Student Journeys

A new chapter for occupational therapy in South Australia

Emma George and Trevor Ritchie

Presenter Biographies
Trevor RitchieTrevor Ritchie is a final year occupational therapy student at the University of South Australia. He has cultural ties to the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains and is currently involved in the revival of the Kaurna language. He works as a mentor to Aboriginal students of primary and preschool ages, which has sparked a passion to work in Paediatrics with Aboriginal children. He has served on steering committees and has been a strong advocate for both Aboriginal issues and occupational therapy culturally appropriate practice within the University of South Australia. Trevor is described as a leader among Indigenous students on campus and actively involved in activities within the Indigenous Student Support Unit for the University’s Division of Health Science. Trevor was a semi-finalist in the 2012 South Australian Aboriginal Young Achiever Award.

Emma George

Emma George is a registered Occupational Therapist, Lecturer in Health Sciences: Occupational Therapy at the University of South Australia, and an Associate member of IAHA. Emma is passionate about public health and primary health care, embracing principles of equity, empowerment and social justice in over 10 years of work experience through projects at local level and in international aid and development. Emma has worked, consulted and visited projects in Australia, Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Philippines, Bangladesh and India. Emma is the current course coordinator for ‘Primary Health Care Approaches in Occupational Therapy’ and supervises 4th year undergraduate, and graduate entry student ‘Participatory Community Practice’ projects. Emma has also worked as a tutor with Indigenous Students within the Division of Health Science and remains involved with supporting the Indigenous students across the division.

Abstract –The first identified Indigenous Occupational Therapist student in SA is set to graduate from the University of South Australia at the end of 2013. This is a significant moment for occupational therapy and allied health in South Australia reflecting both successful support of Indigenous students in the university program and encouraging the potential for occupational therapy in promoting health and well-being of Indigenous people.

Graduates from the occupational therapy program receive a broad education in medical sciences to social sciences and occupational therapy techniques to ensure that they can work collaboratively with people, communities and populations to do what they want and need to do. They understand that health and well-being is a process not just an outcome and that people and communities have a right and capacity to influence their own health.

Occupational therapy has an increasing focus and awareness of health issues for Indigenous people and communities in Australia. Students are now learning more about health inequity in Australia and the challenges and opportunities for allied health professionals to invest in health from a bottom-up, grassroots, community-led foundation where Indigenous people are valued, respected and can have ownership and power in decision making. Graduates are developing a greater understanding of the vital role of Indigenous health workers as well as the importance of partnership as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people work together for the health of our nation.

With the upcoming graduation of the first identified Indigenous occupational therapist in South Australia, new opportunities await. This milestone after more than 40 years of teaching occupational therapy in South Australia compels us to reflect on the lessons learned and the many more lessons that are yet to be learnt from Indigenous people and communities about health and well-being. It also provides an opportunity for a new chapter in occupational therapy in South Australia with the vision of an Indigenous Occupational Therapist, ready to be launched into the allied health professional world and to work towards reducing health inequity in Australia. In this presentation, we will share insight into support provided and experiences of Indigenous students within the occupational therapy program. The first identified Indigenous occupational therapist for South Australia will share his vision for the future as he steps into the allied health world.

Allied Health Student Adventure in the Murchison Region of Western Australia: Go Rural Student Program

Kathryn Fitzgerald

Presenter Biographies:

Kathryn FitzgeraldKathryn Fitzgerald is a speech pathologist who has worked in rural Western Australia for 25 years. Her current role at CUCRH is in developing student placements with service learning and interprofessional principles in the Midwest of Western Australia. Kathryn also works part time in private practice. She has a strong interest in supporting rural allied health professionals and is on the Board of Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health.

Maeva Hall is an Occupational Therapist who has lived and worked in regional WA for more than 25 years. During this time Maeva has held a variety of positions within the WA Country Health Service including; Allied Health Manager, Multipurpose Program Project Officer, Hospital Administration, Health Information Manager, Midwest Primary Health Coordinator and WA Telehealth Manager. Maeva maintains a part time Occupational Therapy private practice. Maeva uses her breadth of experience to pursue her strong interest in health service planning and delivery that is inclusive of the use of technology (i.e. Telehealth) as appropriate for clinical, education and management purposes. In her role at CUCRH, Maeva is pursuing her interest in applied research of integrated technology, focused on chronic disease self management, service access and its impacts on the patient and provider organisation, indigenous health delivery, eLearning and education for both students and the workforce. Maeva is involved with the development and future operation of CUCRH’s Simulated Learning Centre due for completion in late 2012.

Abstract – The opportunity to pilot an Interprofessional Learning Program in Mt Magnet with students was readily accepted by both CUCRH and the University and based on the University Go Global program.

This placement provided the unique opportunity for students to immerse themselves within a remote community and  to experience and learn with a range of Aboriginal cultural mentors. It was not structured as a clinical placement, however students work with a range of school students to demonstrate clinical reasoning within this environment where the social determinants of health, culture and service access challenges thinking around clinical priorities and primary health care practices.

