Rebecca Allnutt – Journey into Audiology

Ms Rebecca Allnutt is a proud Indigenous woman – a descendant of the Dalrymple Tribe of the Plangermaireener Nation in Tasmania. Rebecca has lived and worked for 17 years in Alice Springs, NT, on Arrente country, which she now calls home. She has a double major in Psychology and a post-graduate diploma in Audiology, both from the University of Queensland.

Rebecca wanted to pursue audiology after seeing the impacts of hearing loss on her grandfather.

“My grandfather on my father’s side was quite hearing impaired from a very young age. I was always fiddling with his hearing aids.  I was always very aware of the communication difficulties he had because of the hearing loss.”

Rebecca thought she had to study Speech Pathology in high school to become an Audiologist.

“I had to repeat Year 12 to get in because I didn’t get good enough marks the first time around.”

Rebecca gained entry into a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Queensland. Once she started University, she went to the Health Faculty to discuss opportunities in Speech and Hearing.

“I spoke with this amazing person called Brad who said ‘Go out and see what Audiology is in your town, and I think that’s what you want to do'” says Rebecca.

“So I went out to a few clinics and groups in Brisbane and came back and said, ‘Audiology is exactly what I want to do'”, says Rebecca.

To succeed at University, Rebecca also had to face and overcome many challenges.

“The cost of studying is always hard in general. I grew up in a single-parent family. So I had to rely on Abstudy to get through high school and University.  I also had to work on the weekends, which didn’t leave much time for study.

“Going from a seaside town of 10,000 people to a city was also a huge journey,” said Rebecca.

Rebecca credits the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unit at the University as support.

“They were really, really supportive.  They provided me with tutoring, which really helped in my undergraduate degree. Audiology is a Master’s degree so that undergraduate support was much appreciated,” said Rebecca.

Rebecca also credits the many good role models who helped support her, giving her advice and her family to support her in her journey.

“My family was very, very supportive.  I was the first grandchild on both sides to go to University. So it was a very big deal.  My whole family, or most, are in health; the rest are nurses, and we have a few psychologists. So we had always been brought up around that health field.

Audiology was something a little bit different as well.”

“I’ve been very fortunate as I’ve had a couple of amazing mentors both at University and then in my work. That makes a big difference in how someone goes early in their journey. So having that positive and supportive direction is really important.

“That’s why I think the IAHA mentoring program is so important, not just for students, but for new graduates because they might not be fortunate enough to have that immediate supervisor that is supportive.  That’s another thing I love about IAHA, apart from the amazing IAHA family” said Rebecca.

Rebecca enjoys working in Audiology and says that it’s a growing, diverse profession where you can build strong relationships in the community.

“Audiology as a career – like most allied health careers – is so diverse. There are so many different areas you can go into; whether diagnostic, rehab or research. It’s a growing area. The technology, especially, is growing so fast in so many areas and it’s so exciting.

“For me, the majority of my working life has been with Indigenous health. It’s just so rewarding to see improvement. There’s the recognition of the relationships we have built by working so closely with Indigenous families in communities, which I see as my own family.

“I can go out to a community that I haven’t been to in three years, or that I visited four times a year for ten years, and I’m still known as that “Ear Lady”. It’s really lovely, and down the street, people will come up and say “Hi”. It’s about the beautiful relationships that develop.  Plus you get to see the amazing countryside and to see that incredible traditional culture that we are so privileged to see and to be a part of”, said Rebecca.

Rebecca encourages more people to choose allied health, especially audiology, as a career choice.

“I am probably one of the loudest voices in trying to get a focus on audiology out there as a career.  It is such a huge issue to get audiologists out here to work full time because there is so much competition (for audiologists).

“We have people coming out here from all over the country for placements, which we just love.  They seem to have such a lovely time, but they already have jobs and, even in their second year, they’ve already got positions lined up elsewhere.

“It’s about being holistic and so much more than just fixing one thing; it’s about working with the whole person and working really closely with other allied health professionals.

“I think one of the big issues is that allied health isn’t recognised well enough by the government or even by medical professionals: about how important it is, so we’re losing a lot of our valuable Indigenous allied health people, who go to medicine. That’s great because we need more Indigenous doctors, but allied health is just as important.”

“It’s a great career, it’s diverse, and you can work rural or remote, you can work in the city, or you can travel overseas. So it’s just a great career pathway.”