30th National Conference & Exhibition (OTAUS2023) wrap-up

OTA was excited to welcome delegates to Cairns Convention Centre for our 30th National Conference & Exhibition (OTAUS2023) on 21 - 23 June. The conference represents the pinnacle of Australian OT excellence, showcasing opportunities, innovations and strategies informed through research and practice that can shape future practices, policies and educational approaches to facilitate the growth of occupational wellbeing worldwide.

Education Day

The week started on Tuesday 20 June with Education Day, with academics and educators gathering to discuss the opportunities and challenges of OT education in Australia and hear from an inspiring range of presenters. 

Running for over three decades, this pre-conference event provides a forum to discuss innovations, challenges and opportunities for OT education in Australia. Presenters and workshop facilitators included Nastaran Doroud, Melanie Hoyle, Elizabeth Meechan, Libby Callaway, Moushami Kadkol, Emma Ashcroft, Kimberley Charlton, and more.


Student & Early Career Networking Drinks

On Tuesday evening, we hosted the Student & Early Career Networking Drinks, which was a fantastic opportunity for students and new graduates to network with other young professionals and key members attending the conference as they get started in their OT careers. 

OTAUS2023 Day 1 (Wednesday)

OTAUS2023 took place in Gimuy/Cairns, the homelands of the Gimuy Walubarra Yidinji and Yirriganydji peoples. The Minjil team opened OTAUS2023 with a Welcome to Country before presenting MC Caleb Rixon with the gift of welcome.


Caleb shared his journey with OT after surviving a major stroke at age 24 and got delegates excited for the day ahead.


CEO Samantha Hunter and President Carol McKinstry welcomed delegates and shared an update on the profession and the association. Sam and Carol spoke about OTA’s ongoing advocacy efforts, our current Workforce Development Project and the importance of protecting and promoting the OT profession.

They also unveiled our commissioned Reconciliation Action Plan artwork, which was created by Yorta Yorta brother and sister Luke and Siena Tieri.


Conference Convenor Professor Ted Brown spoke next, with an important reminder that you never stop learning new things on your OT journey, and adaptability and creativity are a key part of the profession.

Opening keynote speaker Turia Pitt addressed an audience of 1,100+ attendees, both in-person and online, to share her inspiring story and shine a light on the resourceful and innovative roles occupational therapists play in healthcare.

Turia’s deep connection with purpose, focus on personal success, and zest for life speaks to everything we hope to achieve as a profession.


Following the opening session, a variety of concurrent sessions took place throughout the day on topics including mental health, stroke rehabilitation, paediatrics, supporting people with neurological conditions, and many more.

A busy day was capped off with opportunity to network, meet new people and connect with friends and colleagues at the Welcome Reception at Hemingway's Brewery overlooking the water.

OTAUS2023 Day 2 (Thursday)

MC Caleb Rixon launched the day with the opening plenary session. He shared more of his rehabilitation journey and the role OT played in it.


Professor Leeanne Carey presented her Sylvia Docker Lectureship keynote speech, 'Ignite your passion, and connect, to make a difference'

Her address embraced the OTAUS2023 theme ‘Ignite’ through sharing insights into her own experiences and motivations in conducting research, as well as others at various stages in their careers. Leeanne encouraged OTs to create their own opportunities, break out of old ways of thinking, and link with those who share your passion.


Next, President Carol McKinstry presented the association awards. As well as Leeanne Carey's Sylvia Docker Lectureship, the Research Awards were presented to:

  • Early Career Research Award: Dr Jessica Hill 
  • Mid-Career Research Award: Dr Kitty Foley 
  • Clinical Research Award: Carolyn Dun 
  • Research Team Award: Professor Lynette Mackenzie and the University of Sydney occupational therapy, general practice, and primary care research team



Pictured clockwise from top with Carol McKinstry: Leeanne Carey, Kitty-Rose Foley, Carolyn Dun and Lynette Mackenzie (absent: Jessica Hill)

New Fellows of the Research Academy were conferred:

  • Associate Professor Kate Laver 
  • Professor Rachael McDonald 
  • Professor Stacey George 
  • Associate Professor Jacki Liddle 


Pictured clockwise from top with Carol McKinstry: Kate Laver, Jacki Liddle and Rachael McDonald (absent: Stacey George)

Following the opening session, a variety of concurrent sessions took place throughout the day on topics including assistive technology, supporting the OT workforce, Indigenous curriculum, disability & sexuality, and many more.

Mary Evans presenting 'Exploring rapport building techniques used by occupational therapists in mental health settings' on the City Terrace during the concurrent sessions

Early career researchers gained valuable insights from experienced academics at our Early Career Researcher/Academic Speed Q&A event. New researchers gathered on the City Terrace to talk career paths, academic life and more with established academics, rotating tables every seven minutes to gain a variety of insights.


On Thursday evening, Gala Dinner attendees enjoyed a three-course dinner on the City Terrace. It was a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues, meet new peers and hit the dance floor!


OTAUS2023 Day 3 (Friday)

It was a privilege to hear from our final keynote speaker, Professor Faye McMillan AM, a Wiradjuri yinaa (woman) and strong advocate for improving Indigenous healthcare outcomes across professions. Faye shared her presentation 'Through Whose Lens…? When our ship needs to leave the safe harbour'.

Erin Garner (General Manager, Occupational Therapy) and Alex Eather and Alissa Fotiades (General Managers, Government & Stakeholder Relations) shared an update on OTA’s new directions in advocacy and professional practice. They spoke about OTA’s recent key achievements including our Mental Health Strategy, Member Forum with NDIA CEO and advocacy wins.

They also provided an update on current and upcoming projects, such as our Workforce Development Project. To complete the survey, click here.

Following the opening session, a variety of concurrent sessions took place throughout the day on topics including autism, caring for older people, regional and remote practice, and more.

Delissa Walker Ngadijina, a first nations master weaver based in Cairns, led a workshop on the techniques to create a traditional dilly bag. The workshop was a great opportunity to learn a new skill while connecting with other OTs. 


Day 3 closed with the presentation of conference awards and prize winners, closing remarks, and a thought-provoking panel discussion on Climate Change and the Role of OT. The discussion was facilitated by Tenelle Hodson, with speakers Cait Sinclar and Yessie Mosby.

Pictured L-R: Tenelle Hodson, Cait Sinclar and Yessie Mosby

Pictured L-R: Carol McKinstry, Priscilla Ennals and Ted Brown

OTA's Booth

Thank you to everyone who stopped by OTA's booth during the conference. It was fantastic to meet so many passionate OTs and to share with you the opportunities and projects ahead for OTA and our members. Thank you also to those who took the time to have a conversation with Marcus and Kate near booth 109. Your thoughts and feedback are greatly appreciated and will play an important part in designing the future of OTA together.



Thank you!

We’d like to thank our incredible National Conference & Exhibition Committees. Thanks to the hard work and preparation of our Organising and Scientific Program Committees, we were able to deliver a fantastic event showcasing insights, innovations and opportunities for the profession of occupational therapy. Thank you to all our fantastic sponsors and exhibitors, presenters and delegates for joining us to make OTAUS2023 a huge success.

Delegates can access this year’s conference content up to 45 days post-event via the online channel. Revisit keynote speakers, presentations, abstracts and more! If you missed out, you can still register here to access the online channel: https://www.otausevents.com.au/otaus2023/registration



Sponsored Advertising - Find out more