ASO History

The Australian Society of Orthodontists was formed by a meeting of seven orthodontists on the 26th August 1927, during the 6th Australian Dental Congress in Melbourne, in the State of Victoria.

During these early years, the functions of the Society were limited to creating a constitution and to the gaining of recognition from orthodontic societies throughout the world.  Little else could have been expected with so small a number of widely scattered specialists.  To add to these difficulties, two major world events, the economic depression of the 1930’s and the Second World War, took their toll on the progress of the Society.  The Society went quietly into recess.

In May 1948, former members of the Society were circularised to ascertain their support for the renewal of the Society’s activities.  Reorganisation proceeded from that point with the first meeting in August 1950. 

The re-formed Society started off with sixteen members, all specialist orthodontists, but it soon became apparent that the Society would not become viable without including interested general practitioners and without state branches.

During the next ten years, under the Presidency of, first, Dr A Thornton-Taylor and then Sir Kenneth Adamson, important amendments were made to the constitution, affiliation was granted by the Australian Dental Association, a regular Bulletin was produced and distributed to members, and a Presidential Award for a research paper and a "Case of the Year" project were introduced.

Due to the enthusiasm of Dr Thornton-Taylor, who during his term as President visited many States at his own expense, Branches of the Society were established in Victoria in September 1951, New South Wales in November 1951, South Australia in May 1955 and Queensland in November 1955.  The Western Australian Branch was established in February 1962 by a meeting in the rooms of Kevin Henderson and Arthur Thornton-Taylor in his rooms in Sydney.

This rapid expansion necessitated additional administration, which was one of the problems that confronted Sir Kenneth Adamson when he became President at the General Meeting held in Melbourne in March 1956.  However, good leadership and administrative procedures welded the several components of the Society into a united body.

Then, at the next General Meeting held in Adelaide in February 1959, the Society took a significant step forward.  The newly elected Federal Executive was given a mandate to conduct the First Australian Orthodontic Congress in Sydney in 1961, just prior to the 16th Australian Dental Congress.

There being no precedent, it was decided to prepare a programme of general interest to all members, to incorporate as many members as possible into the programme, and in short, to present a programme as well balanced as possible.

Any early misgivings felt about holding such a Congress, were completely dispelled by the overwhelming support of the Society members. This coupled with the tireless work of an enthusiastic organising committee, resulted in the presentation of a scientific programme at a level which rightly entitled members to regard their Society as of International standing.

During this meeting, as a result of a bequest from Dr Stanley Wilkinson, the original President, a Foundation for Orthodontic Education and Research was created. At the general meeting of the Society held on 10th August 1961 in conjunction with the 1st Congress, it was decided to hold the 2nd Orthodontic Congress in Perth, Western Australia in 1964, immediately following the 17th Australian Dental Congress.

During the years between these two Orthodontic Congresses, much was achieved:

  • An Orthodontic Registration Board Committee of Senior ASO members, with JF Reading as Convenor, was appointed to investigate the possibility of forming an Australian Orthodontic Board.  The purpose of this Committee was to investigate the basis under which an Australian Orthodontic Board might operate, to ascertain the attitude of Dental Boards to the proposal, to promote appropriate postgraduate orthodontic education, and to define the qualifications necessary for specialist recognition.
  • The Bulletin became a quarterly publication in booklet form and included an Orthodontic Literature Scanning Panel for the purpose of reviewing current orthodontic literature and providing a reading list for publication in the bulletin at regular intervals for members’ guidance.
  • The Australian Society of Orthodontists’ Foundation for Research and Education sponsored its first overseas lecturer.

The 2nd Australian Orthodontic Congress was organised in Perth by the Western Australian Branch, with the Society also sponsoring its first overseas guest lecturer. At the general meeting of the Society held at the conclusion of the Perth Congress, it was decided to venture further and hold the 3rd Australian Orthodontic Congress at a time independent of an Australian Dental Congress; the attendance to be limited to members of the Society and members of recognised overseas orthodontic societies.

The Queensland Branch conducted this Congress, which was held at Surfers Paradise in May 1966. The scientific programme won the approval of all members present, and the social functions, tours and sports afternoon were enjoyed by those participating setting a precedent for subsequent congresses.

