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The Sydney Morning Herald

Healthy conversation point

Author: Carla Grossetti
Date: 08/10/2011
Words: 333
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 14
A new website promotes communication between medical professionals and their Aboriginal patients, writes Carla Grossetti.

IN THE traditional language of the Dharug people, who originally occupied the area west of Sydney, the word byalawa means "to talk" or "have a conversation".

And having a conversation is exactly what a University of Sydney senior lecturer in speech pathology, Dr Tricia McCabe, hopes to encourage with the creation of

McCabe, the faculty of health sciences' lead researcher, has spent the past three years developing the Byalawa project, which she says is aimed at educating health professionals about how to better communicate with indigenous Australians.

She says the online teaching resource was designed after much consultation with Aboriginal educators and elders, academics, students and health professionals.

"It's about teaching health professionals how to work with indigenous Australians in an urban setting. It's also about improving the health system. If we have one message to impart about this project, it's that the primary importance of it is to develop relationships with indigenous patients," McCabe says.

To create the videos, McCabe says she conducted qualitative research through focus groups with Aboriginal people. The video vignettes feature Aboriginal actors improvising scenarios based on their own experiences with health professionals and are accompanied by talking points for students and teachers.

"We asked our groups to tell us their stories of when they had seen health professionals and when it had gone well and when it had gone badly. From these insights we scripted six vignettes that feature Aboriginal actors talking to, or sometimes clashing with, real health professionals," McCabe says.

"This resource aims to demonstrate the fact that many Aboriginal people may interpret events very differently because of the way that, historically, they've been mistreated and misrepresented. Key to understanding how to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is developing a relationship of trust."

The project, which launched last month, represents a range of health professions, including dentistry, speech pathology, occupational therapy, medicine, nursing and pharmacy.

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