Students reap the rewards


Enhancing cultural and professional connections has been the motivation behind selecting a group of 12 Aboriginal physiotherapy students to receive bursaries to attend the recent APA – NEXT Conference in Hobart. Melissa Mitchell reports.

Attending her third APA conference recently has enabled Tiana Pitman to develop her networking skills and strengthen professional relationships with fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander physiotherapy students and, more broadly, the profession. Tiana was one of 12 bursary recipients to travel to Hobart for the conference in October, where she attended three days of presentations in a program which featured a series cultural sessions covering education and professional issues.

Tiana, who works as a first-year physiotherapist at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle on the north coast of New South Wales, says having attended the conference in Darwin in 2016, the Sydney conference in 2017 and now the conference in Hobart was an honour and a privilege which had helped build her confidence, understand the benefits of networking with peers and learn about the latest research and developments in the profession.

‘I always leave the conferences feeling really inspired, it’s good to know what is happening within the profession, what the current research is and I really enjoy the social side of the conference as well. It’s so wonderful to be able to catch up with the other bursary students because we’re scattered far and wide. The APA brings us all together.’

The engagement of conference delegates with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content has been increasing at each event, Tiana says, and is indicative of the work to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander physiotherapist involvement in APA activities. Seeing the delivery of the APA’s second Reconciliation Action Plan Innovate at the Momentum conference in Sydney last year was a highlight for Tiana, who says the positive efforts towards closing the gap were beneficial for both the profession and the wider community.

‘Every year there is more and more cultural content at the conferences, which is really great. It’s good to see people becoming more aware and more engaged; they’re looking at the issues and asking lots of questions about how to deliver culturally appropriate physiotherapy services,’ Tiana says. ‘Everyone is travelling in the same direction on this now.

Having attended three of the most recent conferences, Tiana and fellow bursary recipient Jessie Thompson find themselves in the unique position of being able to now help mentor the younger bursary winners through the conference experience. ‘I remember being really scared at my first conference but we are mentored on how to network and it is something I’m learning to do a lot better, which is really great,’ Tiana says. ‘I’ve formed some wonderful friendships with all the students and graduates, and I’ve also been given the opportunity to find out what’s happening in the physiotherapy space.

‘I’d like to say thank you to the APA for all the support they have given us. Without the APA I would not have thought to attend conferences like this; they’ve invested in us and I feel it is really beneficial for all involved.’

The students who attended the NEXT conference in Hobart were: Curtley Nelson, Reg Charles, APAM, Jessie Thompson, Sarah Large, Tiana Pitman, Vicky Francia, Eleanor-Grace West, Georgia Isaacs, Aaron Percival, Jessie West, APAM, Matt Hoffman and Cameron Edwards.

The APA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee chair Michael Reynolds, Honoured Member Marilyn Morgan and APA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health policy and advocacy officer Lowana Williams also accompanied the bursary winners.


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