2019 Australian Allied Health Awards Recognising and Celebrating Hard Working Health Professionals.

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 2.50.43 pm.png

Saturday, 21 September, saw Australia’s most dedicated and exceptional Allied Health Professionals celebrated at the 2019 Australian Allied Health Awards, powered by Dimple. 

 Held at the Arts Centre Melbourne, the Awards are designed to recognise the hard work and dedication of the best and brightest stars in the sector, were a huge success, with members of the Allied Health community travelling from all over the country to attend. 

 The Awards create an important event in the Allied Health industry’s calendar, celebrating the amazing, and often under-appreciated work, the professionals in the sector do every day.

 “It’s really great that the industry now has an event to look forward to every year. We’re excited to reach even more health professionals next year, and to give them a platform to showcase the amazing work that they do” – Chris McCarroll, Allied Magazine.

 With over 400 nominees across 17 award categories and more than 230 Allied Health and Business professionals in attendance at this year’s Awards night, next year’s event promises to be even bigger.

 The Australian Allied Health Awards aim to establish the opportunity for every Australian Allied Health professional to feel recognition and pride, as well as to feel part of the larger Australian healthcare community.

 “These awards are designed to recognise, inspire & promote innovation and excellence, as well as healthcare impact within the Allied Health community. With categories such as Occupational Therapist of the Year, Dietitian of the Year, Exercise Physiologist of the Year, Rural and Remote Excellence - it’s understandable why there’s been such overwhelming support and excitement about the Awards! We couldn’t be prouder,” explains Sarena Jones, Allied Health Support Services.

Nominations open for the 2020 Australian Allied Health Awards on the 1st March with the Gala being held in Sydney in October. 




2019 Occupational Therapist of the Year

Heidi Long, National OT

Heidi is the managing director and founder of National Occupational Therapy.  National OT provides mobile community based services to all ages and abilities across Victoria, NSW, SA and QLD – one of the largest and fastest growing Occupational Therapy providers in the country. 


2019 Dietitian of the Year 

Dr Jennifer Cohen, University of NSW, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network

Dr Jennifer Cohen is a specialised paediatric dietitian. She is currently working on a translational research project at the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, team leader in Nutrition Research at Sydney’s Children’s Hospital and senior research fellow at the University of NSW. 

She has presented at conferences and workshops 16 times, has 18 publications under her belt, has successfully won numerous research and funding grants and is also a prominent and well respected media and social media personality in her field.  


2019 Podiatrist of the Year 

Melissa Zacharia, Pod Fit Podiatry

Melissa is a passionate Podiatrist and the clinical director at Pod Fit Podiatry in Adelaide. She has set up and hosts an online support group for Podiatrists – called Rethinking Podiatry. 


2019 Physiotherapist of the Year 

Melissa McConaghy, Advance Rehab Centre & PD Warrior

Melissa is a Specialist Neurological Physiotherapist and founder of PD Warrior, Advance Rehab Centre and the Curator of the INSIGHT Summit – which brings together the largest group of people with Parkinson's online globally, for three days each year. She is the past Chair and National Representative of the NSW Neurology Group for the Australian Physiotherapy Association. Melissa speaks around the world on Exercise as Medicine about Parkinson's and is also the author of "The New Parkinson's Treatment: Exercise is Medicine". She has trained over 2000 health professionals in PD Warrior and the PD Warrior program is licensed internationally in eight countries. 

2019 Speech Pathologist of the Year

Bernadette Dutton, Loqui Speech Pathology

Bernadette has over 20 years clinical experience in the areas of aged care, head and neck cancer, voice, degenerative neurological disorders, complex dysphagia, palliative care and spinal and tracheostomy management. She is a clinical educator at the University of Queensland, Australian Catholic University and Griffith University and guest lectures at the University of QLD. She is the director and principal speech pathologist at Loqui Speech Pathology, supporting adults with communication and swallowing disorders Australia wide. 


2019 Allied Health Excellence in Rural & Remote Areas

Robyn McKinnon, Robyn McKinnon Consulting & Counselling, Australian Perinatal 

Professionals Network

Robyn is the founder and principal social worker at McKinnon Consultancy & Counselling Services across Northern Tasmania, but also providing regular outreach services to Flinders Island and King Island and national telehealth services.  Robyn also founded the Australian Perinatal Loss Professionals Network and is the co-host of the Australasian Perinatal Loss Conference – which will be held here in Melbourne next month. 


2019 Rehabilitation Counsellor of the Year

Danielle Mik, Damik Consulting

Danielle is a Rehabilitation Counsellor and the founder and principal at Damik Consulting – a service which specialises in emotional intelligence coaching and mentoring services and employee assistance programs. Danielle has developed a series of Emotional Intelligence, Resilience and Trauma Education programs which places the client at the centre of the entire rehabilitation process, including a specific support and educational program for Rehab Counsellors themselves- called Embrace – to build on their own emotional resilience in their roles.  


2019 Social Worker of the Year 

Mary Jo McVeigh, Cara House

Mary Jo McVeigh is an experienced mental health social worker, the CEO and Founder of Cara House and the CaraCare charity – which both support vulnerable children, young people and their families through trauma- specific counselling and human rights practices. 
Mary Jo has authored Without Question, the Language of the Mindful Leader and Audacious Love. She has also published three resources for working therapeutically with children and young people. Mary Jo has written and delivered a number of healing programs, training courses, and professional consultation and coaching and she is undertaking a research PhD in Social Work at Sydney University.  