The 4th Congress was held in Adelaide in February 1969, the 5th Congress in Melbourne in March 1972, with the wheel making the complete turn back to Sydney in August 1974, for the 6th Congress. 

A highlight of the 1st Australian Orthodontic Congress was the inauguration of the Stanley Wilkinson Oration; the purpose of this Oration being to perpetuate the initiative of Dr Stanley Wilkinson in helping to establish the Australian Society of Orthodontists.  This Oration has continued to play an important role in every subsequent Congress, and the Society has indeed been fortunate to have had the privilege of such and so many eminent people as Orators who include a  Governor-General, a High Court Judge and a Nobel Prize winner as well as significant contributors to the development of Australian Orthodontics.  

ASO Past Orators

1961 - Dr PR Begg
1964 - Sir Kenneth Adamson
1966 - Dr A Thornton-Taylor
1969 - Dr RSD Gargett
1972 - Professor GJV Nossall
1974 - Sir Hermann Black
1977 - Professor GN Davies
1980 - Professor K Sutherland
1982 - Professor Geoffrey Howe
1984 - The Hon Mr Justice Michael Kirby
1987 - Dr RY Norton
1989 - Professor Donald Watts
1991 - Professor Charles Oxnard
1993 - Mr William F Scammell
1996 - Professor John Watson Funder
1998 - Sir Zelman Cowen
2000 - Professor Peter C Doherty
2002 - Ralph Sarich
2004 - Professor Milton Sims
2006 - Professor David Vaux
2008 - Professor Michael Good

Australian Society of Orthodontists’ Foundation for Research & Education

The Foundation for Research and Education was founded at the first Australian Orthodontic Congress in 1961. The Foundation was endowed by a generous donation from Dr J Stanley Wilkinson, prominent Melbourne orthodontist, and his wife. The original aims were actively to promote and support orthodontic research and advance the education of the orthodontic speciality in Australia. At the time of its formation, there were no courses offered by Australian Universities to train orthodontists, and there was very little research conducted by the university departments. In the subsequent 40 years, the Foundation has continued to advance the original goals and to reflect the changing spectra of orthodontics.

From the late 1960’s onwards, the Foundation has conducted regular continuing education programmes. These programmes originally consisted of eminent overseas lecturers and well known Australian orthodontists being invited to present courses throughout Australia. In recent years, the Foundation has moved towards conducting two-day programmes held in alternate years to the ASO Congress. Their format consists of inviting one or more distinguished overseas lecturers and supporting them with Australian orthodontists of high calibre. These meetings have also served to introduce to the speciality some of the younger, talented Australian orthodontists by inviting them to present lectures.

The Foundation also administers three prestigious orthodontic awards:

  • In 1977, following a donation from the Australian Begg Orthodontic Society, the P Raymond Begg Research Award was established. This award is designed to recognise an outstanding research paper representing an original investigation with significance to orthodontics. It was first awarded in 1980.
  • To encourage newly qualified orthodontists to publish the results of their course research, the First Research Award was inaugurated in 1982 It was later renamed in memory of the late Professor Elsdon Storey, a noted pioneer orthodontic research worker at the University of Melbourne in 1990.
  • Rocky Mountain Orthodontics endowed, in memory of the late Sam Bulkley, the RMO Sam Bulkley Travelling Fellowship. This is designed to allow young orthodontists to travel overseas to a centre of excellence, to further their studies, and to disseminate this information on return to Australia. The Trustees administer this Fellowship on behalf of RMO Australia and the ASO and was first awarded in 1987. It has resulted in many young orthodontists travelling to places where they would normally, due to economic circumstances, be unable to visit, and has been of benefit to the Australian speciality at large.

The Foundation, from its inception, has encouraged orthodontic research in Australia. With the diminution of funding to the universities, the Foundation is now the major source of financial assistance for orthodontic research in this country. The Foundation is called upon to support not only research programmes for post- graduate students, but also for doctoral students and post-doctoral research workers. Members of the ASO have financially supported the Foundations endeavours to give increasing financial support for research and this is seen as an ongoing charter by the Trustees.

