Jobs Events Advertise

Tackling the ear health gap vital to improving education outcomes for Indigenous children

Giovanni Torre -

An ear health program operating in some of Australia's most remote communities is helping to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

Up to nine in 10 Aboriginal children in remote areas experience middle ear disease, according to Ear Science Institute Australia, which left untreated can cause hearing loss and have a profound effect on language development, education and employment.


Ear Science Institute Australia recently formed a partnership with Mineral Resources (MinRes) to increase resourcing to the Lions Healthy Hearing Outback program for the Nyiyaparli and Martu people in the East Pilbara region.

Under the partnership Ear Science Institute Australia is able to deliver an integrated service model combining telehealth with an Ear Health Coordinator providing on-the-ground logistical support to patients that need treatment.

Audiologist Lucy Mitchell took on the role of Ear Health Coordinator in March and will travel to Newman, Jigalong, Punmu, Parnngurr and Kunawarritji to tackle what she described as "a massive social justice issue".

"Aboriginal children will experience ear disease earlier, sometimes from two weeks old, they'll experience it more severely and more frequently than non-Aboriginal children. This will have long lasting impacts throughout someone's life because if you can't hear, you can't learn," she said.

"Even with mild hearing loss it can be very difficult to hear the teacher in a classroom or to communicate with family at home. Overcrowding in housing, hygiene and nutrition are all factors that can contribute to poor ear health."

The program is run by Ear Science, Rural Health West and the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS), with MinRes' $600,000 commitment over three years bolstering service delivery.

A relatively simple procedure performed by ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr Anton Hinton-Bayre, such as inserting a grommet to drain fluid in the middle ear, can be a crucial step towards avoiding lifelong problems.

Ms Mitchell noted the importance of making sure "families are supported, especially through the surgery pathways".

"These communities are very remote and it can be hard for families having to travel away from Country to have surgery. In my role as Ear Health Coordinator, I work in partnership with PAMS to support families navigating their way through a complex healthcare system," she said.

Nurses and Aboriginal health workers in the communities will be trained to use a video otoscope that captures photographs and video inside a patient's ear, with the examinations facilitated by an ENT specialist 1600km away in Perth.

MinRes managing director Chris Ellison said the company is proud to partner with Ear Science to "help expand this life-changing ear health service in some of Western Australia's most remote communities".

"Far too many Aboriginal children experience ear disease and hearing loss, and Ear Science Institute Australia are at the forefront of reducing that devasting burden," he said.

Ear Science Institute Australia chief executive Sandra Bellekom said that with the support of partners such as MinRes, Ear Science wants to "change the trajectory of the lives of Indigenous children, empower them to graduate high school, develop a career and grow to become the leaders of tomorrow".

   Related   

Debbie Kilroy slams Queensland's expansion of youth detention, and calls for community solutions
Queensland Premier Steven Miles and Youth Justice Minister Di Farmer initiated the construction of a new 80-bed youth detention...
Joseph Guenzler 1 Mar 2024
Canada's largest private sector union condemns arrest of First Nations journalist, warns of threat to democracy
Canada's largest private sector union has slammed the arrest and charging of an Indigenous journalist as a threat to "Canadian n...
Giovanni Torre 1 Mar 2024
Mystery around locations of native forestry plan
The location of native forest parcels slated to be logged in Tasmania under a Liberal government election pledge may not be made...
Ethan James 1 Mar 2024
DOBBY, Emma Donovan amongst new Indigenous Literacy Foundation ambassadors
National charity the Indigenous Literacy Foundation has announced musician DOBBY, singer Emma Donovan, TV personality Bianca Hun...
Callan Morse 1 Mar 2024

   Giovanni Torre   

Canada's largest private sector union condemns arrest of First Nations journalist, warns of threat to democracy
Canada's largest private sector union has slammed the arrest and charging of an Indigenous journalist as a threat to "Canadian n...
Giovanni Torre 1 Mar 2024
Mystery around locations of native forestry plan
The location of native forest parcels slated to be logged in Tasmania under a Liberal government election pledge may not be made...
Ethan James 1 Mar 2024
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation strikes deal for "equal footing in future decision-making" over Murujuga country
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation has "defined a new approach" to agreement-making in Australia, following the signing Thursday of...
Giovanni Torre 1 Mar 2024
Funding boost expands Junior Ranger program to 50 new sites
The Federal government announced on Thursday that it is expanding the Junior Ranger program, offering on-Country learning to Abo...
Giovanni Torre 29 Feb 2024