Miss Hannah Johnston1

1Office Of Disability – Top End Remote, Darwin, Australia


The transdisciplinary, key worker model is a best practice framework for supporting children and families of children with disabilities or developmental delay. This framework incorporates best practice principles for early childhood intervention, including practice that is family centred, strengths based, culturally responsive and relationships-based. The key worker model of practice has been adopted by the Office of Disability, Top End Remote (TER) team to support children and families living across 33 remote communities and three regional centres in Northern Territory’s Top End region. Given economies of scale, the key worker model is an efficient and effective approach to service delivery across the vast region.

The TER team works in partnership with children and families via a single point of contact, who takes time to develop relationships in community, build trust and gain an understanding of the child’s connection to family, community and country. The TER team have developed structures to support key workers in early intervention, including extensive paediatric and community specific orientation, cultural mentoring, reflective practice and clinical support around complex cases. This presentation will describe practical examples of the key worker model being adapted for the remote context, including approaches to prioritising, kinship mapping, modifying goal setting tools and functional assessment. The key worker model is an evidence based and cost effective model of early intervention, with potential applications in other rural and remote settings. It has particular relevance in addressing the challenges of NDIS service delivery for remote and very remote areas.


Hannah has worked in remote Northern Territory communities since 2011. She works as a Paediatric Physiotherapist and mroe recently, as a Paediatric Clinical Leader with the Office of Diability – Top End Remote team. As part of this role, she provides support to colleagues, as well as clients, families and schools across the Top End Region. Hannah is currently completing a Masters in Public Health through Flinders University. She is passionate about service delivery for children and families in remote areas and enjoys working in partnership with families and commununities.

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