Australian speech pathology graduate discusses working in Australia

OzTREKK student Lisa Matys studied speech pathology at the University of Queensland. More than a year after completing her studies, Lisa is still in Australia and works as a speech pathologist on the east coast of Queensland, in Hervey Bay. We chatted with Lisa recently to find out if the Master of Speech Pathology Studies program prepared her for work, and how she obtained her position as a speech pathologist after graduation.

Australian Speech Pathology Schools
OzTREKK student Lisa Matys on a whale-watching cruise

What made you decide to study speech pathology in Australia and at UQ?
I had completed an undergraduate degree in bio-pharmaceutical sciences, and during my last year, decided I didn’t want to continue in the science field. My mom suggested I look at speech pathology as a career option. In order to become a speech pathologist in Canada, I would have had to complete another undergrad degree before even being able to apply. I had always considered going to teachers college in Australia and when I was Googling I found OzTREKK and just decided to apply to speech pathology. UQ had a good international reputation and Brisbane looked like a nice city to live in, so I decided, “why not?”

How did you land a job working as a speech pathologist in Hervey Bay?
During my second year an opportunity came up to volunteer at Camp Have a Chat, which is a camp run by the Cerebral Palsy League (CPL) for children using alternative and augmentative communication methods. I volunteered and had a fantastic time. It really helped me decide that the disability sector was the one I wanted to work in! As well, I was able to meet the senior speech pathologist and other SPs working in CPL. When it came time to apply for jobs, I emailed the camp coordinator to let her know I really was interested in working with CPL and asked if there were any tips on finding a job with them. She in turn passed on my email to the senior speech pathologist—which I think is how I ended up getting an interview. It’s not only “a case of what you know but also who you know!” I wasn’t successful in getting the first position, but a couple of weeks later they gave me a call to let me know that a new position was opening up in Hervey Bay and asked if I was interested. I said yes, and I’m still here one and a half years later!

I think to get a job, especially as an international student, you need to make the most of any connections you have and volunteer in the areas you are interested in. It also helps to be willing to move more regionally and be prepared to wait a bit longer to get a job after graduating.

On which visa are you currently, while you are working in Oz?
I’m currently on a 485 visa (Graduate visa). This visa lets you continue to live and work in Oz for 18 months after it has been granted. It was the most cost-effective option at the time when I graduate (end 2011) but it has now gone up in price. Currently, my work is looking into sponsoring me to become a permanent resident as my 18 months will be finished early in 2014.

Do you think your studies at UQ prepared you well for your current job?
Overall, I think UQ did prepare me for being a speech pathologist. The disability sector is the one in which you get the least amount of training, but the skills I learned at UQ for researching and various treatment techniques did set me up for quick, on-the-job learning. My year was really supportive so it was nice to know that whenever you had a question you could just ask and someone would help you—very different from other courses I had done where everyone was really competitive and didn’t want to help. I think that most graduates in my year felt they were prepared, but you learn so much out in your first year when you are the speech pathologist and people are looking to you for advice!

Australian Speech Pathology Schools
Lisa and friends touring Fraser Island

Any advice or tips to students from Canada thinking about going to Oz to study speech path?
I had a great time at UQ and in Australia. I think if you’re up for an adventure you should definitely apply! UQ also made sure that I was going to meet all my Canadian requirements for when I decide to go back and work in Canada—even to the point of offering me extra clinics to make sure that I had enough hours in all areas. I think a career as a speech pathologist is incredibly rewarding and working with kids and adults with cerebral palsy ensures that no two days are ever the same. The nice thing about using OzTREKK was the list they sent around of everyone starting a therapy program; it made it easy to meet other people who were heading over to Australia with you and gave you someone to meet up with and explore with before classes started.


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