Indigenous Health Scholarship 2019

University of Sydney, NSW
Bachelor of Applied Science (Speech Pathology)
Scholarship Awarded 2018
Sponsored by:

Rotary Club of Marrickville

How will I contribute to improving Indigenous health as a qualified medical practitioner or health worker?

My mother, a faithful Christian and a Kamiloroi woman, always told me that she did not mind what I chose to do with my life so long as it honoured God and I did it to the best of my abilities, serving others and being an exemplar of good attitude and work ethic.   She taught me that my personal success does not rely on wealth, position or fame, but on character, reputation, dedication and the extent to which I am able to uplift others – what I give, not what I get.  I considered a variety of career paths, but found myself drawn to health science as I believed it to be an area in which I could succeed and be satisfied, and an area which depicted the heart of what my mother taught me.

The older and more aware that I grow, the more I grasp the severity of the plight of Indigenous people in regards to health care.   Unfortunately, statistics tell that from birth to death, an Indigenous person is far more liable to face and suffer a plethora of health issues than a non-Indigenous person.   I find these facts baffling and can not help but believe that this should not be so, and that something must be done about it.   Communication is a fundamental key to life, relationships, understanding, contributing and interacting is something that we take for granted.   It facilitates growth and discussion and enables us to take part in society and to live everyday life with ease.

There are currently less than 20 Indigenous speech pathologists in Australia.   I aspire to not only add to this number, but to add to the advocates and efforts dedicated to creating a new dynamic in Australia in which the current statistics do not ring true.   I have only completed one year of my degree, and am still unsure as to the practicalities and logistics of how I can truly contribute and make a change, but I do know of my current aim is to improve Indigenous health in Australia.

Current Progressive Report

Semester two of 2018, as well as the recent summer break, was a period of great growth and change for me, personally and professionally. There has been one major change in my personal life, which I impatiently awaited throughout the semester, and only somewhat successfully attempted to not be distracted by during exam period. That is, that three days after my last exam, my childhood sweetheart, best friend of 10 years and boyfriend of 2 year, a third-year mechanic apprentice and close family friend named David, proposed to me. A unprecedently chaotic, stressful, yet joyful nine weeks later, on the 27th January 2019, we were married. The wedding was held in my local church and followed by a simple but beautiful celebration in a small park cafe. After a much-needed two-week holiday, we returned, and I have spent the last week settling into a new home and new routines in preparation for the coming semester.

As for my studies, I have completed another successful semester in which I was able to further develop skills from semester one and gain new knowledge and insight into areas of speech pathology not previously studied. Alongside community preschool and aged care placements, I studied cognitive neuropsychology, motor speech, dysphagia and voice disorders. This was an interesting change in content from previous semesters, as the subjects were not only quite specific to speech pathology, but largely revolved around adult, hospital or voice clinic-based caseloads. I was quite excited about this change, as I felt that this was the kind of caseload that I could see as my preference when I enter the workforce.

My preschool placement was far more laid back than my previous clinical placement. I felt that it was a great opportunity to utilise skills learned in semester one on a more independent level, refining research skills for evidence based practice, focus on peer review, considering and observing developmental norms for communication, catering to a diverse therapy group and become comfortable within a preschool setting. I am already quite comfortable with children, although in large groups they can be exhausting, and therefore found the placement much easier than my international student partner. A large portion of the placement was spent supporting and encouraging her growth. We also did one aged care visit and spoke with a resident, analysed their communication, built a resource specific to their needs and role played the presentation of our findings. My partner and I received full marks for parts of our assignment and were asked to present it to the cohort.

Cognitive neuropsychology was an exciting new twist on previous psychology and neuroscience-based units, integrating and consolidating them and bringing a broader, both clinical and community-based perspective on topics such as memory, attention, ageing, traumatic brain injury, recovery and neuroplasticity, speech production, non-verbal communication and comprehension. For this unit, we were required to do a 40 min group presentation on a given topic, write an essay on a topic of choice and complete a final exam. My group did a great presentation on alcohol abuse from a cognitive neuropsychological perspective, and inspired by this, I chose to write my individual essay for our other assessment on the causal relationship between major depression and alcohol use disorders. I greatly enjoyed this unit as encouraged us to explore our interests, be creative, see the bigger picture and love learning.

Motor speech and dysphagia was a new world of speech pathology for me. I found the drastic change in content from teaching sounds to children to assessing the effectiveness of a hospital patients swallow or distinguishing between sites of neural lesions according to persons speech characteristics refreshing and very stimulating at times, but honestly, very dull at other times. I quickly found that due to my schedule, the pressing needs of my placement and other assessment, and the monotone voice of the lecturer at 8am in the morning, I soon began to neglect this subject. Despite this, I managed to organise and focus on the key concepts of this course, and it is an area that I am very keen to revisit and gain practical experience from.

Voice and voice disorders, I will admit, confused me a little about my direction within speech pathology. This was an area of speech pathology that I thought I would love as it involves some key hobbies and interests of mine, such as singing, as well as some personal experience of mine as a voice disorder client. However, I found that while I loved voice in concept and theory, there were areas of practice that I dreaded, such as acoustic analysis of the voice, and other areas in which I still feel lost and incompetent, due to the way the course is organised and the vague, perceptual nature of the profession. I have heard from students and supervisors that most speech pathology students enter their voice placement feeling this way, but become more comfortable after the practical experience, and I believe it will be the same for me.

I am beginning my third year of speech pathology next week, and as always after a long break, and slightly more so after this eventful break, I am both nervous and itching to get started. I look forward to furthering my learning and practical experience in the year to come.