Jiji, meaning ‘young children’ in Martu, is an innovative program providing Curtin University final-year speech pathology and occupational therapy students the opportunity to complete a placement in the remote Pilbara Aboriginal communities of Punmu and Jigalong, Western Australia.
Jiji aims to improve Martu children’s health and education access, work with families to engage communities in their own healthcare, build the capacity of families and school staff, help build future recruitment of allied health professionals to remote areas, and collaborate with and support existing allied health service providers in the region. Students and supervisors live and work within the Martu communities. Through this immersive experience, they are able to build an understanding of Martu culture, language and recent history, the barriers that Aboriginal people face in accessing a westernised healthcare and education system, and a greater awareness of culturally safe service provision. Students strengthen their discipline-specific skills and learn how to work in small, interprofessional teams.
Students and their supervisors worked interprofessionally and in collaboration with families, teachers and health services to assist Martu children to gain the most from their schooling, providing more than 13,500 hours of supervised therapy in 2016 and 2017.
The Jiji program has been running for two years. It has been initially funded by the Feilman Foundation, in partnership with Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation, Newcrest Mining, BHP-Billiton and Mosman Park Rotary. Professor Lorna Rosenwax, Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, Curtin University said that due to the success of Jiji the funding, through the Pilbara Development Commission, is expected for another three years 2018 – 2020.
L-R: Curtin students Jillian Briggs, occupational therapy student, Punmu 2017, Lauren Willis, speech pathology graduate, Punmu 2016, Professor Lorna Rosenwax, Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, Alice Smedley, speech pathology graduate, Jigalong 2016.