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Music therapy pioneer Dr Daphne Rickson receives Queen’s Birthday honour

Dr Daphne Rickson. One of New Zealand’s first music therapists, Dr Daphne Rickson, from Paekākāriki, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday...

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Dr Daphne Rickson.

One of New Zealand’s first music therapists, Dr Daphne Rickson, from Paekākāriki, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday and Platinum Jubilee Honours.

Being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music therapy, Daphne’s contribution to the profession has had a major impact on the growth it has seen in New Zealand over the years.

“The news of receiving the accolade was both thrilling and overwhelming,” Daphne said.

“First contact was via email, and I didn’t really believe it until the letter of confirmation arrived in the mail.

Dr Daphne Rickson.
Dr Daphne Rickson.

“It has been such a privilege and pleasure to be part of the music therapy community over the last three decades – to be able to work with so many inspirational people who are committed to developing the field so that people of all abilities can access music in ways that will enhance their wellbeing.”

Qualifying as a musical therapist in the 1990s through what is now Music Therapy New Zealand (MThNZ), Daphne joined the national council in 1993 and was the chairwoman from 1997 to 2002 and president from 2008 to 2012.

She collaborated with a team to initiate a music therapy masters’ programme at the New Zealand School of Music in 2003 and is the Australasian Regional Liaison for the World Federation of Music Therapy Council.

“When I first began working as a music therapist there was only a handful of us in the country.

“It was only natural that we would become pioneers, working hard to grow what we were passionate about.

“Our achievements are therefore a collaborative effort – which is why I feel so humble about receiving the honour.”

Daphne was the first person in New Zealand to achieve a PhD in music therapy in 2010.

Her research has focused on children and adults with complex needs and enabling marginalised people to use music resources to increase their community participation.

Her work has also helped with the wellbeing of New Zealanders after big events such as the Christchurch earthquakes and the March 15 terror attack where she helped review MThNZ’s Standards of Practice and supported the development of MThNZ’s Aotearoa Crisis Intervention working group.

“I’m proud that we have established a master of music therapy programme at Victoria University of Wellington, that we now have over 80 registered music therapists throughout the country, and that music therapy is increasingly recognised as an important option in a range of medical, mental health, hospice, rehabilitation, educational, and correctional programmes.”

With more than 40 publications including co-authoring the book Creating Music Cultures in the Schools: A Perspective from Community Music Therapy (2014), Daphne’s work and research are highly regarded not just in New Zealand, but around the world.

“Most of all I’m proud and grateful to have had opportunities to make music with hundreds of children, young people, and families who have faced significant challenges in life.”

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