A student outreach program run by the Western Australian Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) in Geraldton is providing valuable health services to primary school children in remote areas of Western Australia while benefiting the learning needs of university students on rural placement.
Now in its fifth year of operation, the long-standing partnership between WACRH and Yalgoo Primary School (YPS) sees speech pathology, occupational therapy and audiology students on rural placement with WACRH regularly visit the remote primary school.
The WACRH students set off early in the morning to drive to Yalgoo – two hours from Geraldton or one hour for university students based in Mount Magnet – for day visits to the primary school.
YPS Principal Geoffrey Blyth says, ‘The regular visits and resulting reports form important information about our students.
‘They test the students and I get a report usually within three days, so the information is current and useful. Every record they make we use for our teaching and learning, as well as our assessments.
‘It gives our students something regular that is happening at our school, not just a one-off visit. So that means that the kids are completely comfortable.
‘Plus, our students get the opportunity to interact with people they would not normally interact with and that is almost as important as the tests themselves. The kids just love them because we get a group of very enthusiastic young people at our school who talk, play and interact with them. It adds a bit of vibrancy to our school.’
Occupational therapy student Sarah Oborne says, ‘It has been great to work one on one with the kids there, particularly as they do not have people come and visit the school on a regular basis. But we are there every week.’
Speech pathology student Claire Symons says, ‘Coming out to Yalgoo has been a good learning experience. During our visits we see several school students for assessment or therapy, do lots of observational work, and meet with the principal and teachers, before returning to Geraldton in the afternoon.’
Claire says the Yalgoo experience has prepared her to work more effectively with Aboriginal people and in a culturally responsive way.
Speech pathology student Ellora Stone says, ‘This experience has helped us appreciate the challenges of rural placements and understand why it is so hard to access some of the services.’
According to WACRH Director Professor Sandra Thompson, service-learning placement programs have been designed to ensure students have deep and meaningful engagement with communities as well as meet the professional requirements of their clinical placements.
‘Our service-learning programs are designed to meet an unmet need in the community,’ Professor Thompson says.
‘We will continue to foster partnerships that contribute to the health and wellbeing of rural and remote communities.’
For more information, visit www.wacrh.uwa.edu.au.