Our Story

The CVE is dedicated to empowering the veterinary profession globally through education: enhancing confidence, competence, wellbeing and welfare.
- CVE Mission Statement

A brief history

The formation of the Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science (PGF) at the University of Sydney in 1965 came about as a result of a group of forward-thinking veterinarians from industry, academia and government recognising, during the 1950s, the growing need for continuing veterinary education. This resulted in the world's first membership-based organisation dedicated to postgraduate veterinary education. A key initiative was organizing the delivery of regular refresher courses of two to five days’ duration. In the first year two courses were held and by 1996 there were 68. The organisation has evolved to cater for the changing needs of the veterinary profession and to accommodate the rapid changes in technology. Conferences and seminars have been supplemented by a range of practical workshops, short online courses and year long distance education courses.

In 1989 the organisation moved from the original offices in Pitt Street into new offices in the Veterinary Science Conference Centre at the University of Sydney. In 2008 the PGF was renamed the Centre for Veterinary Education to reflect its true nature and operation as a centre within The University of Sydney. As a centre it has continued to evolve and develop to suit the needs of the profession, with increasing participation of overseas veterinarians from Asia, Europe and North America in particular.

The CVE has always had an affiliation with the veterinary school at the University of Sydney, which has grown stronger since 2010 and continues to evolve as a symbiotic relationship with the Sydney School of Veterinary Science (SSVS). Many of the original speakers and presenters for the PGF were academics and clinical staff from the Faculty of Veterinary Science and this tradition has continued to the present day, with the ongoing involvement of many SSVS staff along with former staff and veterinary specialists from Australia and the rest of the world.


1968 - 1987

Dr Tom Hungerford


The first director was Dr T.G. Hungerford OBE BVSc FACVSc HAD Fellow of the University of Sydney. Tom Hungerford led the profession with great distinction for many years and was responsible for expanding the practical application of veterinary science within the community, through his encouragement to veterinarians to embrace all aspects of animal health and production in keeping with their training.

Throughout his professional life Tom received many honours. The Queen made him an Officer of the Order of the British Empire; the University of Sydney conferred on him an Honorary Fellowship of the University and the profession continued to honour him in his retirement. In 1998 The Australian College of Veterinary Scientists honoured him with an oration delivered by Dr Douglas Bryden. All who knew Tom, and those who were so fortunate to work with him held a warm affection for him. The CVE honours him regularly through the T.G. Hungerford Award for Excellence in Post Graduate Education, an award conferred on those who have made a notable contribution to continuing veterinary education.

He was a prolific author and published a number of textbooks, of which the most popular "Diseases of Livestock" is available as the 9th edition.

Tom frequently enjoined vets to follow the ‘goanna track’ to success. Hence that term and the singularly Australian goanna motif often feature in CVE communications.

Tom died on 29 September 2007.

Tom Hungerford’s “Goanna Track to Success”

The CVE has long been associated with the goanna – or more specifically, with Tom Hungerford’s “Goanna Track to Success”. Tom’s theory was that the key to success was to identify an area of interest and devote time to it, listening, learning and building what he called a “tree of knowledge”. Now anyone familiar with a goanna can attest to the speed and agility with which they can scale a tree – to utilise Tom’s “Goanna Track” is to construct the tree and ascend it like a goanna. But once up the tree the goanna doesn’t decide to spend the rest of its life in the canopy; it takes what it can, then returns to the ground and finds another tree. Tom’s point was that climbing that tree offered a unique vantage point from which other opportunities for growth and development could be identified. It is in this spirit that the CVE continues to offer courses in many different aspects of veterinary practice, in forms that suit everyone – whether you have a spare hour, day, month or year to invest in building your tree of knowledge. The CVE is dedicated to empowering the veterinary profession through education: enhancing confidence, competence, wellbeing and welfare globally since 1965.

1987 - 2000

Dr Douglas Bryden


In 1987, Tom Hungerford, was succeeded as Director by Dr Douglas Bryden. Doug conducted a mixed practice in Tamworth, NSW for many years. He was a founding member of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists, the first Chairman of the Cattle Chapter, and President of the College in 1987/88, As Director, Doug instigated the Distance Education programs, with the first courses started in 1991. These intensive courses have now grown to be recognised as world-class education for veterinarians.

In 1994 Doug was awarded the Gilruth Prize, the highest honour of the AVA. He left the PGF in March 2000 to enjoy a well-earned retirement. Doug was appointed a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia in recognition of his work in veterinary science, notably in the fields of continuing education and clinical practice. Sadly he died in November 2019.

2000 - 2002

Dr Bill Howey


Dr Bill Howey was Director from 2000 to 2002. His strong background in veterinary practice and education proved invaluable to the PGF. Bill, at the time of his appointment, was no stranger to the PGF. He had served as a Veterinary Consultant to the Foundation since 1996 and as Associate Director in 1999. As consultant he was involved in producing over 80 ‘TimeOut' seminars throughout Australia which were attended by over a thousand veterinary delegates. He was also closely involved in the planning and delivery of some major courses, specifically equine.

