CCHS) in 1973 and received an MBE in 1979, before retiring in 1987. Making an important contribution to Orthoptic research, Patricia Lance has a legacy of 21 published articles in the Australian Orthoptic Journal (AOJ).

1973-1974

Jill Taylor

1972-1973

Patricia Lance (See above for details)

1971-1972

Jill Taylor

1970-1971

Neryla Heard

1969-1970

Jess Kirby

1968-1969

Diana Craig

1967-1968

Patricia Dunlop

1966-1967

Helen Hawkeswood

1965-1966

Beverly Balfour

1964-1965

Lucy Retalic

1963-1964

Leonie Collins

1961-1962

Jess Kirby

1960-1961

Helen Hawkeswood

1959-1960

Patricia Lance (See above for details)

1958-1959

Mary Peoples

1957-1958

Lucille Retalic

1956-1957

Mary Carter

1955-1956

      Jess Kirby

1954-1955

Diana Mann

 1952-1954

Patricia Lance (See above for details)  

 1951-1952

 R Gluckman

1950-1951 

 Emmie Russell

 1949-1950

   E D'Ombrain

 1948-1949

Diana Mann

1947-1948

Lucy Willoughby

1945-1947

Emmie Russell