About the ARA

The ARA is an association of rheumatologists in Australia that is a specialty society of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).

Rheumatologists are specialist physicians with particular expertise in the diagnosis and holistic management of diseases that affect joints, muscles, and bones.

They treat all forms of arthritis, autoimmune connective tissue disease, spinal and soft tissue disorders and certain metabolic bone disorders, such as osteoporosis and chronic musculoskeletal pain syndromes.

The ARA Constitution


Constitution (ratified AGM 22 May 2017)


The ARA Board of Directors


President - Professor Rachelle Buchbinder
Vice-President - Associate Professor David Nicholls
Secretary - Professor Catherine Hill
Treasurer - Dr Samuel Whittle
Director - Dr Sean O'Neill
Director - Dr Claire Barrett
Director - Dr Christopher Fong
Director - Dr Fiona Goldblatt
Director - Dr Nicola Cook



Professor Rachelle Buchbinder MBBS (Hons), MSc, PhD, FRACP, FAHMS 



Professor Rachelle Buchbinder combines private practice in rheumatology at Cabrini Hospital in Melbourne with clinical research.  She graduated from Monash University in 1981 and completed her rheumatology training at the Alfred and Prince Henry’s (now Monash Medical Centre) Hospitals before spending three years in Toronto where she obtained a Master’s Degree in Clinical Epidemiology from the University of Toronto.


Professor Buchbinder has served the ARA in a number of capacities including as a member of the ARA Quality Assurance and ASM Committees, and has been on the Board since 2013.


In 2001, together with Professors Lyn March and Marissa Lassere, Professor Buchbinder founded the ARA Database (ARAD).  Her other roles include Joint Coordinating Editor of Cochrane Musculoskeletal since 2005, founding member and current Steering Group Chair of the Australia & New Zealand Musculoskeletal (ANZMUSC) Clinical Trial Network, and has been a member of MSAC since 2016.


Professor Buchbinder has a longstanding commitment to knowledge synthesis and implementation of clinical research evidence to guide clinical decision-making and improve patient outcomes.



Associate Professor Dave Nicholls BHB MBChB (Auckland) FRACP DipSportsMed (London) FSDrA      



Associate Professor Dave Nicholls was born and raised in rural New Zealand. He has lived and worked on the Sunshine Coast since 2005. A University of Auckland graduate (1992), Professor Nicholls completed rheumatology advanced training in Wellington.  During his ARC Fellowship in Rheumatology and Sports Medicine at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, Professor Nicholls completed his Diploma in Sports Medicine.  He is the owner and Director of Coast Joint Care and Co-Director of the Rheumatology Research Unit with Associate Professor Peter Nash, exploring their interests in new and novel therapeutics.  He is also Adjunct Associate Professor at the Clinical Trials Unit, University of the Sunshine Coast.


Professor Nicholls served on ARA Federal Council from 2009 to 2012, and as ARAQ President from 2013 until May 2016 when he was elected ARA Vice-President.



Professor Catherine Hill MBBS (Adelaide) MD MSc (Epi) FRACP 

Honorary Secretary


Professor Catherine Hill works at both The Queen Elizabeth and Royal Adelaide Hospitals.  She graduated in 1989 from University of Adelaide.  Professor Hill completed her rheumatology training in Adelaide, followed by research training at Boston University with Professor David Felson on an AFA-ARA Heald Fellowship.  She has research interests in epidemiology of rheumatic diseases, osteoarthritis and vasculitis and is currently Chair of the ARAD Steering Committee.

Professor Hill has previously been Secretary and President of ARA (SA) and has been Honorary Secretary of ARA since 2016.  She currently serves on the Research Committee and Scientific Advisory Board of the ARA Research Trust, and the Biosimilars Working Group of ARA.  Professor Hill is also involved in drug regulatory work at state and national levels as Chair of South Australian Medicines Evaluation Panel and is a member of Drug Utilisation Subcommittee of PBAC.



Dr Samuel Whittle MBBS (Hons) (Adelaide) MSc (MClinEpi) (Newcastle) FRACP 

Honorary Treasurer


Dr Sam Whittle works at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the western suburbs of Adelaide.  He graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1997.  Dr Whittle’s rheumatology training took him on a grand tour of the Adelaide teaching hospitals, also to England for a year as a specialist registrar on the South Thames rotation.


Having learned the hard way that he is not cut out for bench research, Dr Whittle returned to the warm embrace of clinical research.  His main area of clinical and research enthusiasm is fibromyalgia and chronic pain, but he retains a dilettantish interest in spondyloarthritis, gout and ethics.


Dr Whittle was involved in the establishment of the Australia and New Zealand Musculoskeletal Clinical Trials Network (ANZMUSC) and remains a member of the ANZMUSC Executive Committee.  He has previously served on the ARA Electronic Communications Committee and Financial Advisory Committee, has been the ARA representative to APLAR since 2008, and was Convenor of the 2015 ARA Annual Scientific Meeting.  He commenced his term as Honorary Treasurer in May 2015.


