Evaluation of health service student programs in a primary health and culturally responsive framework: Service learning in Mt Magnet, Western Australia

Mrs Kathryn Fitzgerald1

1WA Centre For Rural Health, Geraldton, Australia


Allied Health students undertaking clinical placements with the WA Centre for Rural Health have the opportunity to live in the remote town of Mt Magnet for periods of 2 -14 weeks and work with community agencies, providing services to the community. Students in 2018 based in Mt Magnet include Exercise Physiology, Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy and Social Work.
Students work in the community, partnering in areas of under-represented services and community expressed need. Students participate in cultural orientation as well as practical sessions about clinical yarning prior to the placement and, in additional to clinical and interprofessional supervision, participate in regular cultural mentoring throughout their time in Mt Magnet.
The aim of this project is to evaluate the students’ work in terms of the services they provide in the context of culturally responsive practice as described in Indigenous Allied Health Australia’s Cultural Responsiveness in Action: An IAHA Framework (2015) within a framework of knowing, being and doing.
This project aims to evaluate services within the context of the IAHA key capabilities from the perspectives of the community agencies, community leaders, the students and clinical supervisors. Clients/ patients and family members will be invited to participate also.
This project is ongoing through to 2019 and the outcome will provide guidance on how to continue to develop service learning opportunities for allied health students clinical placements in rural and remote Australia.


Kathryn Fitzgerald has worked in rural and remote areas as an Allied Health professional in clinical practice, in policy and program development and in health professions’ education for over 30 years, and has been involved with SARRAH since the organisation’s early days. She currently works as the Clinical Education Manager for the WA Centre for Rural Health based in the Midwest of Western Australia.

Ŋayaŋu ḏälthirri: ‘Being courageous’ in the face of changing communication associated with Machado Joseph Disease

Ms Rebecca Amery1, Ms Julie Wunungmurra2, Ms  Joanne  Gondarra2, Ms  Farrah Gumbula2, Ms  Rachel Baker2, Mr  Elah  Yunupingu2, Dr Anne Lowell1, Dr Pammi  Raghavendra3, Dr  Ruth Barker4, Ms Libby Massey2, Ms Ali  Grootendorst2, Prof Deb Theodoros5

1Charles Darwin University, Casuarina , Australia, 2MJD Foundation, Coconut Grove, Australia, 3Flinders University , Adelaide, Australia, 4James Cook University, Cairns, Australia, 5University of Queensland , Brisbane, Australia


Aims:The aim of this research is to better understand the communication needs and experiences of Yolŋu with Machado Joseph Disease (MJD), a rare genetic neurodegenerative disease. Yolŋu experiencing dysarthria associated with MJD may benefit from Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). This research aims to explore participants’ communication goals, preferences and interest in communication therapy options.

Methods:10 Yolŋu with a diagnosis of MJD and 4 of their communication partners participated in in-depth, small group interviews and mapped their current communication partners. ‘Social Networks: A Communication Inventory for Individuals with Complex Communication Needs and their Communication Partners’ was used as a framework to gather this data. Interviews explored their everyday communication contexts and current use of AAC and technology.

Results:Most Yolŋu participants have emerging complex communication needs resulting from MJD which are further impacted by their changing linguistic and cultural contexts. Yolŋu communication in daily activities is inseperable from Yolŋu rom i.e. Yolŋu law, culture and ways of life. Yolŋu participants are interested in working with Balanda (non-Aboriginal people) to prepare for the future, including learning about AAC in ways that are responsive to Yolŋu preferences. This includes a focus on Yolŋu languages, culture and learning within family kinship structures.

Recommendations: Speech Pathologists have a role and responsibility to collaborate with Yolŋu families with MJD to develop AAC strategies and work in ways that respond to their unique and changing communication needs and priorities, now, and for future generations at risk of the disease.


Rebecca Amery is a speech pathologist and PhD student at Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia. Rebecca grew up in Yirrkala in northeast Arnhem Land, Northern Territory and has worked and volunteered as a speech pathologist in Darwin, Melbourne, Vietnam and Indonesia with children and adolescents with complex communication needs over the last 6 years. Rebecca is concurrently enrolled in the Graduate Certificate of Yolŋu Studies.

Julie Wunungmurra is the lead Yolŋu co-researcher for this project. She has worked for the MJD Foundation as an Aboriginal Health Community Worker for 4 years. Julie is the primary contact and support person for Yolŋu with MJD and their families in Darwin, Galiwin’ku and Yirrkala. Julie provides support to MJD Foundation community services, research and education programs and projects, providing cultural advice and support to families, as well as translation and interpreter support with research, medical and genetic concepts.

Joanne Goṉḏarra is one of the Yolŋu co-reserachers for this project. She has experience as a co-researcher and research assistant working on health research projects at Menzies School of Health Research and Charles Darwin University. She provides linguistic and cultural expertise as an interpreter, linguistic and cultural advisor to the research project and to families affected by MJD in Galiwin’ku.

Farrah Gumbula is one of the Yolŋu co-researchers for this project. She has Diploma of Interpreting (Yolŋu) and has extensive work experience in intercultural teams of Yolŋu and Balanda, including working for Prime Minister and Cabinet, Arnhemland Progress Aboriginal Corporation, Traditional Credit Union, Centrlink, Airnorth and Milingimbi playgroup. She provides linguistic and cultural expertise as an interpreter, linguistic and cultural advisor to the research project and to families affected by MJD in Galiwin’ku.

Changing lives: one smile at a time!

Mrs Cathryn Carboon1

1Dental Hygienists Association of Australia, Wangaratta North, Australia


Who is the tooth fairy’s best friend and what is fluoride magic? Both of these questions can be answered when you combine oral health literacy with a social responsibility project which has been nominated to represent Australia at the International Federation of Dental Hygienists global Social Responsibility Program.  Poor oral health literacy is linked to a decrease in fluoride demand and usage across the world. The Carevan Foundation Sun Smiles program in partnership with the Dental Hygienists Association of Australia has  published a children’s picture book which provides an oral health literacy resource which is changing the lives of many disadvantaged Australian primary school children – one smile at a time! Low levels of health literacy is a significant problem in Australia. All allied health professionals should look at this model of delivering health information to see whether they could also have a positive impact on the health literacy of the nation.


Cathryn Carboon is a dental hygienist with over 30 years’ experience and a Master of Health Promotion.  She was the oral health network co-ordinator on the SARRAH Advisory Committee for over a decade. Cathryn has been a member of the Dental Hygienists Association of Australia for 30 years, currently serving as the chair of the  Rural and Remote Health Special Interest Group.  Cathryn is a Carevan Foundation Board Member and manages the Carevan “Sun Smiles” school fluoride varnish program.  She works in private practice in rural Victoria and is a Colgate Professional Educator to undergraduate dentistry and oral health therapy programs at 5 Universities.  She is also a published children’s picture book author.

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