Jordana Stanford – Journey into Speech Pathology

Jordana Stanford is a Gamilaraay woman who grew up on a property outside of North-Western Sydney. She is a Speech Pathologist that graduated from the University of Sydney in 2012. Jordana was awarded IAHA’s Allied Health Inspiration Award in 2015.

Her interest in Speech Pathology was first sparked at age 10 when her little brother saw a Speech Pathologist while in kindergarten, and she got to sit in on one session, “I wasn’t allowed to play the games, so all I saw was him playing games from afar,” said Jordana.

Then when Jordana thought about going to University, she used the Universities Admissions Centre book to look up possible career choices, “I knew I wanted to work with people or children in health and with community, I chose Speech Pathology because it had a science and English background and didn’t include math, so I thought ‘I could do that’,” said Jordana.

She gained entry into University using the Yooroang Garang’s alternative entry pathway. One of the challenges of going to University was not knowing how to study or what they wanted in the first year.

“Learning to write and talk in the particular style that University wants were difficult, but I got the hang of it,” said Jordana. “Having no other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Speech Pathology student at the time was also difficult because I felt a little isolated.”

Jordana reveals that IAHA has been a great place for meeting other Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Speech Pathologists.

“When I finished University, I found out about IAHA, and I got to connect with three other Aboriginal Speech Pathologists. So now I work with one of them, and she has become my mentor,” she said. “Working as a Speech Pathologist, I can talk to the other students too and just give them encouragement in their studies, to let them know that it’s only a couple more years or a couple more weeks of the semester.”

“IAHA share the same view as me and are working to make things better for our people. They also provide a  space where we can let it out. Being able to meet other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals, in general, allows me to feel refreshed when I go back to work.” said Jordana.

Having worked as a Speech Pathologist for the past four years, Jordana has found it to be a rewarding profession.

“The most rewarding part of my job is when working with kids in the community controlled context that I do. I value their home language so that their parents and themselves don’t feel shame that they’re not talking ‘proper’ English.

“The kids can be themselves, and we talk Aboriginal way, like stories and yarning and getting to know them over time rather than pushing them. We still challenge and push them but not straight up: we focus on building a relationship first. Then, seeing them get more confident in the areas that they want to get better in is very rewarding,” said Jordana.

Jordana highlights that Speech Pathology is not only valuable for children’s health and education; “We can help children by either getting them better in areas they’re having difficulty with or giving them strategies so they can ‘succeed’ in the school system,” she said. “However we still make sure they don’t discount the way they talk or the way they write, because that is their culture, language is culture, so that way if they can figure out how to do school the way school wants them to do it, then they can still be who they want to be at home.”

For those wanting to pursue a career in health, Jordana said, “Allied health is a powerful spot for us as blackfellas to be so that we can give back to communities if and when they need it. We can work with and for the community to be true to ourselves and so that we can have all the opportunities that we should have. So you just got to give it a go”.