Celebrating 80 years of physiotherapy


On 28 July 2018, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The University of Queensland hosted a cocktail event to celebrate 80 years of physiotherapy. In 1938, the University of Queensland (UQ) was the first university in Australia to offer a degree course in physiotherapy. The program started with 16 students enrolled in a three-year Diploma of Physiotherapy. The University of Queensland now has more than 700 students, enrolled across all years of entry-level undergraduate, master’s, specialty master’s and research programs.

Efforts were made to contact UQ alumni from all programs in physiotherapy and invite them to reconnect at a celebration held on campus at St Lucia. We were delighted that more than 400 physiotherapy alumni attended the event, including physiotherapy graduates from overseas and interstate. These included graduates from the 1940s, right though to 2017. In addition, more than 150 alumni toured the physiotherapy facilities at UQ, reminiscing about how the life and times of a student and their opportunities have changed over the years. From 1974 until today, there have been only five heads of physiotherapy at UQ, and all were present at the celebration. I presented on the current programs, research and engagement opportunities, Honoured Member Gwendolen Jull, FACP, presented on the history of physiotherapy, and two current students, Georgia Goldman and Angus Mackay, presented on the future of the profession.

On display at the event were graduation photos spanning from the 1930s to now, old textbooks, photos of life as a physiotherapy student across the ages and current research. This represented hours of work undertaken by a dedicated group of individuals including Gwendolen Jull, Honoured Member Prue Galley, and APA members Elaine Unkles and Andrew Claus.

The event illustrated what a richly connected and engaged community UQ physiotherapy graduates have created. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues across the years, including many past UQ physiotherapy staff members. It was heartening to hear that their degree in physiotherapy has set them up with so many skills, providing them with a springboard to a myriad of career opportunities. The event provided an opportunity for alumni to find out about potential ways to remain engaged with UQ, such as volunteering as standardised patients, mentoring, or becoming involved in research, teaching clinical placement or scholarship opportunities. Looking at our engaged community of physiotherapists and the accomplished students coming through, we are confident that the future of physiotherapy is looking bright.

If anyone is interested in reconnecting with UQ, or obtaining assistance to arrange a reunion event for your graduating year, contact Paul Purcell at p.purcell@uq.edu.au.


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