Our History

2021 is the New Zealand Speech-language Therapists’ Association’s 75th anniversary

In 1946, Peter Fraser was our prime minister; our population reached a little under two million; Sam Hunt and Bill Manhire two of New Zealand’s best-known poets were born; and Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care book was influencing millions of new and expectant parents throughout the world.

That same year, on 28 August the first annual general meeting of the New Zealand Speech Therapy Association was held in Christchurch.


To celebrate our anniversary

  • Join us at the annual general meeting to be held 29th August, at the University of Canterbury as part of the biennial conference activities.
  • Contribute a photo to the 75-anniversary display in the conference exhibition area or be added to this page.
  • Print the poster commemorating 75 years of advocacy and member service – available at the end of August.
  • Socialise our anniversary hashtag: #NZSTA75 on Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn.
  • NZSTA will gather key items that commemorate this year – 2021 and put them into a time capsule – not to be opened until our centenary in 2046.

Commemorating 75 years of advocacy and member service: A timeline

Speech therapy began in Christchurch at the School for the Deaf. It
was to this school that children with difficulties travelled to for help
with their speech. Adults with war injuries impacting speech were
also directed to the school.

1921 and 1922
Three teachers sent from the School for the Deaf to
Dunedin, Wellington, and Auckland to initiate the first speech
classes in New Zealand.

Miss Marion E. Saunders appointed to establish a speech class
at the Normal School, Christchurch.

Miss Marion E. Saunders, first president and first director of speech therapy training

The Education Department altered policy enabling teachers
interested in speech and hearing disability to set up speech clinics
instead of classes.


Christchurch Teachers College chosen as first centre for formal
speech therapy training – a one year course post 2-years of primary
teacher training. Three students selected – Evelyn Widdowson,
Grace Gane and Muriel Lister.

First three speech therapy students 1942

The Hutt Valley Speech Therapy Association formed. (Other regions
followed – Otago, North Canterbury, Wellington…)

The New Zealand Speech Therapists’ Journal founded in May with
Grace Gane as editor. A practical supplement of value to parents
and teachers accompanied each issue.

The New Zealand Speech Therapy Association formed in
Christchurch in August, during the first refresher course for
therapists to be held in New Zealand. Thirty-three members
recorded as having paid the first annual membership fee of £1.

Registrants at first refresher course 1946.


Annual general meetings and conferences moved to biennial events
for ten years.

The first five years of NZST Journals
Speech Therapy Journal supplement - 1959


Incorporated as a society, the New Zealand Speech Therapy
Association (Incorporated)

Speech therapy training changed to a two-year course following
one-year primary teacher training.


Marion Saunders’ Trust Fund launched dedicated in perpetuity as a
prize fund for original writing or research into matters or problems
related to speech therapy.

The McKeracher Report recommended degree training in speech

Mary Roberts became advisor in speech therapy to the Department
of Education.


Movement from area executive to a national executive adopted
with Lois Lawn as first president of new national format.
Marilyn Heine became advisor for speech therapy at the
Department of Health to ensure that the training enabled therapists
to work in health as well as education.

Budget announcement that a Bachelor of Speech-Language Therapy
would be set up at the University of Canterbury with open entry.
First edition of the NZSTA Bulletin published – for more practical
sharing of professional news and events in addition to the journal.

Speech-language therapy training extended to three-year diploma
course post one-year primary teacher training.

The first 25 students enrolled for the intermediate year of the BSLT
programme with Jo de Seriere as head of department.

The last diploma students graduated.

Final diploma graduates 1988-9


Speech-language therapists increasingly incorporate dysphagia as
part of their remit. Inaugural dysphagia themed conference:
Speaking of Swallowing.

Communication Matters first published.

Dame Ann Hercus launched the New Zealand Communication
Disorders Trust. NZSTA donated $1,000.
The first 14 students graduated from the BSLT programme.

Adopted the standards contained in “Communicating Quality”
(RCSLT). Standards were gradually modified to meet our unique
cultural and geographical needs.

The outcome of the review of the BSLT programme at University of
Canterbury secured the future of speech-language therapy
education in New Zealand including masters and PhDs.

50 th anniversary of NZSTA.

Inaugural joint NZSTA and AASH conference: Communication
Partnership – first of its kind with Australasia.

First Speak Week – a collaboration between Telecom, The New
Zealand Disorders Trust and NZSTA.

NZSTA’s position regarding ethics, standards, quality measures and
complaints procedures articulated – a move towards self-

The Asia-Pacific Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing is
launched – Bruce Murdoch as editor.

NZSTA official logo registered with a certificate of trademark
registration from the Intellectual Property Office.

Past NZSTA logo


Launch of the Programme Accreditation Framework reflecting both
New Zealand and international values and standards related to
speech-language therapy education. Framework updated in 2011
and will undergo a formal review in 2022-23.

University of Canterbury programme successfully accredited against
the NZSTA Programme Accreditation Framework.

NZSTA a founding member of Allied Health Aotearoa New Zealand
(AHANZ) (formerly Allied Health Association of NZ) – a national
voice for allied health professions.

Master of Speech Language Therapy Practice established at
University of Auckland along with PhD opportunities.

Massey University established the Bachelor of Speech and
Language Therapy with Honours at the Albany campus, Auckland.

The Mutual Recognition of Professional Association Credentials
signed at ASHA Congress in Chicago between ASHA. CASLPA, RCSLT,

Programme Accreditation Framework working party - 2002


Dean Sutherland appointed as first male president.
Established new NZSTA executive council portfolio of Māori and
Multicultural Development

Judge Andrew Becroft appointed the first patron of NZSTA.

Volume 16 the Asia Pacific Journal of Speech, Language and
Hearing (APJSLH) published under a new title: Speech, Language
and Hearing (SLH) – Michael Robb as editor.

NZSTA, a founding member of the International Communication
Project whose aim is to influence international health and disability policy. Over 50 organisations participate now.

Karen Brewer established He Kete Whanaungatanga – a support
network for Māori SLTs.

Launch of yearlong advocacy campaign – Giving Voice Aotearoa
including communication accessible awards and the development
of communication access principles.

Giving Voice Aotearoa Consumer Representative: Geneva Hakaraia-Tino

Successful bid to host an IALP 2022 congress (postponed to 2023).

Establishment of a consumer reference group and consumer lead

At the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review for New Zealand
NZSTA highlighted actions the Government can take to work
towards the goal of a fully accessible society for Aotearoa

Appointment of kaumatua, Rukingi Haupapa (Te Arawa, Ngāti
Whakaue) and the development of our NZSTA kaupapa including
our waiata: Tōnā Reo.

NZSTA established a self-regulation model and began issuing annual
practising certificates.

Third joint NZSTA and SPA conference: Engaging, Collaborating and
Empowering, hosted in Brisbane

Postponement of biennial conference to 2021.

NZSTA Board with kaumatua, Te Roro o Te Rangi ki Te Kuirau Marae

75 years on, the New Zealand Speech-language Therapists’
Association continues to flourish. A vision of a thriving profession
working in partnership to enhance lives is embedded with its values
of kotahitanga, whanaungatanga, rangatiratanga and aroha.

Members number over 960.

Conference hosted in Christchurch: Aoraki Iho Ake: Grounded –
Aspiring – Connected.