At present the foundation has a capital base of over $1,000,000.  Only the interest from this is distributed as research grants.

The Australian Orthodontic Journal

The establishment of an Australian Orthodontic Journal had been, from its inception, an objective of the Australian Society of Orthodontists.  However, until it was felt with some degree of confidence that such a Journal could be maintained, regular publications of the Bulletin were issued to keep members in touch with the Society’s affairs.

First issued on roneoed sheets prepared by successive secretaries, RY Norton,  DF Spring , and then JF Reading of Sydney, and subsequently in booklet form by co-editors Drs KF Henderson and JFS McGibbon of Perth, and later in a more journal format by Dr JB Moffatt of Brisbane, these copies of the Bulletin reflect the growth of the Society. Finally in June 1967, Volume 1 Number 1 of the Australian Orthodontic Journal appeared with Dr JB Moffatt as Editor. The Journal was published every four months and, subsequently, it was recognised by the Bureau of Library Services of the American Dental Association for listing in the Index of Dental Literature.  This was a compliment to all of the members of the Society who had contributed to the early issues of the Journal.

Editorial policy has been to strike a balance between publication of pure and applied research and clinical material that reflects current orthodontic treatment in Australia. Thanks to the determination of successive ASO Councils and under the supervision of succeeding editors, Professor T Freer (1975-80), Dr D Bowden (1980-84), Dr B Mollenhauer (1984-91), Dr B W Lee (1991-2002) and Professor M Harkness (since 2002), the Journal has continued to grow in volume and scope; and this despite difficulties caused by frequent lack of manuscripts and the high cost of small print runs.  As research became an essential element of the requirement for a Masters degree in orthodontics, graduating orthodontists sought to publish their research in it.

In recent years, the Journal has attracted more international subscribers and contributions, particularly from Asia.  Advances in printing technology have broadened the scope of the Journal’s presentation of scientific material, and the number of staff has been increased in order to maintain the high standard of scientific writing that was achieved in its early years.

Graduate Education

Initially orthodontic training could not be obtained locally and many dentists went overseas first to the US, where six early orthodontists studied under the famous EH Angle, and later to the UK. Otherwise they gained experience with establish orthodontists in a process referred to as preceptorship.  Most preceptees supported their practical experience with part-time study to gain a Masters Degree from universities. This avenue to recognition was discontinued about 1980.

A full-time course designed to prepare specialist orthodontists was first mooted by the University of Sydney in 1962. This was for a diploma requiring 18 months of study. Subsequent to consultation with the NSW Branch, this was changed to a two-year Masters Degree course which began in 1964. The University of Adelaide began their first course five years later and very quickly courses were begun at the other three universities so that no more were aspiring orthodontists required to travel overseas for training. Despite occasional growing pains and a lack of internal funding, these courses have prospered and now receive many more applicants than they can accept. The ASO and the relevant State Branches make substantial contributions to maintain the high standard of these courses. As a result of an ASO initiative, all graduate courses now offered in all specialities in Australia are subject to a most rigorous accreditation process.


The Society, in its earliest days, was in fact propped up by its associate members, mainly general practitioners who maintained an interest in orthodontics. The same situation existed with other specialities. Over time the proportions changed and finally, in 1992, that category of membership was discontinued. All dentists, however, remain welcome to attend Congresses and Foundation meetings.

Initially, all specialists who had restricted their practices for a defined period of time were eligible for full membership. After graduate programmes became generally available and the possession of such a qualification was required by some registering authorities, the Society gradually defined their requirements for full membership and agreement was reached with the registering authorities in each state. This came to be known as the 2:2:2 rule requiring two years of prior general practice experience, a two-year full-time course and two further years of experience as a qualified orthodontist.  More recently, the two years of study have been extended to three years and the need to spend two years after graduation as a provisional member, which was a hangover from earlier days, was eliminated.  Other types of membership including honorary, corresponding and student are now also available.

Currently there are approximately 500 members of the society of whom 400 are full members.

