Starting Out in Australia
Updated: Jul 15
Making the leap from student to qualified professional was always going to be a big transition, and one which loomed on the horizon for what felt like a lifetime. This article was originally intended to discuss that experience, the experience of being a newly graduated Music Therapist. Here in Australia, in order to become a Music Therapist, you are required to complete a master’s degree, which is only offered at two universities. I had planned to share with you a range of experiences from those two Australian cohorts. I would have explained that throughout the jam-packed two-year degree, we also completed a range of clinical placements, which gave us the opportunity to experience different settings, different styles of music therapy, and learn from different supervisors. I would emphasize that those two years flew by so quickly, that before we knew it, we found ourselves to be “real” Music Therapist in the big wide world.
I would have discussed the feelings of excitement, terror, intimidation, self-doubt, honour and privilege that filled the first months of this year. The frustration, the joy. Having collected the new grad stories from a range of students, I would have shared that many had finished their degree with an idea of what type of workplace they were after. Some sought out an already established team of music therapists, and others actively avoided these organizations. Some new grads sought work with specific populations, while another group, like myself, were excited to use the opportunity to build something new, to spread to power of music therapy into areas that were yet to embrace it. I would have emphasized that despite these different approaches and workplaces, there was a common theme of stress, pressure and anxiety felt in regard to finding work.
And then the world stopped.
Some of us had hours slashed and others lost jobs they had not even begun. Many had to develop and learn an entirely new way of working. Having spent years learning the importance of the therapeutic relationship and musical connection, we were forced to join the experienced Music Therapists of the world in figuring out how to move this into the tele-world.
Discussions with my peers have shown that there seems to be, for some, a sense of disconnecting from the profession. Individuals are reverting back to the work they were doing before becoming registered, leaning more heavily on teaching than they had wanted to, finding altogether new work or not working at all. There is a silent fear that we may get bumped out of a world we never got the chance to be a part of.
After graduating, there was a feeling among each cohort that everyone would need to work hard to stay connected. Music Therapists in Australia are rare, physically spread out, and often the only Music Therapist in their workplace.
Consequently, there has always been a strong sense of community in the profession, stemming from the need to stay connected. Now this sense of urgency in staying connected feels stronger than ever.
These are un-precedented times, and no matter the stage of career, Music Therapists around the world are facing challenges they never believed they would encounter. Whether we are fortunate for having completed our studies before this all began, or unlucky in not having established our careers yet, we will never know. All we can do is find our own path through to the other side.