The Poche Centre for Indigenous Health led an initiative to have more Aboriginal people knowledgeable on oral health care, and improve dental health in their communities. Together with the Rotary Club of Sydney, Armajun Aboriginal Health Service, Centre for Oral Health Strategy NSW and the university’s Faculty of Dentistry, they launched the Aboriginal Oral Health Scholarships. The programme offers financial assistance to Aboriginal people to study the Certificate III and IV in Dental Assisting.
The project focuses on those living in regional and remote areas of New South Wales, helping them become qualified dental assistants and giving them pathways into higher education, such as oral health therapy or dentistry. It enables recipients to remain in their community and maintain employment activities.
The scholarships were launched by the Honourable Kevin Humphries, NSW Minister for Healthy Lifestyles, and Adam Marshall, Member for Northern Tablelands, at the Inverell office of Armajun Aboriginal Health Service.
Kylie Gwynne, Poche Centre director, said the programme is an important step to improving Aboriginal health by having more Aboriginal oral health clinicians. She stated, “Aboriginal people are less likely to have received preventive dental care, and more likely to have untreated dental disease. The dental health of Aboriginal Australians is significantly worse than other Australians. Poor oral health impacts on school attendance and participation, nutrition, and the likelihood of developing chronic diseases. Aboriginal people are increasingly represented in areas such as nursing, medicine and allied health but this is not the case in oral health. We hope these scholarships build clear pathways for the Aboriginal oral health clinicians of the future. Improving the oral health of Aboriginal children is fundamental to closing the gap in life expectancy.”
Qualifications of Candidates
- In year 11 or 12 of school and are seeking a vocational pathway
- Already working as dental assistants (without qualifications)
- Aboriginal health workers interested in additional qualifications
Coverage of Each Scholarship Grant Valued at $15,000
- One-on-one instruction.
- Course fees
- Computer and internet access
- Face-to-face and online learning
- Career education planning
Debbie McCowen, CEO of Armajun Aboriginal Health Service, also stated her concerns on the small number and skills of Aboriginal dental healthcare workers in the community. “Aboriginal health workers are the front line of Aboriginal health in Australia and are the primary link between Aboriginal clients and specialist services,” she said. “By adding this qualification, Aboriginal health workers will be better able to assist their clients and community in oral health.”