History of ANZSPO

The development of Paediatric Otolaryngology in Australia and New Zealand owes much to the dedicated enthusiastic members who have strived for paediatric Otorhinolaryngology excellence. The field of paediatric Otorhinolaryngology is relatively new compared to other sub-specialties.

Charles Bluestone wrote that “Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology is looking after special children with special conditions in special hospitals”. Our Otolaryngologic forebears in Australia and New Zealand combine both adult and paediatric practices, often spending decades in paediatric hospitals providing their services to children. Many were self-taught in the special demands of Paediatric Otolaryngology, and all contributed with research and clinical innovation. Bruce Benjamin was a major figure in the early years of Paediatric Otolaryngology in Australia. Similarly, Ru Douglas has contributed enormously as an early lead in Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology in New Zealand.

Sir Isaac Newton said in 1676, “if I had seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Many of us in Australia and New Zealand, and indeed in the Asia Pacific region, have benefited from working with giants in the paediatric ORL field. Since the 1970s, when the fledgling sub-specialty developed programs with strong clinical teaching and research Fellowships in the field, surgeons like John Evans, Martin Bailey and David Albert from Great Ormond Street in London, trained our generation of Paediatric Otolaryngologists. In the US, Charles Bluestone, Gerry Healy, Robin Cotton, Lauren Hollinger and Bill Potsik were the cornerstones of the new sub-specialty. It is interesting to note that the first Fellow in the first program with Charlie Bluestone was our New Zealand colleague Ru Douglas - indeed a pioneer in Indigenous (Maori) representation.

The genesis of the definitive societies in Paediatric Otolaryngology in Australia and New Zealand was not dissimilar to that in United States where a paediatric otolaryngology study group commenced; with the first meeting being held by Blair Fearon in Toronto in the early 1960s. Subsequently, this became the American Society of Paediatric Otolaryngology and the speciality flourished.

In Australia, there was a cochlear implant meeting in Melbourne in 1985 and at that meeting Dr Victor Bear AM, Dr Ted Beckenham and Prof. Harvey Coates AO, discussed the possibility of forming a Paediatric Otolaryngology study group - tentatively call the PORL study group. The thought was that the group should be limited to members of staff at Children’s Hospitals with a common interest in the advanced care of children with disorders and diseases of their ear, nose, throat, head and neck. There would be a discussion leader but all around the table were able to enter into the discussion of various subjects. The important factor was that everybody present honest reporting of their own results.

The first meeting of the PORL study group was at what is now the Sydney Children’s Hospital on 6-7 September 1986, with 28 members registered. Discussion topics included deafness investigation and follow-up, protocols for epiglottitis, coughs and congestion, nasal obstruction including choanal atresia, difficult cases, chronic otorrhoea, adenotonsillectomy, sleep apnoea and discussions on tracheostomy. A follow up meeting was held in 1987 at the Royal Adelaide Children’s Hospital convened by Bob Guerin with topics discussed including nasal obstruction, otitis externa, the discharging grommet, and sinusitis.

In 1993, it was decided to have the meeting in Auckland and at that meeting, Bruce Benjamin from Australia and Colin Barber from New Zealand, proposed the formation of the Australasian Society of Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology. A constitution was developed and office bearers elected.

In 1994, a combined Paediatric Otolaryngology meeting and course was held in Singapore with Professor Bruce Benjamin and Prof Henry Yeoh.

The next local meetings were held in Hobart, Sydney and in 1997 at Melbourne at the Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital. Rob Berkowitz hosted the meeting and ASPORL was invited to join the other international paediatric societies to be affiliated with the International Journal of Paediatric Oto-Rhino-Laryngology. At the meeting in Melbourne, many different topics surfaced including Aboriginal ear disease and universal hearing screening which, at that time, was being investigated by Harvey Coates and colleagues in Perth. In 1999, many from Australia and New Zealand attended the Advances in Paediatric Laryngology Meeting at Great Ormond Street to honour John Evans. This coincided with the British otolaryngology meeting and the British academic conference in Cambridge.

In 2000, the Society inaugurated a medal designated the Bruce Benjamin Medal, to be awarded to Otorhinolaryngologists in Australia or New Zealand who had made a significant contribution to Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology in Australia, New Zealand, or an overseas Paediatric Otolaryngologist who had contributed to the development of Australian and New Zealand paediatric ENT.

In June 2000, the Australian Laryngology Meeting was held at Sydney Hospital and was officially opened by the Governor of New South Wales. International guests included Jerry Healey and Lauren Hollinger, as well as John Tucker, John Evans, Robin Cotton, Eric Mair, Andrew Inglis, Bill Crysdale, and Trevor McGill. This meeting was to honour Prof Bruce Benjamin and his work on the paediatric larynx. At that meeting, he and Lauren Hollinger were presented with the Bruce Benjamin medal.

In 2005, the first South Pacific Meeting, a combined meeting of ASPORL and NZORLHNS was held in Fiji convened by Murali Mahadevan. Subsequent South Pac meetings were in 2005 (Sheraton, Denarau, Fiji), 2009 (Sofitel, Fiji), 2013 (Maui, Hawaii), 2017 (Honolulu, Hawaii). The meetings in 2005 and 2009 was a combined ANZSPO/NZSORLHNS meeting. The 2013 and 2017 meetings were a combination of 3 societies - the ANZSPO, NZSOHNS and ARS.

In 2009, the name of the Society was changed to the Australian and New Zealand Society of Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology (ANZSPO) to more accurately reflect the membership of Australian and New Zealand Paediatric Otolaryngologist, and in 2017, a new logo was prepared, followed in 2018 by an ANZSPO medal for official functions.


In 2013 Dr Hannah Burns, Dr Nikki Slee and their team in Brisbane convene an annual Advanced Paediatric ENT airway course.

At ANZSPO 2018 in Newcastle, the families of members and industry sponsors were invited to share the Indigenous culture of Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, a proud Worimi man, in his own country. Also at that meeting, the ANZSPO Travelling Scholarship was formally proposed and accepted by the membership. This provides for an attendance by younger Otolaryngologists from the Asia-Pacific region, at a specialty paediatric ORL course in Australia or New Zealand, together with flights and accommodation.

In 2019, ANZSPO joined with the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology, the European Society of Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology, the Asia-Pacific Paediatric Otolaryngology Group, the African Society of Paediatric Otolaryngology at the World Meeting of the paediatric societies, in Buenos Aries.

In 2020 ANZSPO commenced tutorials for our Paediatric ORL Fellows, convened by Hannah Burns, via teleconference. Each session is mentored by a member of ANZSPO, and the sessions are open to all ANZSPO members as well as paediatric teaching hospital registrars.  

Previous Meeting and Venues

2022 QT Queenstown 
Queenstown, NZ
2020      Royal Children’s Hospital                          Melbourne, Cancelled due to COVID
2019     Royal Prince Alfred Hospital              Sydney
2018     Novotel Newcastle               Awabakal/Worimi Country
2017     Honolulu                                            Hawaii, USA
2016 Auckland City Hospital Auckland
2015 Endodays- ½ day meeting       San Diego, USA
2014     Bunker Bay                                                       WA
2013 Hyatt Regency, Maui Hawaii, USA
2012 Melbourne                                   Victoria
2011 Sydney Children’s Hospital    Sydney
2010 Brisbane Brisbane
2009 Sofitel Fiji                                  Fiji
2007 Crown Hotel                                Queenstown
2005 Sheraton Denarau                      Fiji
2004 Brisbane Brisbane
2003 Novotel Palm Cove                 Cairns
2001 Starship Children’s Hospital      Auckland
2000 AGM Melbourne Convention Centre                                               Melbourne
  Paediatric ORL Meeting – 3 days  NCH   
1999 The New Children’s Hospital                                                                 Sydney
1998 Uluru (Ayers Rock)                                           Northern Territory
1997 Royal Children’s Hospital    Melbourne
1996 Westmead Children’s Hospital                                                                        Sydney
1995 University of Tasmania    Hobart
1994 Singapore Singapore
  Proposal for Name change to ASPORL and Formal Constitution  
1993 Auckland Children’s Hospital  Auckland
  Draft Constitution for P.O.R.L  
1992 Melbourne Melbourne
1991 Brisbane                                                      Brisbane
1989 Mater Hospital                                                 Brisbane, cancelled due to pilot’s strike
1987 Royal Adelaide Children’s Hospital              Adelaide
1986 Sydney Children’s Hospital                          Sydney


ANZSPO Executive

Year President Secretary  Treasurer
2021-  Shyan Vijayasekaran Kelvin Kong  Eric Levi
2017-2021 Paul Walker Kelvin Kong Marlene Soma
2013-2017 Murali Mahadevan David Wabnitz Marlene Soma
2009-2013 Alan Cheng David Wabnitz Marlene Soma
2005-2009 Colin Brown Cathy Birman Shyan Vijayasekaran
2001-2005 Rob Black Alan Cheng Shyan Vijayasekaran
1999-2001 Francis Lannigan Shyan Vijayasekaran Alan Cheng
1998-1999 Colin Barber Murali Mahadevan Murali Mahadevan
1996-1998 Harvey Coates Chirs Dalton David Williams
1994-1996 Bruce Benjamin Jo Mobey Doug Buchanan
1990-1993 Ted Beckenham Chris Dalton Cathy Birman
1987-1990 Bruce Benjamin Jo Motbey David Williams
1983-1987 Victor Bear     


The aim of ANZSPO is primarily the Advancement of Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology through encouragement and education for colleagues. Through support, research, advocacy (with contributions to controversies about button batteries and First Nation health), encouragement, establishment of paediatric networks and honest collaboration, the family of paediatric ORL in New Zealand and Australia continues to strive for excellent care for the children of our respective countries, and beyond.