Michelle Funder's wrap-up report

At the start of 2024, Dr Michelle Funder (Osteopath) stepped down as the association’s President after six transformational years in the role. Michelle concludes her strategic leader, with the heartwarming and inspirational message.

Outgoing President Michelle Funder's wrap-up report

As I prepare to conclude my term as President of Osteopathy Australia, it’s a moment of profound reflection on the journey that brought me here. My first Board meeting took place on 10 February 2018, a date etched in my memory because just two days later, at 1:15am, my eldest daughter, Stevie, was born. I’d secretly wished for her arrival after that initial Board meeting, and fate had a way of granting my wish.

Over the past six years, my role as a Board member and subsequently as President has been intertwined with significant milestones in my personal life. Stevie’s birth virtually coincided with my joining the Board, and she is now a vibrant five-year-old prep student. My third child, Gus, came into the world in February 2023, during my final year with Osteopathy Australia, and my second child, Harry, was stillborn due to a cord injury in October 2021 at 36 weeks gestation. These personal experiences have shaped my journey with Osteopathy Australia in ways I could not have foreseen.

Throughout these six years, I have also navigated divorce, single parenthood and the journey of finding love again. Life’s rollercoaster has been incredible, with its ups and downs, but it has also been a source of inspiration and growth. Not to mention that small global pandemic that started in March 2020, three months into my presidency role!

In the realm of my professional life, my business has flourished. It’s a remarkable team achievement, and I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my team at Beyond and the other Founding Director, Shane Bennett, who has supported me along the way. I extend heartfelt thanks to my parents, family and current partner who wholeheartedly embrace and support my pursuits. The many hats I wear as a mother, business owner and president have required an incredibly supportive team.

Gratitude at the deepest level is also due to my fellow Board members and past directors with whom I’ve had the privilege of working. They are an exceptional group of people. Some continue to mentor me, and I hope these relationships continue.

Special thanks go to our incredible CEO, Antony Nicholas, whose trust in me, commitment to open and honest communication, and outstanding work in placing osteopathy where it is today have been constant inspirations over the six years. The osteopathic profession will be forever grateful for everything you’ve done for us. I share these personal reflections and express my gratitude because they underscore the importance of relationships and community. My life motto is to say “yes” to every opportunity, as each can lead to another. By giving our time, upholding integrity and doing our best, we position ourselves to meet some of the challenges we face as a profession.

In 2022, I organised a meeting with past presidents to seek their insights on inspiring future leadership in osteopathy. The resounding answer was the need to maintain our osteopathic community’s essence. The identity of osteopathy has evolved over the years, but as we move forward, we must remain agile and embrace osteopaths’ unique problem-solving abilities. Our skills extend beyond private practice and can be applied to policy advocacy, healthcare, sports teams, occupational rehab, and aged care, to name a few. We have much to offer in the broader landscape of Australian healthcare.

During my Board tenure, we achieved significant milestones, and I’m genuinely thrilled to witness future Osteopathy Australia boards build on our accomplishments. The governance model has evolved into a highly efficient system. In 2023, I was invited to speak at a conference on chairing and CEO management, where I received a commendation for the governance structure of Osteopathy Australia. Our CEO is the Chair of AHPA – the Allied Health Professions Australia. This position means that, on a national level, our CEO often has a seat at the table on behalf of all allied health professionals. This position underscores our belief in inclusivity and diverse healthcare approaches to benefit patients. We actively promote a community of healthcare and a sense of belonging that reflects our values at Osteopathy Australia.

One of my proudest accomplishments was the establishment of regular stakeholder meetings. This meeting includes our Universities, Registration and Accreditation boards. Recognising all stakeholders rarely convened in a single forum, I initiated these meetings to collectively address issues affecting our profession. The shift to virtual meetings due to the pandemic eliminated logistical barriers, and I’m delighted to leave this legacy, fostering collaboration and shared solutions among all osteopathic stakeholders.

A lesson I learnt early in my Board career was that influencing change can take time. An ongoing challenge we face as a profession is the skewed geographic distribution, with most osteopaths concentrated in Melbourne. Creating osteopathy courses outside Victoria is essential, but it’s a complex task demanding patience, collaboration and persistent effort. I’d have loved to have seen several new courses open during my time on the Board, and I’m confident we have the proper structure in place for this to be a reality, but it will take time.

Personally, one of my most memorable experiences was serving on the Medicare Taskforce in 2018, where we reviewed the Chronic Disease Management (CDM) program. This experience highlighted the value of Osteopathy Australia’s advocacy and policy work, often overlooked by members who may not directly see its impact. Advocacy may not always be glamorous, but it’s a crucial part of securing our profession’s future and driving advancement and opportunities for osteopaths in all aspects of healthcare.

As I conclude my tenure as President, I’m filled with gratitude for the incredible individuals and experiences that have shaped my journey. Our relationships and community are the cornerstone of our profession’s growth. Seeing someone you studied with at university at a conference or referring to an osteopath on the other side of the country – we are lucky to have this community. Moving forward, let us embrace change, maintain our unique identity, and continue to provide exceptional healthcare for all Australians. Together, we can shape a brighter future for osteopathy in Australia. I hope to see you all at the conference in Sydney in October.