Did you ever wonder what your life would be like if you lived in a different country? It’s something I think about now and then because I was born in Australia and my dad is Australian. My mom is American and brought us all back to the US when I was very little. However, as a child I went back and visited Australia all the time (mostly the Melbourne, Victoria area), soaking up the time with my dad’s large extended family and the beautiful scenery and culture of that amazing country. I’ve retained my dual citizenship, too.
Several years I found out that my cousin Stephanie became a speech pathologist. Stephanie’s dad is one of my dad’s younger brothers. At that moment, it felt like there must be something in our DNA that pointed us both in that same direction: helping people overcome communication disorders. I wanted to interview her to learn more about what it’s like to be a speech path in Australia, to see if there are similarities and differences. How cool to interview an Aussie speechie that shares 25% of my DNA! Read on for a super-meaningful episode in my series about International Speech Pathologists:
Tell the readers a little about yourself.
My name is Stephanie Burns, I’m 28, and I was raised in the southern state of Australia, known as Victoria. After completing my 4-year long bachelor university degree in Albury, a fairly large regional town in New South Wales, I returned to my hometown to practice speech therapy within the rural towns that I know so well. I’ve been out of university for 3 years now and loving my career choice.
In my spare time I enjoy working on my investment propertythat was built in early 2015. I’m lucky enough to be part of a thriving triathlon club that encourages participation of all abilities, and although I’m very much a beginner I nevertheless feel valued and supported by fellow club members.
I’m a family oriented person who values genuine friendships with a small tight-knit group of friends. I have been born and bred a country person although intend to make the change to the city at some point.
I hope to continue working predominantly with children long into the future and hope to specialize in disability.
Is there a need for speech paths in Australia?
I work in country (regional and remote towns) Victoria Australia. Situated 4 hours from the closest metropolitan city, there has always been a shortage of speech pathologists so far out from Melbourne. There are plenty of job prospects in the country, as communities become smaller and services aren’t as easily accessible, families and primary schools rely more heavily on our services.
What is it like as a place to live?
Living in country Australia will provide a lasting vibe of friendliness and care that you won’t find in city counterparts. Living within a population of less than 15,000 it isn’t uncommon to bump into your young clients in the local chemist or supermarket.
I live in Bairnsdale in East Gippsland Victoria, situated 2 hours from the snow in winter and surrounded by beaches in summer.
Are you school or hospital-based?
I work in a community health centre. The majority of my clientele attend an outpatient clinic onsite. Our organization has 5 sites. I work out of 2 of those sites – Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance.
What kind of qualifications do people need to work there?
To practice in speech-language pathology in Australia you must have completed at least the bachelor university degree. The university course is growing in offerings and universities across the country. There is still an ongoing demand for speech pathology jobs across Australia (both rural and metropolitan locations).
What’s your favorite thing about your work?
Of course working directly with families is rewarding and feeling the appreciation for your work is a reward in itself. I’m fortunate enough to have a supportive and friendly team of employers and co-workers to network with each day. Over time the need to work closely with the other allied health professionals – OT’s and Physio’s is noticeably becoming more necessary to meet the families needs. A multidisciplinary approach in Australia is becoming more favourable as we await the government’s rollout of NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) funding for disability, which reinforces a multidisciplinary approach.
What’s your biggest challenge at work?
Limited community health funding in our area. Clients that may not necessarily have a diagnosis or condition may still require multiple blocks of speech therapy to see progress. In rural towns there is a greater population of low socio-economic status & therefore cannot afford fees for private speech therapy consults.
Is the culture supportive of speech therapists and special education?
Yes, speech pathologists are not just an important part of specialist schooling education but also highly sorted and respected in mainstream education.
How did you decide to be a speech pathologist?
I was always interested in a career in Allied Health and was able to narrow down my interests to speech pathology after a week long work experience in the allied various allied health professions at the local hospital.
How cool is my cousin Stephanie? I really learned a lot about being a speech pathologist in Australia. I’d love to interview Stephanie in person one day. I have not visited the land of my birth for over 10 years! Hopefully I will get there again in the next 18 months. I’ll be able to see Stephanie in person again and we can “talk shop” in real life — and I’ll share it on the blog, too.
Additional blog posts in the International Speech Pathologist series: