Hearing Services Program Expert Review Panel


The panel:

  • undertook an evaluation of the program
  • reforms studied and identified
  • reviewed a series of policy papers and commissioned research
  • consulted industry and community
  • reports on recommended improvements to program design that ensure the program remains client-focused, fit for purpose, and sustainable
  • advised the government on the future parameters of the program to support deaf Australians and maintain appropriate access to program services.

The review covered:

  • optimize program results for clients
  • improve the efficiency of program delivery
  • ensuring value for money and good governance
  • modernize key elements of the program in the context of changing policies, markets and technology.

In particular, the panel considered:

  • whether the program provides services aligned with clinical needs and contemporary service delivery
  • how does the device voucher and maintenance payment system compare to advances in manufacturing and product offerings
  • how technology is changing service delivery through the program
  • how program services are currently delivered and whether access can be improved for vulnerable Australians and in narrow markets, such as regional, rural and remote areas.

The review identified opportunities for:

  • improve access to hearing services for low-income people, vulnerable Australians, people over 65 and people living in regional, rural and remote areas
  • refine the current bond and child support payment system
  • improve program design, including compliance and monitoring
  • implement new targeted initiatives that encourage the provision of services in thin markets and the development of alternative service delivery channels.

The review took into account:

  • customer needs and experiences
  • professional standards developed by the hearing industry
  • interactions between the Hearing Services Program and other government programs
  • the sensitivity of program changes to established business models in the industry
  • experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic on service delivery
  • results of any previous investigation and consultation.

See the panel’s terms of reference.



Background and experience

Professor Michael Woods (Chair)

Professor Michael Woods is Professor of Health Economics at the Center for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE) at the University of Technology Sydney and sits on the Board of Trustees of the Australian Health Agency. digital health and the Aged Care Funding Authority.

Professor Woods was previously deputy chairman of the Productivity Commission and presiding commissioner on more than 20 national inquiries, including in health, elderly care and other sectors of the economy. He has a national reputation for excellence in conducting program reviews and policy development, having conducted reviews for the COAG Health Council, Department of Health and leading agencies.

Professor Woods has also held expert positions with the OECD and the World Bank. Professor Woods has served as ACT Treasury Secretary and senior executive for the Commonwealth and other governments in economics and public finance.

Dr. Zena Burgess (panellist)

Dr. Zena Burgess PhD holds a doctorate in psychology and is registered as a clinical and organizational psychologist. Dr Burgess holds a Masters in Business Administration and Education, is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, Australian Institute of Company Directors and has worked in healthcare for over two decades providing front-line services to regional and urban communities.

For over a decade, she led the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) as CEO during a period of growth and professional recognition as a patient-focused organization contributing to healthcare reform, to standard setting and innovation in primary care.

Dr. Burgess has a reputation for being a leader during times of change and is committed to health equity through a social determinants framework. She has served as a member of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT), Disability Review Board and Psychologists Registration Board and is currently a director of the Australian Patients Association.


The group submitted its final report to the government in August 2021.

View our collection of all panel reports.


The committee gathered and analyzed a wide range of information regarding the operation of the hearing services program, including the views of:

  • hearing impaired
  • audioprosthetists
  • other stakeholders in the hearing sector.

Consultations for the review included:

  • September to October 2020 – initial stakeholder consultation
  • November to December 2020 – comments requested on review consultation document
  • December 2020 – stakeholder meetings with the panel
  • May to June 2021 – comments requested on the draft report
  • June 4 and 18, 2021 – stakeholder meetings with the panel.

The panel considered and addressed all stakeholder feedback in finalizing the report and formulating its recommendations.


Last update:

October 1, 2021

Michael A. May