Section 6: RHSVs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
Within your rural health club, you might be fortunate enough to not only participate in a RHSV, but also to conduct one in a remote Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community. Due to cultural, educational and social circumstances, the RHSV workshop may need to be adapted to best meet the students’ needs and make your visit as successful as possible. Also see the NRHSN’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Activity Guide for more information. These visits may be some of the most challenging but rewarding visits you will do, but remember to apply the same principles as with your other workshops - be flexible, interactive and passionate about how much you enjoy your health career!
Generally, the students will be far younger than those participating in other visits - primary schools are often more receptive to visits in remote areas. This is sometimes to do with school attendance beginning to drop off in high school.
In some remote Indigenous communities, English may be a second language or rarely spoken at all.
As the kids are likely to be younger, the objective of the workshop needs adjustment - often focusing less on careers and more on health promotion in general.
- Encouragement to stay in school for as long as possible - for their own education and for the whole community.
- Increasing trust of ‘white’ health workers in community.
- Increased interaction with healthcare through exposure to health workers in a non-intimidating, interactive and fun way.
- Promoting healthy choices.
Younger kids don’t sit still for long! Use mostly hands-on activities to really make good use of your time and interact with the students in smaller groups (easier to keep a handle on).
It might be more appropriate to split into male-female only groups - discuss with the teacher or school (ideally beforehand so you can bring the right volunteers!)
Evaluation forms might be a bit tricky with younger kids - maybe adjust it to a picture-based form or help the kids complete it at the end or obtain verbal feedback and note it down.
Other top tips
- Cultural awareness training before you go! Try to get something specific to the region or liaise with contacts from the school. Appendix 9 has some tips for where to go for resources.
- Talk about health generally. Ask the kids what might cause ‘sugar sickness’ (diabetes) or what can hurt our hearts to make it interactive. Try to confirm what terms that community uses for specific diseases.
- In terms of talking about different health professionals, try to keep the conversation centred on who the students might have met in their community - Aboriginal Health Workers, doctors (especially RFDS doctors), nurses, physios, OTs.
- Long, complex problem-based sessions might be a bit challenging with younger kids.
- Use the teachers and get them involved too! It’s their class - they know them best.
- Language barriers are difficult and frustrating but hands-on tools are a great icebreaker.
- Invite the local health professional along - Aboriginal Health Worker, Nurse Practitioner, Elder.
- Don’t be afraid to get messy! Plastering is a great hands-on activity and is best done outside. Be careful of burns however - never use hot or warm water to make plaster of Paris!
- It’s common and mildly disheartening with students running off during the session - they may not be disinterested but simply shy.
- Sport (e.g. AFL or NRL) Brush up on the latest happenings and you’d be amazed at what a great icebreaker some trivia can be.