2019 Exercise Physiologist of the Year

Prue Cormie, Ex Med Cancer, Research Fellow Australian Catholic University

Prue Cormie is an accredited exercise physiologist and associate professor and research fellow at the Australian Catholic University.  Prue’s research and clinical work focuses on the application of exercise as medicine for the management of cancer, whereby she founded her specialised practice  Ex Med Cancer.   

Associate Professor Prue Cormie is internationally recognised as a leader in the field of exercise and cancer and has published over 70 scientific research articles, presented her work at over 200 scientific conferences and seminars and been recognised with numerous awards.


2019 Allied Health Excellence in Leadership & Management

Merrilyn Banks, Director Dietetics / Nutrition & Executive Director of Research at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital

Merrilyn has 30 years experience in clinical dietetics and allied health management.  She is currently the director of dietetics & nutrition and the executive director of research at the RBWH in Brisbane. Merrily has successfully received several funding grants, submitted 80 publications in the past 11 years, including 76 peer reviewed journal articles, 2 book chapters and 2 evidence based guidelines – focusing on embedding a culture of research and research translation into clinical practice.

2019 Allied Health Early Career Excellence 

Harley Hayes, Occupational Therapy, Everyday Independence

Harley is an Occupational Therapist and Positive Behaviour Support Practitioner in his second year of practice, at Everyday Independence.  He champions person centred and evidence based practice, is a well respected and hard working team player and advocates for rural and remote health services.

2019 Allied Health Educator of the Year 

Saravana Kumar, Physiotherapist, The University of South Australia

Saravana is a physiotherapist, associate professor and program director School of Health Sciences at University of South Australia.  He is clearly a very passionate teacher with a focus on embedding evidence base and research translation into practice. Saravana has won numerous awards, funding grants and is a sought after international speaker and international journal reviewer.  Saravana has over 180 publications to his name and is a sought after mentor and supervisor across the allied health professions.


2019 Allied Health Impact Achievement Award 

Chris Mackey, Chris Mackey & Associates

Chris is the Principal Psychologist at Chris Mackey and Associates, and has 39 years of clinical experience and 35 years of supervisory experience. Chris is the author of "Synchronicity: Empower your life with the gift of coincidence". He is a regular presenter on the Channel 9’s - Destination Happiness, writes a fortnightly column for The Geelong Advertiser, and has a fortnightly radio segment. Chris is so passionate for evidence based practice, he has coordinated one of the largest databases of objective outcome data collection across the world with data being collected over the last 12 years.  Chris has been an invited lecturer, presenter and speaker internationally, in addition to authoring several publications. 


2019 Psychologist of the Year 

Dr Peta Stapleton, Associate Professor Bond University

Dr Stapleton is currently Associate Professor at Bond University, a registered Clinical & Health Psychologist, and an EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) researcher and trainer. Peta also maintains a private practice, specialising in eating disorders, women’s health and adolescent issues. 

Peta is regularly consulted for radio, television and print media interviews and has published 4 self help books.  Peta is world renowned for her research – she has conducted world-first randomized clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of EFT for food cravings in overweight and obese adults, as well as many other areas. Peta has 7 publications under review currently, has authored another 100 academic publications and is a well respected and well sought after international speaker.

2019 Allied Health Adult Private Practice Excellence 

Advance Rehab Centre – Melissa McConaghy

Advance Rehab Centre is a specialist neurological rehab service based in Sydney. The multidisciplinary team of 43 offers complex and specialised therapy in their purpose-built rehab centre and in client’s homes.

This specialised team, regularly present in Australia and internationally, host monthly evening lectures for health professionals and regular client education sessions. They have created several specialised and comprehensive evidenced based neurological programs – one of which, director and physio, Melissa McConaghy created in 2012 is internationally renowned and taught - PD Warrior. 

Paediatric Private Practice Excellence 

The Healthy Strides – Dayna Pool

Dayna Pool is a physiotherapist, the Clinical Lead and Founder of The Healthy Strides Foundation - a not for profit community organisation that provides intensive, multidisciplinary, evidence and activity based rehabilitation for children and young adults with neurological conditions and injuries. With a focus on research and education for clients and colleagues, The Healthy Strides hosts knowledge translation breakfast clubs and all therapies and programs run are backed by evidence – one renowned specialised program created is Stride, an intensive locomotor step program. 

The team at the Healthy Strides Foundation are partnered with Get Equip’d – which provides education, training, equipment and student placements to support children in developing countries. 


Allied Health Team Culture Award 

Clinical Excellence Team, Everyday Independence – Ingrid Cole

The clinical excellence team at Everyday Independence ensures shared core values and has successfully supported and onboarded 70 new team members in 2019 alone and continues to grow both exponentially and sustainably. With scalable, individualised and supportive training programs and career development opportunities for staff – the culture at Everyday Independence focuses on fun, learning and client focused outcomes.

This team heavily invests in clinical excellence, research and service design, for example, hosting an organisational wide conference for all new starters, use of a Lead Therapy Support Model and their Employee Value Programme – which sets up both the staff and their clients for success.