Australasian Orthodontic Board

Orthodontists, like all professional people, must make a lifetime commitment to self-improvement via knowledge acquisition and practice modification.

The Australian Orthodontic Board (AOB) was established in March 1993 and offers a certification program for members of the Australian Society of Orthodontists Inc. This certification is a voluntary process with the emphasis on continuing education.

Candidates for Australian Orthodontic Board certification first must apply for the First Stage of AOB Certification and then follow an educational program, which assures their knowledge of contemporary orthodontic practice. Orthodontists become certified upon completion of this three-year program, which includes intensive assessment of two completed patients, nominated beforehand, by Board examiners.

In keeping with the policy of continual professional development throughout their careers, Certification lasts four years. The candidate must undertake the re-Certification program within this four-year period for their Certification to remain current. In this way the Australian Orthodontic Board program differs from the long established American Board of Orthodontics certification procedure, which endows lifetime certification, once requirements have been met.

It is pleasing to note that approximately 40% of Australian orthodontists have either completed or commenced the program.

It is proposed that graduating orthodontic students will submit cases at their final exams and consequently their accreditation process will begin upon graduation and that will rapidly increase Australian Orthodontic Board memberships in future years.

In 2006, by agreement with the New Zealand Orthodontic Society, the Board was renamed the Australasian Orthodontic Board to allow NZ and other approved overseas orthodontists to gain the respect that AOB Membership confers.


Since the early days, when office bearers consisted of a President and a Secretary/Treasurer, the Australian Society of Orthodontics has developed a sophisticated order of governance. The Executive, consisting of the President, the Honorary Treasurer and the Honorary Secretary, moves after each congress to the state where the next congress is to be held. The Executive is governed by a Council, made up of the Executive, two members from the State that will succeed the current Executive, and a representative from the three remaining State Branches. (list of Past Federal Executive Office Bearers).

Each of the State Branches has its own Executive.

In addition to the Society’s General Meetings, now held yearly, the council was forced to meet more frequently and now meets quarterly. The Executive began monthly meetings in the 1970’s.

In 1982, as the issues facing the Society became greater in number and complexity, a process was adopted whereby upcoming issues could be debated at the branch level. Then their representatives could come early to the national meeting, thrash out the issues, arrive at recommended positions which could then be put to the general meetings for final debate. These Representative’s meetings, which include the Chair of all Committees, made the process much more efficient so that, from then on, the General Meeting could be finished in a time frame which did not overshadow the lecture programme.

The Council is supported by the following persons and sub-committees:

  • Public Officer
  • Archivist
  • Appeal Committee
  • Australasian Orthodontic Board
  • Australian Orthodontic Journal Committee
  • Australian Orthodontic Congress Committee
  • Cleft Lip and Palate Reference Committee
  • Constitution Committee
  • Orthodontic Services Committee
  • Education Committee
  • Orthodontic Services Committee
  • Communications and Information Committee
  • ASO Foundation for Research and Education

Australian Orthodontic Congresses

Congresses have become the principle activity of the society. After the 4th Congress in Adelaide, a clockwise progression around the capital cities has continued with the meeting being held every two years.  Exceptions to this were a delay of one year so that a meeting could occur in 1977 - the Jubilee Year of the founding of the Society, 1982 when, because of conflicts with the timing of the Adelaide Festival of Arts, the Congress for the only time was held offshore, and in 1998, when the NSW Branch decided to hold the Congress in the national capital.

A General Meeting always takes place in conjunction with these Congresses. In all, the ASO has hosted twenty national congresses, the most recent being in Melbourne in 2006. The ASO national congresses now consistently attract 900 delegates, with the next Congress to be held at the Gold Coast Queensland 1-5 March 2008.

In 2010, Sydney will host the 7th International Orthodontic Congress an enormous coup for our Society.

Give a Smile

In 2004, the ASO initiated a public health goodwill concept called Give a Smile.

Give a Smile Orthodontists are ASO members who volunteer to treat, for no fee, patients selected from public orthodontic waiting lists throughout Australia. Currently, there are more than 230 Give a Smile Orthodontists throughout Australia which represents 60% of all ASO Full Members.





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