2022 World Physiotherapy Day

Candice Liddy – In position to make a difference

As an elite hockey player, Candice Liddy knew her strength was positioning: putting herself in the right place to maximise the team’s opportunity of moving forward and getting a goal.

“There were other players who could run all day, but I just knew I had to be in the right spot,” she says.

Candice lives in Darwin, where she was born and raised on Larrakia land. Her grandparents on her dad’s side were part of the Stolen Generations, taken from other parts of the Northern Territory as children to live at Garden Point Mission on Melville Island.

Her father grew up in Darwin and nearby Howard Springs but was evacuated after cyclone Tracy in 1974 to Brisbane, where he met Candice’s mother, who was born in India, and moved to Australia with her family.

Sporting talent runs in the family and also led Candice to a career in physiotherapy. Playing for many years at State level for the NT, she noticed the team physiotherapists were good at working in the athletes’ best interests while keeping them game-ready, and they also got to travel with the teams.

“I wanted those skills and that lifestyle, and I was going to work as hard as I could to get there.”

After school she was accepted to study at the University of Melbourne and live in residence at Trinity College, with the support of Indigenous scholarships – a pathway she would recommend for others. It also shifted her career focus.

She was required by her NT government cadetship to spend 12 weeks per year on student placement at Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH), and stayed on after graduation for 2½ years, honing her skills in acute care and also learning that she could be herself in her work.

“I remember one of the pieces of feedback I got from a supervisor in Melbourne was that I was too casual. When you’re home and you’re with your people you don’t feel uncomfortable about holding onto someone’s arm, or having a laugh with them. In Darwin, I didn’t get that feedback of You’re being too casual. I got the feedback of, That’s nice. You’re developing a relationship with the clients. Well done.”

A later non-clinical role brought her experience in remote communities as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) planner, where she quickly realised that all the planning in the world would be useless if services weren’t available where they were needed.

“And that’s when I thought, You know what, there’s a gap. A gap I’m trained to fill.”

That’s where she is now, working part-time in the NT Department of Health’s Adult Allied Health Team and running her own physiotherapy and support coordination business supporting people in remote areas.

“When I go to community I often sense my clients thinking, Oh, I can feel comfortable because she’s alright. She’s Aboriginal too and she’ll get it. And even though I’ve never had the experience of living in remote areas or knowing exactly who I was as an Aboriginal woman, it’s something that I admire so much in them, and that comes across genuinely. We’ve got mutual respect for each other.”

Candice is aware of the limitations of fly-in-fly-out physio services. She can recommend a course of therapy, but she can’t always fully deliver it. She has spent time thinking about possible solutions, including employing therapy assistants to work in the communities under physios’ supervision.

Connecting with Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) has opened her eyes to training pathways for therapy assistants (such as the Northern Territory Health Academy), and given her insight into what’s going on in health and the health professions outside her “own little professional bubble”.

Candice feels blessed to have strong parents who have supported her in every way and never questioned her ability.

“Not everyone gets to have parents like that,” she says. “I know I’m meant to give back somehow.”

One thing she wishes she knew before embarking on her studies is “how often you fail.” It’s something she wants other prospective students to know.

“Failure is inevitable and it’s a learning process, so don’t be disheartened by how difficult and challenging things are,” is her message.

“The fact that you’re being brave enough to step into the unknown is excellent. It’s so exciting. I had to do supplementary exams, to travel back and miss out on holidays because I needed to do extra study. But in the end it was worth it and, as much as you’re not the greatest student, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be a good practitioner, a good clinician.”

And then, there’s the lessons learned from her sporting days.

“The rewarding feeling you have from winning an important game, after all the hard work you’ve put in, is similar to when you get to see your client get out of bed for the first time after having a traumatic brain injury, or stand for the first time after fractures or multi-traumas. It’s amazing what you can feel through someone else’s accomplishments.”

September 8, 2022


Posted by: Renae Kilmister