Sydney OT students work with remote Aboriginal communities

Four students from the Sydney Faculty of Health Sciences have embarked on an opportunity to work with Aboriginal communities in the state’s far west.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the university and the Murdi Paaki Region Assembly (MPRA) in far west New South Wales which will see the Master of Occupational Therapy students develop innovative aged care service models for remote communities in the region.

Sydney OT students work with remote Aboriginal communities
Occupational therapy students arriving in Bourke (Photo: University of Sydney)

“Traditional models of aged care service delivery have had limited success within these communities,” said Master of Occupational Therapy student Rachel Brunker. “We need to find a feasible way to utilise and develop local services to allow elders to age on country and not be sent far from their families and community,” she said.

Rebecca Lebler, who is in her final year of the Sydney OT program, said occupational therapy is based on the foundation of person-centred practice.

“We are in an ideal position to identify the expectations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Murdi Paaki communities in regards to culturally safe and accessible health services,” she said.

In August, the University of Sydney announced an ambitious service learning program offering students opportunities to engage in meaningful community service while applying the experience to their academic and personal development.

Through the program, local community leaders inform the university of the issues that they would like support in managing. Students are then engaged on working on these issues with the communities.

Mr Sam Jeffries, Chairperson, Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly said, “This is a unique opportunity available to us. We are happy to partner with Australia’s oldest university to deliver real gains for Aboriginal people in the state’s far west.”

Arriving in Bourke, Michelle Packham said the role in the first phase of the project will be to develop strong relationships with the community. “We want to ensure a long-lasting collaborative relationship between the University of Sydney and the Murdi Paaki communities,” she said.

Students Rebecca Lebler, Rachel Brunker, Michelle Packham and Janielle Jondral will be joined by students from the Faculty of Engineering and IT who will work on producing alternative energy solutions for remote communities.

Sydney Master of Occupational Therapy

The Sydney OT program offers a two-year, graduate-entry program. It is intended for students coming from an undergraduate degree in any field who wish to gain the requirements to become an occupational therapist. As the course leads to eligibility to practice, students will be assisted in achieving prescribed professional competencies through practical and theoretical skill acquisition and clinical fieldwork placements. Clinical placements are undertaken in both the public and private sectors. Students will have the opportunity to develop an understanding of the career path they have chosen, and its place in contemporary health.

Program: Master of Occupational Therapy
Location: Lidcombe, (suburb of Sydney), New South Wales
Semester intake: March each year
Duration: 2 years


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