On 2 July 9 final-year Master of Speech Pathology students, 1 health promotion officer and 1 speech pathologist from Deadly Ears, and 2 4th-year JCU speech pathology students (on prac in Kingaroy) visited the Aboriginal community of Cherbourg, specifically to organise activities with the children of the holiday care programme run by the Gundoo child care centre. The group goals that were identified were:
1. to gain a better understanding of Aboriginal culture and language.
2. to be able to provide a positive experience to the people of Cherbourg.
3. to establish and maintain relationships between the people of Cherbourg, Griffith University speech pathology, Deadly Ears, and Hope4Health.
4. to sharpen our clinical skills in relation to assessment and intervention with this population.
We planned 7 stations (5 for younger children and 2 for older children): nature walk, collage, making a library bag (with the community’s ear health message: “healthy ears hear better”), book reading (using “Budburra books” made by people in Cherbourg), making a banner (including a word cloud about ear health and the link to learning), cards and games, and creating a video of the day. These activities were based on the following aims:
1. They increased the awareness about ear health and its link with learning and school.
2. They involved talking and encouraged positive relationships between the students, children, and each other.
3. They involved celebrating and appreciating the community and their language.
4. They would result in the children having something to take home so that the conversation about the day could continue to parents and other family members.
5. They would allow older children to show leadership with younger children.
We were told that there could be 50-80 children from the ages of 4-16 attending on the day, so we really had no idea what to expect. When we arrived, there were approximately 20-30 children there, mainly ranging from 7-13, playing basketball and cricket in an indoor hall. We set up our stations and the day started!
This trip was much more challenging compared to the Teddy Bear Hospital trip. We were in a highly unstructured environment and as such it was difficult to engage the children at times. We had to be flexible and creative in order to provide activities and experiences for the children that we had on that day. At lunchtime, the children went home and we packed up and went to the community health centre to meet “Pickle”.
Pickle is a local elder who conducts ear checks and services all the schools in the local area – providing a culturally appropriate and relevant service. He showed us his state-the-art van and demonstrated the use of his equipment. After that we went to the Ration Shed Museum and learnt about the history of the Cherbourg settlement. At this time we also had the opportunity to meet with a speech pathologist employed by Queensland Health who spoke to us about her experiences in working in Cherbourg.
Overall we had a successful clinical skills trip measured by the positive reflections of the students and staff from Deadly Ears, the smiles on the faces of the children, and the fact that we have been invited to return to the community next year.
I’d like to share with you some quotes regarding what we learnt on this trip:
- “…for me it was that no matter how simple the activity may seem, any time sitting next to a child sharing in an activity (colouring in, craft etc) can be an opportunity for learning for both child and adult.”
- “I learnt a deeper understanding of being flexible, following the children's lead, and being relaxed but intentional about creating learning opportunities. Despite knowing that we would need to be flexible and that things could change on a dime, I found that nothing went anywhere close to how I pictured it would.”
- “I also gained a great deal from just being in an indigenous community, learning from the children, listening to Pickle and the elders. There were a few moments when I felt briefly uncomfortable, unsure of the culturally appropriate protocol; and I thought this feeling was probably one that many families feel integrating into predominantly white schools... Overall, this experience has certainly assisted me with cultural awareness in my future practice.”
Speech Pathology Representative
On 29 September, 2012, the inaugural Spirit of Health Horizons Tri-University Conference took place at Griffith University’s Centre for Medicine and Oral Health in Southport. This was a non-profit, joint initiative amongst three student-run rural health clubs, HOPE4HEALTH (Griffith University), TROHPIQ (University of Queensland), and Bushfire (Bond University). The one-day conference was a product of discussion between health students and workers regarding the lack of opportunities to communicate positive, strengths -based research, practice and innovation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. This event was intended to function as a platform to inform students from a range of health backgrounds (medicine, dentistry, nursing, and allied health) about current directions and innovations in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
The day was opened with a performance from local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, the Bundjalung Kunjail Dance Troupe. This inspiring welcome set the scene for a plethora of incredible speakers from a range of health and community backgrounds, including Dr Chris Perry (ENT surgeon), Matthew Brown (Director of the Deadly Ears Program), Dr Janie Smith (Associate Professor at Bond University), Dr Natasha Coventry (Medical Superintendent from Cooktown), Tim Rowe (Indigenous Marathon Project), Paul Pholeros (Health Habitat) and Dr Stephen Godfrey (Ophthalmologist and volunteer with IRIS). Break-out sessions in the afternoon featured “hands-on” sessions including ear and eye examination techniques and boomerang painting.
Students, presenters and guests reported that the day was a welcome change to the ongoing focus on the poor statistics and health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities. Students who attended reported that they were motivated and inspired to engage more in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. They spoke of acquiring a greater understanding of the wider determinants of health. The conference was fun and informative, a celebration of health successes and culture; a demonstration of what the spirit of a healthy horizon may encompass.