Reflections from our 2019 scholarship awardees
(Added as they become available)
Each year ACEN awards eight $1500 scholarships to provide financial support for students undertaking a WIL placement in a regional or remote area of Australia as part of their university studies. Upon completion of the placement recipients are required to provide a reflection of the WIL experience which should
- Identify the personal growth and skill development as a result of the WIL placement
- How the ACEN Scholarship supported the recipient’s career aspirations
- Evidence of the ability to think critically and question biases and assumptions
Speech pathology in the Riverland SA
My final roster placement for Bachelor of Speech Pathology gave me the opportunity to work in the Riverland of rural South Australia as part of the Department for Education in Berri. I grew up just over the boarder in Victoria and had driven through the area multiple times over the years. However, this placement was an opportunity to become part of the local community. This area is only two and a half hours from Adelaide, yet like other more rural and remote communities, it struggles attracting and retaining both medical and allied health workers. The school areas in which the Berri office are responsible for, are located up to 100km in each direction. Some days required long hours sitting in a car driving commuting between the different schools.
I was able to gain a broad experience, working with children from both culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and how speech pathologists in schools can bring about better language and literacy outcomes for children with speech and language difficulties. Supporting teachers and students in providing strategies to increase and support access to the curriculum effectively. I was given opportunities to develop new skills, such as participating in the indigenous hearing screen program for primary aged children. Developing new skills in conducting hearing screens, setting up, using the specialised equipment and how to record the results. Also, where to refer families if hearing difficulties were indicated, for a full hearing assessment and further adjustments that could be made to support the child within the classroom environment.
I thoroughly enjoyed working in rural South Australia and all the opportunities I was offered to increase my learning and develop new skills. I would not have had the same opportunities, if I had remained in the city. There are many challenges to service provision in rural areas. I found that each challenge I faced gave me an opportunity to use each setback and frustration to foster my identity as a speech pathologist. These frustrations and setbacks provided many opportunities to develop online problem-solving and negotiation skills.
I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship from Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN) to financially support my time away from home. This scholarship allowed me to solely focus on completing my 10-week placement without the constant financial worries of maintaining two households. It provided me the opportunity to attend additional professional development workshops to increase my knowledge. Being able to experience placement in a rural location has provided me with a passion for working with rural communities and I have just accepted a position in rural Western Australia for my first year as a practicing speech pathologist. Something I may not have considered if I hadn’t had the financial support and opportunity to experience living and working in the Riverland. Thank you.
Social work in Broome WA
Rural student placements create great opportunity to develop personally and professionally, with extremely unique learning experiences. My fourteen week social work student placement in Broome, Western Australia has been my most valued learning experience yet and provided a platform for me to develop my skills, resilience, initiative, flexibility and assertiveness. I was fortunate enough to work in a multi-disciplinary team and learn about various practice frameworks, theoretical applications and the ways in which cultural competency informs all levels of service provision. My placement was focused on community engagement and development, however I was fortunate enough to also have exposure to the clinical youth mental health practice setting, social & emotional wellbeing activities and youth vocational support for young people engaged in the service. The team created a space where I felt comfortable to identify my learning goals and areas of interest, question the significance of things, seek further understanding on practice approaches and negotiate workloads in order to support team members where appropriate. The reciprocal willingness of all staff to learn and knowledge share enhanced my learning experience and I was able to gain understanding in the different elements of service provision including; mental health, physical & sexual health, alcohol & other drugs and work & study. My experiential self-learning was complemented by ritual weekly supervision which was always full of honest, open and robust conversations that inspired further reading, research and application of social work theory to my practice.
My rural student placement has installed trust in my own ability to relocate and immerse myself in a different cultural context, contributing to my development as an upcoming social work practitioner. I have witnessed my own personal growth in a short period of time, which was aided by the unique and challenging practice experiences I was exposed to. I feel confident to adapt to new living and working environments and the challenge of pushing myself to learn new thinks, think creatively and not be afraid to question practices.
