Inaugural allied health final year student conference

Published: Wednesday 18th November 2015

Applied Public Health and Occupational Therapy students showcased their work at the first School of Allied Health final year student conference on 5 November.

Inspiring presentations on public health fieldwork projects, community development projects, occupational therapy honours research and poster presentations on a specialised area of occupational therapy practice were among the wide range of student projects showcased at the conference.

The first of its kind, the event was held at the Melbourne Campus with students from the Strathfield and Brisbane Campuses joining by videoconference.

It was an honour to have Tony Milne, Executive Officer of Campaign for Australian Aid, deliver the keynote address. His work in the discipline of public health, particularly in the area of advocacy, has galvanised the School to work closely with him to enhance students’ fieldwork opportunities and professional development.

“These students have already made a real difference bringing about change in a variety of communities in Australia and around the world,” Mr Milne said.

“It fills me with hope to know that these young people have been given a toolbox of skills to make positive change in whatever field they choose to put their energy into.”

Cindy Tran is Vice President of the ACU Public Health Student Society and part of the University’s first group to study Applied Public Health. She said the conference was an opportunity to reflect on the academic learning and placement experiences gained over the past years.

Cindy undertook fieldwork in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program with Northern Melbourne Medicare Local.

“I learnt the importance of collective action and working together in unity,” Cindy said.

“As a society, we must foster partnerships as well as knowledge exchange to ensure that we can reduce inequality and strive towards health equity. Thanks to ACU's guidance, I was able to develop my skills to grow into a competent public health graduate.”

Andrew Stevens, also completing the Bachelor of Applied Public Health combined with Global Studies, spoke about enhancing folate intake of Burmese refugee women living on the Thai Burma Border.

As an intern with the Karen Refugee Committee Education Entity (KRCEE), Andrew has helped raise awareness on the importance of pre-conceptual folate to prevent neural tube defects in newborns.

Rachel Muskett presented on her Occupational Therapy Honours project, which she has been working on for the past 18 months.

Entitled "Evaluation of the Intrarater Reliability and other Psychometrics Relating to the Health Promoting Activities Scale”, the project involved a psychometric evaluation of an occupational therapy outcome measure.

“It was fantastic to learn about the community projects other students had completed and celebrate achieving such a milestone with my peers and the teachers who made it all possible,” she said.

The poster presentation session provided an opportunity for final year occupational therapy students to showcase their advanced occupational therapy practice projects.

Michael O’Connor-Thursfield’s poster presentation was on “Headspace Collingwood: Skill up 4 work”. He was also part of the community development group project on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) evidence based professional development tool, presenting with students Annie Seccull and Sarah Bylart.

A key learning for him from both presentations at the conference has been recognising that occupational therapy has a clear role in advocating for marginalised groups.

“Occupational therapy is important in engaging, enabling and empowering participation among individuals and/or community groups,” he says.

“Being an occupational therapy student has taught me the importance of collaborating with many stakeholders, to enable a variety of different populations participate in meaningful daily activities.”

National Head, School of Allied Health, Professor Christine Imms praised students and staff for contributing to an excellent day.

“I enjoyed the day immensely and look forward to it being an ongoing tradition in the School to continue to build the interdisciplinary opportunities in these events as we can,” she said.

Attendees included placement partners from Oxfam Australia, St Vincent’s Hospital, Save the Children and Monash Health.  Many staff from the School of Allied Health, Faculty of Health Sciences and other ACU departments participated to support the students and celebrate their achievements.