In 1906 a small group of massage therapists (as they were known then) from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia formed an association to protect the public from untrained, sham practitioners. By developing membership and educational standards, they aimed to ensure high-quality therapy for patients. While the Association has grown and changed its name since then, that aim has remained the same.
In the early days, members were trained rather than educated, and they practised with little independence and a low public profile. Initially, massage therapists worked under the direction of doctors in public hospitals. A brave few went into private practice, but life for these pioneers was tough.
During World War I, physiotherapy began to receive public recognition as a valuable treatment through the rehabilitation of injured soldiers. World War II and the polio epidemics that savaged Australia in the 1950s provided further opportunities for physiotherapists to make a significant contribution to the health of Australians.
Today, physiotherapists work independently and alongside other healthcare practitioners to diagnose, treat, and prevent a wide range of healthcare issues. The APA predicts that physiotherapy will play an increasingly important role in maintaining the health of the community over the coming decades.
Image courtesy of Royal Melbourne Children's Hospital.