Bill's fine sense of equity, his openness and kindness have contributed as a lasting legacy continuing the tradition of supporting the members of the veterinary community with the best quality continuing education.

Bill retired for health reasons after two years, resigning in August 2002.

2003 - 2007

Dr Michele Cotton


In May 2002 Dr Michele Cotton became acting Director until December 2003, when she was appointed Director of the Post Graduate Foundation.

Michele’s extensive career in veterinary practice in Australia and Saudi Arabia encompassed both large and small animal veterinary medicine and surgery, zoo animals, wildlife, teaching and research. Having been a solitary practitioner for much of her professional career and a grateful recipient of PGF support, she was aware of its importance to veterinarians worldwide.

Under Michele’s leadership the innovative online course, TimeOnline, was developed in 2006. In October the same year a continuing education program for veterinary nurses was launched. This was a series of specially designed annual workshops, and 70 vet nurses attended the first course ‘Intensive Care and Anaesthesia—A Nursing Perspective’.

Michele was a strong guardian of the directorship until she left in November 2007 to pursue other career options. Michele succumbed to the effects of rapidly progressing motor neurone disease in December 2019.

2008 - 2021

Dr Hugh White


Before becoming Director of the Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science (PGFVSc - now the Centre for Veterinary Education [CVE]) in 2008, Dr Hugh White was a successful mixed veterinary practitioner, establishing practices in Kempsey (8 years) and Armidale, New South Wales (over 20 years). At Armidale in particular, he created an efficient and effective team of veterinarians prepared to tackle the full range of diseases of companion animals, horses, and production species. Hugh had very specific expertise in bovine and equine medicine and surgery, but he was a capable and confident small animal clinician, only referring the most demanding of cases to regional specialists.

In 1999, whilst still at Armidale, Hugh was encouraged by Professor Reuben Rose (Dean of the then Faculty of Veterinary Science) and Dr Garth McGilvray (President of the Australian Veterinary Association) to apply for the Director’s position of the PGFVSc at the University of Sydney, owing to the retirement of Dr Douglas Bryden. Hugh was offered the important role by George Mack, President of the PGFVSc Council but had to decline the full-time role because of practice commitments. However, because of his expertise and long-time association with the PGFVSc as an active consumer and provider of continuing education, he was invited by George Mack six months later to serve on the PGFVSc Council to support the new Director, Dr Bill Howey.

While on Council, Hugh assisted Bill Howey to navigate the financial and information technology maze that had developed due to the dramatic expansion of the PGFVSc during the Directorship of Doug Bryden. He continued to fulfill this role when Bill Howey stepped down at the end of 2002 and was replaced by Dr Michele Cotton, the first female Director.

When George Mack resigned as President from the PGFVSc Council, he nominated Hugh as his successor. Consequently, the Council unanimously voted for Hugh to become President and to provide pivotal leadership at a time when the PGFVSc was under financial, management and strategic planning threat. Through this difficult period, Hugh continued to support the Director, Michele Cotton, but when she decided not to renew her contract at the end of 2007, Hugh had to lead the search for a new Director. Consequently, the position was advertised, but after interviewing several short-listed candidates, The University of Sydney Committee decided that none were appointable. The Dean of the then Faculty of Veterinary Science, Professor Leo Jeffcott, and the Faculty representative on Council, Professor Paul Canfield, in concert with the Head of the College of Science, Professor David Day, encouraged Hugh to stand down from being President of Council to become Director. As a full time Deputy Director had been appointed by Michele Cotton prior to her departure, Hugh White in 2008 elected to take up the Directorship of the PGFVSc on a half-time basis in order to be fiscally responsible.

From 2008 to 2013 Hugh flew to Sydney from his residence at the Sunshine Coast for one week each month and worked remotely the rest of the time. When Professor David Day resigned from the University of Sydney, and after restructuring where the Faculty of Veterinary Science came under the Umbrella of the Faculty of Science, the new Dean of Science recommended that the PGFVSc should no longer report to the Dean of Science but to the Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science. As a result, Hugh reported directly to the incoming dean, Professor Rosanne Taylor. Around the same time, the university expressed the opinion that the PGFVSc no longer fitted within their definition of a ‘Foundation’ and that the business model reflected a Centre within the University. Thankfully, Michele Cotton while Director had been prescient by registering the Centre for Veterinary Education (CVE) as a business name. Consequently, after a costly rebranding exercise and extensive placating of confused and angered loyal veterinary members of the PGFVSc, the name was altered to CVE.

At the same time, there was concerted pressure from the University of Sydney to absorb wholly or partially the newly named CVE into the larger University Centre for Continuing Education (CCE). Hugh was adamant that such a move would be disadvantageous and encouraged the establishment of an external review of CVE operations. Professors David Emery and Paul Canfield were appointed to the review panel and it was their findings that any amalgamation would be detrimental to the financial, reputational and cultural survival of the CVE, which ultimately prevented amalgamation.

