New resources to enhance communication between Indigenous patients and clients

3 August 2011

An innovative Indigenous online teaching resource to be launched on August 4 will help Close the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through improving communication between health professionals and Indigenous people.

The Byawala project is a set of six online videos designed to assist health sciences students across a range of disciplines learn to effectively communicate with Indigenous patients and clients.

To create the videos lead researcherDr Tricia McCabefrom the Faculty of Health Sciences conducted qualitative research through focus groups with Aboriginal people.

"We asked our groups to tell us their stories of when they had seen health professionals. When it had gone well, and when it had gone badly. From these insights we scripted six vignettes that feature Aboriginal actors talking to, or sometimes clashing with, real-world health professionals, including a pharmacist, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a psychologist and a speech pathologist."

"As teaching materials, the videos offer authenticity in interaction because the Aboriginal actors' roles are partially scripted, but the health professionals offer real and impromptu responses to the situation."

Health professionals such as Dr McCabe, from the Discipline of Speech Pathology, have long known that cultural misunderstandings can often be a barrier to effective communication.

Dr McCabe says the finished video vignettes are accompanied by talking points for students and teachers.

This combination of video and learning guide can be used to direct health students in developing insights linked to McCabe's focus-group research.

The project has been completed in collaboration with James Cook University and the Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) at the University of Sydney will launch the Byawala resources project with an opening address on August 4 at the Cumberland Campus.

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