Students benefit from undertaking placements where they provide care for and work with First Nations Peoples and communities often allow students to:

  • learn about histories of First Nations Peoples and their contribution to health inequities that exist in Australia.
  • acquire the knowledge and understanding of the complex determinants of First Nations peoples’ health.
  • reflect on their own biases/ racial privilege and how these biases can contribute to ‘othering’ and affect the care they provide.
  • become ‘culturally responsive’ by developing their understanding of cultural safety and competence.
  • develop effective communication, relationship; and an awareness of cross-cultural interactions.
  • have the opportunity to individually contribute to, and potentially become advocates for First Nation People’s health outcomes.
  • increase their understanding of holistic, trauma informed, healing focused, client-centred health care and inter-professional practice.
  • develop high level consultation and collaborative planning skills, as well as an understanding of community-based services.

In this video, Jody Currie and Dr Alison Nelson talk about the benefits of clinical education placements working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Student supervisors and service providers can also benefit from offering placements in this context, as these placements:

  • can provide  additional direct client care, the development of resources and reviewing the literature to support client care or to progress quality improvement projects
  • develop a future workforce that is aware of and responsive to First Nations health needs and the  employment options that exist in this area;
  • develop relationships with universities and organisations to facilitate the inclusion of First Nations health content throughout the curriculum and support research initiatives.

Students highly value their experiences working with First Nations people. In this video, an occupational therapy student summarises her experience:


Another student's story...

I spent 1½ days a week over 8 weeks with the Deadly Ears team on placement as a speech pathology student. Those 8 weeks were some of the most enlightening weeks I have had in my degree. Before beginning this placement, I had very little experience and understanding of Indigenous Health and had no intention of working in that area. It was an area we had heard a lot about at uni but I never really understood the importance of applying this knowledge. By the time I finished my placement at DE, I learnt a lot, developed a passion for Indigenous health and was very eager to work in that area.

During my placement, I developed and coordinated a pre-literacy group for a local Indigenous kindy. The aim of the group was to support children who were planned to go to Prep the following year, however, there were also children involved who were much younger. This was challenging as the activities needed to be adaptable for the ages. There were also children who had other developmental delays (i.e. fine and gross motor) and the activities needed to also be adaptable for them. Although this was challenging, it was a fantastic opportunity as it required me to really think about what would be best for each child each week. And every week I had the reward of getting to know the children better and seeing them improve and shine over time.

I also had the opportunity to go to Cherbourg, a rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and to be involved in meetings with key community members and deliver an education session with Deadly Ears speech pathologists to the local daycare teachers. This was another fantastic opportunity as I was able to develop my skills in liaising with community members and presenting educational workshops in a culturally friendly way.

Although this placement did have its challenges, I would highly recommend it to any student. It is an eye opening experience and you learn and grow as a person and a professional. I wouldn’t change a thing about my 8 weeks with Deadly Ears.

Kate Thomson (2013)
James Cook University graduate



Please Note: References remain valid until superseded by later research. The resources referenced here are regularly reviewed and are considered current and relevant to the topics presented. The information in this section was identified in interviews with clinicians working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in conjunction with the following references:

  • Davidson, B., Hill, A., and Nelson, A. (2013) Responding to the World Report on Disability in Australia: Lessons from collaboration in an urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15(1), 69-74.
  • Mazel, O, and Anderson, I. (2011). Advancing Indigenous health through medical education. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-disciplinary Journal, 13(1), 1-12.
  • Nelson, A. (2007). Seeing white: a critical exploration of occupational therapy with Indigenous Australian people. Occupational Therapy International, 14(4), 237–255.
  • Nelson, A. and Iwama, M. (2010). Cultural Influences and Occupation-centred Practice with Children and Families. In Rodger, S. (Ed.), Occupation-centred practice with children: A practical guide for occupational therapists (pp.75-93). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. 
  • Nelson, A., Shannon, C., and Carson, A. (2013) Developing health student placements in partnerships with urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services. Lime Good Practice Case Studies, Volume 2, 29-34.
  • Thomson, K. (2013)  Students' Stories. Speech Pathology Paediatric Indigenous Network Newsletter - Issue 9, September 2013.
  • Whitford, D., Taylor, J., and Thomas, K. (2013). Working in Indigenous health settings. In K. Stagnitti, A. Schoo, & D. Welch (Eds.), Clinical and fieldwork placements in the health professions (2nd ed) (pp. 329-347). Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.


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