My most profound learning has been in working with Aboriginal young people and the generosity of my colleagues and our service users in sharing their cultural wisdom. I was provided with multiple cultural awareness training and had meaningful interactions with various community members that opened my eyes to the Broome cultural context, which I am still actively seeking more understanding. The Broome context was something I was not familiar with and differs immensely from Perth. In the three months I have been here, I have tried my best to develop an understanding of the social and cultural context, however I think this takes time to fully gauge. The influence of social issues is immense in the Broome context and complexities lie in providing holistic, sustainable and respected community services. I have observed, read widely and debriefed about the impact of colonization and the structural disadvantage experienced in the community. This knowledge influences human service provision and demands culturally competent and secure practice methods. I have learnt about power relationships and the reliance of funding in small organisations. I have also learnt that social issues inform services, which are attempting to effectively respond to concepts of human rights and social justice and the importance of placing the service user at the centre of their recovery journey, while acknowledging the systemic influences on their wellbeing.
I am extremely grateful for the financial support gifted to me through the ACEN student scholarship, which relieved some of the financial stress experienced in relocating thousands of kilometres away from home. The support helped reduce the pressure felt by committing to a student placement in a remote area, for which I am extremely grateful. Without support, the ability to embrace the challenging yet inspiring aspects of a remote placement would not have been possible. I have increased my knowledge and skills, have a much greater sense of confidence, have developed innovation and learnt how to think creatively in order to respond to the demands of having limited access.
Speech pathology in Katherine NT
For my final clinical placement for my Masters of Speech Pathology, I had the opportunity to go to Katherine, Northern Territory. As soon as I heard about the opening, I jumped at the chance to go; how many times in your life do you have the opportunity to live and work in a community so far removed from your everyday life? My peers and I arrived in Katherine in the “build up”, which entailed relentless heat for weeks on end. Having lived in Tasmania for most of my life, weeks on end of temperatures rising above 40 degrees every day is something that I have never experienced nor was able to imagine prior to this experience. In spite of this, I already can’t wait to return to Katherine to visit and explore the area further.
Working as a Speech Pathologist within a state primary school in Katherine enabled me to develop and refine clinical skills that will be invaluable to me throughout my career. Holistic, client centred practice is one of the core values as a Speech Pathologist and this value and skill was integral to this placement experience. My peers and I learnt to use and interpret our speech and language assessments with caution as they have all been designed to use on children who speak standard Australian English as their first language. Many of the children I worked with spoke standard Australian English as their second, third or even fourth language. Often my peers and I relied on gathering information from multiple different sources to garner a complete picture of the challenges the child was experiencing. As a new clinician, learning to gather and collate information from all sources and placing less weight on formalised assessments is something that I will take with me into all future encounters.
This placement has enabled me to learn more about Aboriginal cultures. While at the school, I had the opportunity to speak to the children about their Dreaming, culture and way of life. My experiences have given me a further appreciation of how to work with Aboriginal clients and their families with great respect and cultural sensitivity. I still have a lot to learn about Aboriginal cultures and working as an allied health practitioner within a remote community, but this placement has provided me with a deeper understanding of how to approach it and what I must be aware of when working alongside such an ancient culture.
Outside of working in the school, I spent my weekends in the community or in the national parks exploring the beauty of the Katherine region. I was fortunate enough to see the natural beauty of naturally formed hot springs, 5000-year-old Aboriginal rock art, fast flowing waterfalls and hike throughout the gorge. The landscape that surrounds Katherine is breathtakingly beautiful.
Financial capacity is always a major consideration when applying for a remote placement. I am extremely thankful for the support provided through the ACEN scholarship, as this scholarship helped alleviate the economic burden associated with a remote placement and allowed me to immerse myself into the community and extracurricular activities. I feel grateful to have been able to experience a unique and rare opportunity that has broadened my capacity as a practitioner; experiences that I may not have easily been able to have anywhere else in Australia. This placement has added valuable skills to both my professional and personal skill set, made me examine my prejudices and expectations of another culture. It has also given me an advantage when practicing Speech Pathology in the future.