The focus areas included;

  • Service learning within the education setting of Mt Magnet District High School with links to wider community groups
  • Learning how to apply university learning to developing a service in a remote  area with complex needs.
  • Reflection as a key learning tool, ensuring integration of knowledge with identified need.
  • Cultural mentoring and support for greater understanding and application to practice
  • Interprofessional learning across a range of health and education professions, understanding the roles and integrating this knowledge into practice.

The assessed learning outcomes of this placement focussed around the students’ abilities in communication, collaborative practice, professionalism and client-centred service. This program specifically addresses;

  • Personal and professional progression towards attaining cultural understanding and application.
  • Demonstration of interprofessional practice in a remote service learning placement
  • Student ability to synthesize and document current influences on the healthcare system of a remote community
  • Ability to identify interventions and programs that would sustain community-based health outcomes of host sites

As a pilot program with the intention to offer this through 2014 as an ongoing program within the community, this placement is being evaluated with these results being available for inclusion within this presentation.

Transition from Trade to Tertiary

Di Bakon

Presenter Biography:

Di BakonDi Bakon is originally from NSW, a Kamilaroi woman with origins to the Narrabri area. She is a mature aged student studying third year Occupational Therapy at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville.

Di is currently the chair for the Indigenous Health Students Association at JCU and works hard to support success and retention of Indigenous students through peer support and mentoring students in health degrees.

She also supports the Indigenous Health Unit at JCU by participating in the Indigenous Health Careers Road show and other Indigenous ambassador activities such as Closing the Gap, Vibe Alive and FOGS. As a future Occupational Therapist her focus is in Indigenous health issues particularly children’s health, health promotion, research and policy.


Abstract: Growing up, Di Bakon moved around a lot, attending 18 schools and moving house over 30 times. She moved away from home and left school at the age of 16 and she was often told she would never achieve anything or make anything of her life.

In 1999 Di met her husband and entered the building industry, working alongside her husband who is a master builder. She loved being part of the family business, being very hands on and building dream homes for others.

It wasn’t until 2008 that she decided to try something new, while still working part time in the family’s building business. She entered a 6 month tertiary access course at James Cook University but wasn’t sure which course would be best for her at that time. She started psychology, but due to family commitments she withdrew and fell off the university’s radar for a while. Eventually she enrolled in an exercise science degree because she was interested in exercise physiology and thought it could be a good fit. It was while doing this course that she met some occupational therapy students, connecting with the underlying philosophies of this allied health discipline and it was this that determined her new path.

Doing occupational therapy, which is based upon assisting people to be able to do what they want, need or are expected to do in their everyday life, helped Di to see that she, too, could achieve her own dreams and aspirations. She realised that nothing was holding her back but her own thoughts and as she extended her thinking, she has gone from strength to strength.

Rewards of Radiography

Lynelle Fallon

Presenter Biography:

Lynelle FallonLynelle Fallon is a Waanyi woman from Mount Isa. Currently studying Bachelor of Medical Imaging at CQ University in Mackay where she has lived for the last 17 years. Lynelle is now a third year student of a 4 year degree to become a Radiographer. She is a 31 year old mature age student, married with four beautiful children aged 13 years, 9 years, 7 years and 2 years old. Lynelle was actively involved with the Mackay Parental and Community Engagement [PaCE] Program, attending workshops and meetings aimed at building relationships with key school staff and other Indigenous parents to better the educational outcomes for our children.

The life changing event of losing her brother to suicide 8 years ago was the catalyst to pursue her dreams and goals of going to university and living life to fullest.

Family, better life for your children than your own, financial rewards of a career, determination, proving to yourself that you are intelligent and smart, proving to others that you can do it, being a positive role model to family, your children, friends and community, sleepless nights studying, tears and more determination are all things that gets a student like Lynelle through her journey.



From my life experiences thus far and becoming a Health Professional has sparked a passion for overall better Indigenous health outcomes, closing the gap, and in particular the power of higher education. I want to inspire and get the word out to Indigenous people of any age to think about the rewards of pursuing further education and getting a career in Health, whilst at the same time boosting the number of Indigenous Health Professionals in the workforce.

I was very surprised when I first found out there was only a small number of Indigenous people working or studying Medical Imaging in Australia. This is something I want to change and improve.

From my experience a lot of people in the community and some health professionals don’t know much about what a Radiographer is or does. You being a Health Professional will be of great benefit to learn more about Radiography to relate to your patients who have or will be in the care of a Radiographer.

I am excited to educate anyone and everyone about Radiography. There is a lot more to our jobs than just taking general x-rays. Radiographers need to be highly skilled in patient care building a rapport and trust of a patient almost immediately as some procedures only require a small amount of time with the patient. I enjoy the challenge of understanding and working with all of the advanced Medical Imaging technology and learning Human Anatomy and Physiology. There are many modalities that Radiographers work in such as General X-ray, CT (Computed Tomography), MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), Fluoroscopy, Angiography and Mammography. All of these imaging modalities use different equipment that is utilised to locate, rule out or diagnose different pathologies.