Credit points




Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Physiotherapists work with individuals and populations across the lifespan and in a variety of settings to develop, maintain or restore maximum movement and functional ability. In this unit students are introduced to the biopsychosocial factors that influence health, and professional, ethical and legal standards required by regulatory bodies for safe, culturally responsive and person-centred care. This unit contains a learning outcome from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Curriculum Framework (HCF, 2014) specifically addressing the HCF cultural capabilities of Advocate (LO6), Students will develop their communication skills, and learn safe and effective manual handling, passive movement and massage techniques. The overall aim for the unit is to introduce students to the professional practice of a physiotherapist and the acquisition of foundation skills that will be further developed within the curriculum.

Learning outcomes

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome Description
LO1Discuss patterns of health, illness and disability and the social, cultural and global factors that influence these
LO2Discuss the varying roles, responsibilities and skills of a physiotherapist as a member of the health care team in a variety of health care settings
LO3Demonstrate effective person-centred communication skills
LO4Discuss the requirements for practice as a physiotherapist under the Physiotherapy Board of Australia’s Code of conduct, including cultural and safety considerations
LO5Discuss the principles of, and demonstrate safe and effective, manual handling, passive movement and massage
LO6LO6 - HCF 16.1 Discuss the concept of social determinants and the impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health (N)


Topics will include: 

Social determinants of health and wellbeing of First Nations Peoples including:

  • The context of Indigenous health in Australia
  • Environmental and structural factors, including geographical location, social class, social privilege, ethnicity, racism and gender.

Physiotherapy practice 

  • Roles, responsibilities and skills of the physiotherapist throughout different areas of the health care industry, e.g. hospitals, community, ambulatory care, rehabilitation 
  • Classification of disability and function as outlined in the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health 
  • Roles of other health professionals in the health care industry 
  • Infection control 
  • Professional and ethical behaviour appropriate to physiotherapy 

Communication skills 

  • Health records documentation 
  • Individual education 
  • Interviewing an individual 
  • Verbal and non-verbal communication skills 

Manual clinical skills 

  • Palpation of surface anatomy landmarks 
  • Individual handling – safety, comfort and respect 
  • Individual handling techniques to transfer an individual 
  • Passive movement 
  • Soft tissue mobilisation 


  • Peer learning 
  • Self- reflection 
  • Cultural humility and social privilege
  • Portfolios in practice 

Risk management 

  • Self- awareness of body positioning 
  • Positioning of an individual 
  • Environmental and equipment safety considerations 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of learning and is designed to foster student-centred active learning and accommodate diverse student needs. It includes a combination of self-paced, online learning and real-time classes. 

The theoretical knowledge underpinning professional practice will be delivered via self paced online learning consolidated by on campus tutorial activities. Case scenarios will be used in tutorials to provide students with an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge and integrate concepts from different content areas to problem solve issues triggered by these scenarios. 

On campus practical classes provide students with the opportunity to develop their communication and professional behaviours, manual handling and clinical reasoning skills through the use of case scenarios and simulation learning activities.  

Early and additional feedback on learning, and tailored support, are provided to facilitate students’ transition to university. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit is the first of two foundation units related to physiotherapy practice. Whilst students have chosen to study physiotherapy, often their understanding of the breadth and depth of the profession is limited. Assessment task 1, Scope of physiotherapy practice (hurdle), is designed to engage students with members of the profession who work across a range of practice areas. The task involves small group work (small group interview of a practising physiotherapist) that encourages peer learning through the presentation of these interviews to the larger cohort. This assessment task also includes a reflective assignment where students will articulate their own concept of cultural humility and reflect on their own cultural worldview and values and describe implications for future health care practice as a physiotherapist. Assessment tasks 2-4 align with the presentation of the content in this unit of study. This unit takes an authentic assessment approach allowing students to demonstrate their learning and competency for clinically relevant scenarios. Assessment tasks 2 and 3 (practical examinations) require students to assimilate and apply theoretical knowledge and perform clinical practice skills in order to demonstrate their emerging professional competence in the areas of manual handling, transfers, passive movement and massage (demonstration on a peer). Assessment task 4 (written examination) requires students to demonstrate acquired theoretical knowledge and assimilate and apply this knowledge to short answer questions and clinically relevant case scenarios.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment Task 1: Scope of physiotherapy practice  

Requires students to undertake, and present the information from, an interview with a practising physiotherapist and write a 1000 word reflective piece on their understanding of their learnings and cultural perspectives from this task..  

Group 15 min 


LO1, LO2, LO4

Assessment Task 2: Mid-semester practical examination 

Requires students to demonstrate competency in professional behaviour, communication skills and the safe and effective implementation of manual handling skills.  

15 min 


LO3, LO5

Assessment Task 3: End-semester practical examination 

Requires students to demonstrate their acquisition and understanding of content from across the semester and application to clinically relevant case scenarios including social determinants of health and wellbeing of First Nations Peoples.

15 min 


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO6

Assessment Task 4: End-semester written examination 

Requires students to demonstrate their acquisition and understanding of content from across the semester and application to clinically relevant case scenarios. 

2 hr 


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5

Representative texts and references

Adams, R.J., Howard, N., Tucker, G., et al. (2009). Effects of area deprivation on health risks and outcomes: a multilevel, cross-sectional, Australian population study. International Journal of Public Health, 54(4), 183-192.

De Domenico, G. (2007). Beard's massage (5th ed.). St Louis, Saunders Elsevier. 

Field, D., & Hutchinson, J. (2013). Field's anatomy palpation and surface markings (5th ed.). Edinburgh, London:Butterworth-Heinemann.

Germov, J. (Ed) (2014). Second opinion: An introduction to health sociology (5th ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Higgs, J., Ajjawi, R., Mc Allister, L., Trede, F., & Loftus, S. (2012). Communicating in the health sciences. (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. 

Magee, D.J. (2014). Orthopaedic physical assessment (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders.

Pierson, F.M., & Fairchild, S.L. (2013). Principles and techniques of patient care (5th ed.). Philadelphia: W B Saunders.

Taylor, K., & Guerin, P.T. (2019). Health Care and Indigenous Australians (3rd ed.). Sydney, NSW: Bloomsbury

Willis, K., & Elmer, S. (2011). Society, culture and health: An introduction to sociology for nurses (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2001). International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)

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