I am writing to you all to say farewell as I step down from my role as President of WFOT. I started my role within WFOT as the First Alternate Delegate for Australia in 1992 – little did I know the journey I was about to embark on and what a journey it has been. During the time I have been involved with WFOT I have seen it grow from 43 member organisations to 105, with the profession growing by 117% in the last 14 years alone. We now have 1010 approved programmes worldwide and over 100,000 students – the future of this our glorious profession.
However all of this cannot be achieved by one person alone and I have been so fortunate to have been surrounded by many remarkable people who showed amazing faith in me. I worked with 5 Presidents before me – Maria Schwartz, Barbara Tyldesley, Carolyn Webster, Kit Sinclair and Sharon Brintnell – and each one of them mentored me in so many different ways. The Executive Management Teams I have worked with – too numerous to mention – all brought their own unique knowledge and perspective along with the hundreds of delegates I have met and formed strong friendships with.
I do however need to make a special mention of Ritchard Ledgerd who has worked closely with me since I convinced him that the HR Project (demographic survey) would be a great project for him to undertake – little did he know what lay ahead. For the past 6 years we have worked closely with Ritchard in his role as Executive Director – the true heartbeat of WFOT. We have spoken almost every day – sometimes twice per day to address the many issues and questions faced by WFOT. I don’t even know where to begin to say thank you to him.
The last 12 months have certainly brought many changes to how occupational therapists deliver their services and for many it has moved us outside of our comfort zones. “Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better”. (King Whitney Jr). As occupational therapists we must take our role as agents of change seriously.
In her Presidential Address (2011) the then AOTA President Dr. Florence Clark stated “More than any other health or wellness profession, we (occupational therapists) understand that hope still glimmers in the darkest hour. That’s because we are witnesses to—and champions of— the fundamental power of daily occupation”. Never before in the history of our profession have we had such an opportunity to take centre stage and truly impact on the health and wellbeing of all people with the focus shifting from cure to functional ability. The challenge for us all is to continue to promote occupational therapy within a wide range of differing social and cultural contexts and to make the changes that matter.
It is now time to handover to the incoming Executive Management Team and I wish Samantha Shann and her team every success. I will be happy to support them in my role as Immediate Past President and I look forward to working with them during the handover and transition.
I hope to see many of you in Paris 2022 and maintain my precious friendships forged out of my association with WFOT. To each and everyone of you I send my warmest wishes and heartfelt thanks.