Remote central Australia is a world away from inner city Fitzroy – but a hardy group of St Vincent’s physiotherapists have swapped the office for the outback, in an adventurous work opportunity.
They have spent four months in the Northern Territory, on a community health rotation, bringing physiotherapy services to remote communities.
Under an agreement between St Vincent’s and the N.T. Government, the Melbournians are based in Katherine, but spend their time constantly on the road, visiting communities of mainly Indigenous people situated up to 8 hours away.
Now in its eleventh year, the program has worked successfully with many of St Vincent’s physiotherapists including Andrew Lim, Michaela Ronke and Brice Summers (pictured), seeing it as a career highlight.
“It’s like you’re in a different country. It’s completely different from anything you will ever see in Melbourne. And you learn so much about yourself too,” Michaela says.
While physiotherapists deal mainly with mobility problems, helping people live as independently as possible, the NT rotation demands a much broader set of skills.
“You become a jack of all trades” Michaela admits, “But it’s good for you as a physio because you become appreciative of all the other disciplines.”
Andrew Lim says he’s found himself repairing equipment, among other things: “you do whatever needs to be done including aged care assessment, care strategies, paediatric assessment and even helping out with clients’ Centrelink paperwork!”
Brice Summers says it gave him an insight into the Top End. “People can talk about it without going out there and seeing it, but you don’t have a real understanding of it unless you are there.”
The challenges of working in rural and remote communities are many, but the trio embraced them, knowing that the scheme only allows each person to take part just once; – which made the experience all the more invaluable.