A Speech Patho..lo…what?!

Host: Aneka Collison & Hugh James
Written by Aneka Collison – Speech Pathologist, Gogo Station.

I am a speech pathologist, and I live on a cattle station in Fitzroy Crossing, WA. The two do not quite go hand in hand, but making it work is all the fun.

I would love to say that I train cattle to talk and understand directional orders, teach ringers to use language appropriately (there are many phrases and words I did not know existed until I moved up here!) and instruct everyone how to pronounce their sounds over the radio so not to mumble, but, what I actually do is a little different.

Hugh, my partner, and I moved to Fitzroy Crossing in 2015 for Hugh’s position as the Gooniyandi Ranger Coordinator. We were lucky enough to be able to stay on GoGo Station as Hugh has previously worked as a ringer with Rick and Stacey. They had a spare house on the station, and they said they were happy for us to live in it. Accommodation is sparse in Fitzroy, so we are very grateful, not to mention all the fun we have living on the station.

When we first arrived, people of course asked what I did. I think more so as I was quite clearly not set out to be working on the station, but lived on one, and must have appeared very ‘city girl’. So, I explained that I was a speech pathologist. As usual, people always have trouble pronouncing what I do, which is always ironic a ‘speech patho . . . what?’ I often also get ‘you could really help me out with my talking when I’ve had a few too many!’. It appeared I had come to the right place then!

I live on the station, and work ‘in town’. I provide speech pathology to children with speech and language delays and disorders, voice disorders, stuttering, feeding and swallowing difficulties, literacy difficulties, and behaviour problems. I have a range of children with differing disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Global Developmental Delay, microcephaly, severe hearing impairment, children with cochlear implants, Featol Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and many other concerns or difficulties children and parents may have.

I visit children and their families in schools, at clinics in communities, clinics in Fitzroy Crossing, the child care centre, and in their homes in community, in town and on cattle stations. Coming from a small city – Newcastle in NSW, I was flat out, multiple children in one day, running from school to school, and back to the clinic for afternoon appointments. I didn’t have time to stop for a much needed coffee often! In Fitzroy, I have a much smaller number of children and often spend a day with one child, or in one school only. If travelling out to communities it will often take a day to drive there and back, and see the child, family and school. I also visit other cattle stations to provide therapy to families and their children. I not only see children in the Fitzroy Valley, but across the Kimberley.

IMG_7704_1024 copyVisiting remote communities for therapy.

I catch small planes out to communities with the community nurses to see children out in community. Instead of driving to work – I catch a plane! Not too many people can say that.

I have also learnt that travelling long distances is never too far for an appointment. I have travelled over seven hours for therapy, as many people are very accustomed to doing in the Kimberley. I work with many other professions as well, working together to provide the best therapy approach for families. Other allied health professionals are scarce, especially in Fitzroy, so I jump at any chance I can to work with other people.

IMG_7707_1024 copyOur team of multidisciplinary clinicians at a remote school assessing and diagnosing children.

I absolutely love that I have been able to explore and spend time with families, be let into homes and their lives, explore other stations and see how people work and live in other areas. Although people (especially on stations!) are very busy with their lives, day to day running of things, up here in the Kimberley, people take the time out of their day, instead of a small period of time back on the East Coast. People are busy, but much more relaxed and easy going out here, which is so wonderful.

IMG_0001_1024 copyWorking with the Occupational Therapist and a child at school.

Living on a cattle station as a speech pathologist in the Kimberely is not something I thought I would ever say I am doing, but I am very glad we decided to make the move up to the hot, beautiful Kimberley. I have done things up here you can only say you would do in the Kimberley, and that makes everything worthwhile. It is definitely an experience, and a life adventure, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who wants an ordinary life anyway?