Dr Sean O'Neill B Med, PhD, FRACP 

Director - New South Wales


Dr Sean O’Neill is a Rheumatologist at Liverpool Hospital, a Senior Lecturer at UNSW, and is in private practice in Sydney.  He completed rheumatology training in Sydney in 2006 and then undertook a PhD at University College Hospital London and Sydney University, examining cardiovascular disease in patients with SLE.  He has an ongoing clinical and research interest in SLE and connective tissue diseases, and is the Director of the Connective Tissue Diseases Clinic at Liverpool Hospital.

Dr O’Neill manages a large cohort of patients with SLE at Liverpool Hospital, is a member of the Australian Lupus Registry and Biobank, and Asia Pacific Lupus Collaboration.  He is a previous Treasurer, Vice President, and current President of the NSW Branch of the ARA, and a member of the ARA Therapeutics Committee as well as the ASM Programme Committee.



Dr Claire Barrett BSc (1st Hons), MBBS (Lond), MRCP, FRACP 

Director - Queensland

Dr Claire Barrett works in Redcliffe which is situated 30km north of Brisbane.  She graduated from University College London in 1987 and has been in Australia since 1991.  In 1996 Dr Barrett was initiated a public specialist rheumatology service at Redcliffe Hospital.  In addition she works in private practice with long-term friend and colleague Dr Laurel Young, and runs outreach clinics to Longreach and Mackay.


Dr Barrett was a member of the ARA Therapeutics Committee from 2005-09 and chair 2009-2011.  She has been involved with the ARA Regional Rheumatology Project since initiation by Dr McGuigan and will complete her time as chair of the ARA Regional Rheumatology Committee in May 2017.  Dr Barrett has been Secretary and Vice President, and is currently President of ARAQ.  Her special interests include the optimal management of pregnancy in RA and addressing the disadvantages that Australian regional rheumatology patients suffer including by the use of telehealth.



Dr Christopher Fong MBBS (Melbourne) FRACP 

Director - Victoria

Dr Christopher Fong is a Rheumatologist in Melbourne.  He graduated from University of Melbourne and spent his clinical training as a registrar in rheumatology, geriatrics, immunology, and metabolic bone diseases at Austin Repatriation Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital.  During this time Dr Fong was a member of Arthritis Victoria/Osteoporosis Victoria, representing the ARA Victoria.  He is currently Director of Rheumatology at Eastern Health based at Box Hill Hospital and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Monash University and Deakin University.  He also works as a Geriatrician and Peri Operative Physician at Box Hill Hospital.  Dr Fong’s clinics at Box Hill Public include conjoint Skin and Joint clinics with the Dermatologists, OAHKS (Orthopaedics Hip and Knee Service Clinics) with Orthopaedic Surgeons and Physiotherapists, and at Metabolic Bone Clinic with Endocrinologists.  Research interests are in area of Psoriatic Arthritis, Back Pain, Hip Fractures and Osteoporosis.


Dr Fong’s private practice is based at Epworth Rehabilitation Camberwell and Epworth Eastern.


Dr Fiona Goldblatt MBBS (Hons) PhD FRACP 

Director - South Australia


Dr Fiona Goldblatt works as a Staff Specialist at Flinders Medical Centre and Repatriation General Hospital and in private practice in Adelaide.  She graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1994 and completed rheumatology training in Adelaide, a PhD at Flinders Medical Centre/Flinders University, followed by post-doctoral research at the University College London on a NH&MRC (Neil Hamilton Fairley Fellowship) between 2004-2008.  


Dr Goldblatt has particular clinical and research interests in SLE and is a participator in the Australian Lupus Registry & Biobank, and the Asia Pacific Lupus Collaboration.  To develop her capacity to participate further in health promotion and access to rheumatology for indigenous and remote communities Dr Goldblatt has recently commenced a Master’s in Public Health (Newcastle).  


She is the current President of ARA (South Australia Branch), a member of the Education, Training and Workforce Committee, and has previously been the Secretary and Vice President of ARA (South Australia) and in 2015 was a member on the Organising Committee of the ARA ASM in Adelaide.



Dr Nicola Cook BM (UK) MRCP, FRACP 

Director - Western Australia

She completed undergraduate studies at Southampton University and after working throughout the southwest of England applied for specialist training rheumatology training.  Having three small children she secured the first part time rheumatology senior register post in the UK through a recently introduced scheme to facilitate part time specialist training.  Shortly after this she immigrated to Perth and introduced the concept of part time physician training to Royal Perth Hospital.

After eventually completing advanced training in Perth in 1997, she continued her sessional appointment at Royal Perth Hospital, recently receiving the coveted 25 year-long service award.


After conducting a monthly outreach clinic at the Geraldton Regional hospital, for 17 years, Dr Cook retains an interest in improving the service provision for rural Western Australia and is a member of the Regional Rheumatology Committee.


She is the director of the Goatcher Clinical Trials Unit, founded by Dr Paddy Hanrahan, participating in numerous, multicentre, pharmaceutical studies.


Currently most of her time is spent in private practice in partnership with Dr Janet Roddy in Shenton Park.