How initiatives like WSLHD’s Byala speech pathology clinic are Closing the Gap in paediatrician and speech pathology care

In a beautiful setting surrounded by towering trees at Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) Aboriginal Health Hub, a group of children sit playing in the waiting room ahead of their appointment.

The dollhouse, farm animals and family doll sets they are playing with aren’t just any toys – they are specially chosen by clinicians at the Hub to help enhance paediatrician and speech pathology sessions.

These clinicians are WSLHD Paediatrician Dr Christine Tan, Clinical Nurse Consultant Narelle Fagan, and Speech Pathologists Narelle Ferris-Smith and Angela Stankovska.

The Aboriginal Health Hub is home to programs dedicated to providing culturally appropriate, familiar and high-quality healthcare services, addressing the healthcare needs of the local community.

One new initiative is the speech pathology clinic named “Byala” which has been established to provide timely and culturally appropriate speech pathology services for Indigenous children.

WSLHD Speech Pathologists Narelle Ferris-Smith and Angela Stankovska highlighted the clinic’s focus on early childhood development and support services, aiming to support families and children in their early developmental stages.

The clinic’s name, “Byala,” meaning “talk” or “yarn” in the local Dharug language, reflects its commitment to cultural inclusivity and relevance.

By offering individual therapy sessions and early language playgroups, the clinic aims to address language and speech delays in Aboriginal children.

Early intervention is crucial in closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, setting them on the right track for future success.

Our aim is to provide early intervention, make some little changes early that set them off on the right track.

Angela Stankovska, WSLHD Speech Pathologist

At the forefront of these new programs is a Paediatrician’s clinic dedicated to serving Aboriginal families.

The Child and Family Health clinic operates within the Aboriginal Health Hub, aiming to remove barriers to accessing paediatric care by providing weekly clinics directly within the community.

Families have expressed appreciation for the familiar care provided by the clinic staff, which helps to alleviate distress and build trust.

Narelle and Christine emphasised the importance of this trust, noting that families often find relief in engaging with healthcare professionals they already know.

Our presence here at the Aboriginal Health Hub allows Child and Family Health to provide paediatric support to Aboriginal families in a trusted location, which is culturally appropriate and safe.

Dr Christine Tan, Paediatrician

By operating within the community, the clinic becomes an extension of the existing support network, tapping into cultural knowledge and community resources to empower families to take charge of their children’s healthcare.

Another vital aspect of these programs is the emphasis on empowerment and collaboration to improve health outcomes, with a focus on flexibility in service delivery models.

Having a centralised contact points and familiar environments makes healthcare more accessible for Aboriginal families.

What we provide in the Aboriginal Health Hub is so special because we can work holistically with all the other health professionals to ensure that we’re able to not just provide our service but we can identify any other needs for the family.

Angela Stankovska, WSLHD Speech Pathologist

“We are fortunate to have acquired resources for the clinic, including culturally appropriate materials,” Narelle Ferris-Smith said.

“It’s gratifying to know that these resources will be put to good use, and we deeply value the support we’ve received in obtaining them.”

Find more information about accessing Child and Family Health Services here.

To make a referral to Child Family Health, visit their contact page here.