Hearing Services Program Expert Review Panel

This panel conducted an independent review of the Hearing Services Program from August 2020 to August 2021. It consulted with hearing care providers as well as people who are hard of hearing, aiming to optimise hearing outcomes for clients.


The panel:

  • undertook a program evaluation
  • investigated and identified reforms
  • considered a series of policy papers and commissioned research
  • consulted with industry and the community
  • reported on recommended improvements to program design that ensure the program remains client-focused, fit-for-purpose and sustainable
  • advised the Government on future program settings to support hearing-impaired Australians and maintain appropriate access to program services.

The review focused on:

  • optimising program outcomes for clients
  • improving the efficiency of the program’s delivery
  • ensuring value for money and good governance
  • modernising key components of the program in the context of policy, markets and technological developments.

In particular, the panel examined:

  • whether the program delivers services aligned with clinical need and contemporary service delivery
  • how the voucher and device maintenance payment system compares with advances in the manufacturing sector and product offering
  • how technology is changing the provision of services through the program
  • how program services are currently delivered and whether access can be enhanced for vulnerable Australians and in thin markets, such as regional, rural and remote areas.

The review identified opportunities to:

  • improve access to hearing services for low-income earners, vulnerable Australians, those over 65, and those living in regional, rural and remote areas
  • refine the current voucher and maintenance payment system
  • improve program design, including compliance and oversight
  • 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:

  • the needs and experiences of clients
  • professional standards developed by the hearing sector
  • interactions between the Hearing Services Program and other government programs
  • the sensitivity of changes to the program to established business models in the sector
  • experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic on service provision
  • outcomes from any previous inquiries and consultation.

See the panel's terms of reference



Background and experience

Professor Michael Woods (Chair)


Professor Michael Woods is a Professor of Health Economics at the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE), University of Technology Sydney and holds appointments to the Board of the Australian Digital Health Agency and to the Aged Care Financing Authority.

Professor Woods was previously Deputy Chairman of the Productivity Commission and Presiding Commissioner on over 20 national inquiries, including in the fields of health, aged care and other sectors of the economy. He has a national reputation for excellence in undertaking program reviews and policy development, having conducted reviews for the COAG Health Council, Department of Health and peak bodies. 

Professor Woods has also held expert appointments to the OECD and the World Bank. Professor Woods was Secretary of the ACT Treasury and senior executive for the Commonwealth and other governments in economics and public finance.

Dr Zena Burgess (Panellist)

Dr Zena Burgess PhD has a doctorate in psychology and is registered as a clinical and organisational psychologist. Dr Burgess holds both a Masters of Business Administration and Education, is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, the Australian Institute of Company Directors and has worked in health for over two decades, delivering front line services to both 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 organisation contributing to health reform, standard setting, and innovation in primary care.

Dr Burgess has a reputation for leadership during periods of change and is committed to health equity through a social determinants framework. She has been a member of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT), the Disability Review Board and the Psychologists Registration Board and is currently a Director on the Australian Patients Association.


The panel delivered its final report to Government in August 2021.  

See our collection of all reports from the panel.


The panel gathered and analysed a broad range of information regarding the operation of the Hearing Services Program, including the perspectives of:

  • people who are hard of hearing
  • hearing care providers
  • other hearing sector stakeholders.

Consultations for the review included:

  • September to October 2020 – initial stakeholder consultation
  • November to December 2020 – feedback sought on the review consultation paper
  • December 2020 – stakeholder meetings with the panel
  • May to June 2021 – feedback sought on the draft report
  • 4 and 18 June 2021 –  stakeholder meetings with the panel.

The panel considered and addressed all stakeholder feedback as it finalised the report and made its recommendations.

Hearing Services Program Review Taskforce contact

Contact us with questions or feedback about the Hearing Services Program review.
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