Around 2011-12, it became clear to Hugh that the current CVE organisational structure had created a dysfunctional workplace and that his role as a remote Director was not providing the necessary leadership to prepare CVE for the future challenges confronting continuing veterinary educational providers. In 2013, Hugh and his wife Sally relocated to Sydney where Hugh commenced full-time employment. He engaged the University’s Human Resources team to review the CVE’s organisational structure and after due deliberation and consultation it became clear that to survive and thrive, the CVE had to be restructured to reduce the ballooning workforce and to provide clarity of roles. Consequently, the role of Deputy Director was eliminated, and three new teams were developed – administrative, educational and marketing - led by individual team leaders. After much heartache, the overall staff was reduced from 18 to 13 and a new strategic plan was developed. As a consequence of the restructure, 70% of the original staff left or were replaced over a two-year period.

Hugh’s role in restructuring and creating new teams had to be melded with the need to inform, manage and sometimes placate the current CVE clients and tutors, to maintain excellence of continuing veterinary educational programs. As part of the organisational restructure, the CVE advisory council became redundant, as it was regarded by the University as anachronistic within a Centre and an unnecessary expense. This fallout of the restructure was a bitter pill to swallow for long term financial donors and volunteer council members, who had provided years of support to numerous directors and the organisation as it grew and evolved. Another fallout of the restructure was increased University financial control over the CVE, including the appropriation of significant financial reserves built up over more than 40 years for strategic use in the future development of the organisation.

On a more positive note, during Hugh’s tenure and through restructuring, the number of Distance Education (DE) and TimeOnline (TOL) courses increased, new tutors were inducted and retiring tutors farewelled with dignity. Practical workshops were developed in surgery, ophthalmology and ultrasonology. Online delivery of courses and online assessment became the key to success. New or stronger relationships were developed with the University of Florida and the International Society for Feline Medicine and Surgery. In 2018, Hugh reverted to a part-time role so that a Deputy Director could be appointed as part of his succession planning. Dr Simone Maher was the successful appointee as Deputy Director after an open competitive process and progressively assumed the reins from Hugh over 2 years. Hugh formally retired in late March 2021, halfway through the COVID pandemic.

During Hugh’s tenure as Director of the CVE, there was a period of massive change within the profession generally and within veterinary continuing education (CE) in particular. It was a period of increasing competition from national and international veterinary CE providers. Despite these challenges, the CVE continued to operate successfully and profitably, typically meeting, or exceeding most annual budgets. The University held a two-year review of all continuing education providers during Hugh’s tenure, ironically brought about by dubious behaviour on the part of the CCE, which was deemed as putting the university reputation at risk. To Hugh’s credit, the review recommended the cessation of many continuing education bodies and tighter governance rules for those remaining, with the CVE recognised as an exemplar for others.

It would be remiss not to acknowledge the contribution of Hugh’s wife, Sally, to Hugh’s success as CVE director. Notwithstanding the upheaval of a move to Sydney, Sally was an enthusiastic aide at many CVE events, with her exceptional organisational skills, eye for detail and engaging manner making her both greatly appreciated and well-liked amongst the CVE community – delegates, members and staff alike.

History will judge the value of Hugh’s tenure as Director over a thirteen-year period filled with turbulence, trials, and tribulations for the CVE. However, what cannot be denied, was Hugh’s calmness and professionalism in the face of adversity and challenge. His presidential tone and respectful demeanour were critical in developing new relationships and in preserving existing ones with multiple people in very difficult and complex times. Hugh’s handling of the complexity of university institutions and characters was particularly masterful, especially when the CVE required support during restructuring and resisting negative change. He utilised the art of compromise with both the University, tutors, staff, and clients to ensure success for the CVE. At the end of his tenure the CVE was ideally placed on an upward trajectory to continue to be successful as an educational provider to the veterinary and affiliated professions.

The CVE, the Sydney School of Veterinary Science and the wider veterinary profession around Australia owe Hugh a considerable debt of gratitude.


Dr Simone Maher


Promoted to CVE Director in 2021, Simone has already established strong relationships with both the CVE team and the wider veterinary community it serves. Two key goals are: implementing innovative and engaging ways of delivering continuing veterinary education to a diverse audience and nurturing the CVE community as an independent, member-centric organisation. Simone’s background is primarily in shelter medicine, having started as a new graduate at the RSPCA’s Yagoona clinic where she worked for many years, before moving on to become Chief Veterinarian of Animal Welfare League NSW. She had a stint in media including a column in Sydney’s Sun Herald newspaper, a regular television role and radio. Simone loves many aspects of general small animal practice: soft tissue surgery, building rapport with clients, program delivery in disadvantaged communities, shelter medicine and the odd goat castration. Simone is passionate about education and communication and is keen to explore new ways of connecting with the CVE community.