The Otago Branch was formed when the Provincial Masseurs Associations were established in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, with the earliest records showing the Branch was operational sometime prior to 1923. Otago was involved in administration at national level from 1927 and branch delegates from Otago began attending nationwide meetings several years later. In 1952, the Branch established a set of rules regarding editing the New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy which were later approved by the Council.

Otago was the smallest of the founding centres and has always benefitted from a strong affiliation with the School of Physiotherapy. Membership of the Otago Branch has steadily increased over time with 17 registered members in 1932, 30 to 40 between 1947 and the late 1960s, and 318 at present. In 1956 Enid Gotts, a previous national body president (1953-1954 and 1962-1963), was the first Otago member to attend a World Confederation for Physical Therapy congress in New York. Miss Gotts was one of many national presidents from the Otago region including Alison Allan (1934-1936), Noel Beckett (1943-1946), Beryl Service (1952-1953), John Pow (1960-1962), Billie McLeod (1972-1973), Barbara Hetherington (1990-1991), and Margot Skinner (1992-1995) who were appointed as the New Zealand voting delegate for the WCPT General Meeting. Many of these physiotherapists have been made life members of Physiotherapy New Zealand.

The Otago Branch shares a close relationship with the Otago Southland Physiotherapy Trust, and often works in partnership with the Trust to bring experts in research and clinical practice to the region. The Trust was established in 1975 from the surplus funds arising from a successful national conference hosted by the Branch. The Branch is also proud of its links to the University of Otago and in 2000 took over the management of the Allison Allan Prize, which was founded by a bequest from Miss Allan (1899-1987) and first awarded in 1988. This prize is presented to a student undertaking a Bachelor of Physiotherapy degree, who displays the best techniques in manipulative physiotherapy papers in his or her second and third years.

Two significant landmarks in recent history have been the establishment of the Southern Physiotherapy Symposium (SPS) and the Branch Education Fund. The inagural SPS was held in 2001 and has been run bienially in Queenstown since that time. The philosophy of each Symposium has been to combine clinically-relevant, state-of-the-art, evidence-based content with a weekend of fun and social activities. We are grateful to successive committees for their dedication and work in enabling the success of these forums, which have consistently attracted approximately 100 delegates and a raft of local, national and international speakers. The Education Fund was founded in 2010 with the primary objective of promoting, encouraging and assisting physiotherapists in Otago with continuing professional development so to benefit the wider local physiotherapy community.

Presently, a key focus of the Branch is to provide local members with affordable and accessible opportunities for continuing professional development. Due to the success of our many weekend workshops as well as Branch meetings (especially our mid-winter pizza special), we are committed to continuing in this vein! We anticipate a bright future and also the need to engage more actively with the community to advocate the many benefits of physiotherapy.


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