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Speech pathologists should explain speech pathology terms in a way that is relevant and culturally appropriate to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person and their family.

Bohanna et al., 2013; Lowell et al., 2012; Sackett & Rennie, 1992; Shahid, Bessarab, Howat, & Thompson, 2009; Shahid & Thompson, 2009
NHMRC level of Evidence: Qual.

In order to help the client understand the speech pathology context, information should be provided in a way that is relevant and culturally appropriate to an Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander context i.e. pictures of familiar contexts, familiar terms to equate with professional jargon. Language difference, worldview and conceptualisation of disease/ disorder may be different from western views of health and medicine/ treatment. Power imbalances are often barriers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients in hospitals and health settings.  SLPs should be aware that hospital environments and health settings can be hugely disempowering and frightening for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.  The stress and emotional distress of illness and aphasia can exacerbate all of this.  Time spent in developing a relationship and trust with the client and their family is essential. Use of pictures and engaging technology has been found to be effective.


  1. Bohanna, I., Stephens, A., Wargent, R., Catherall, J., Timms, C., Graham, D., & Clough, A. (2013). Assessment of acquired brain injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: Guidance for DisabilityCare Australia.  Cairns: The Cairns Institute.
  2. Lowell, A., Maypilama, E., Yikaniwuy, S., Rrapa, E., Williams, R., & Dunn, S. (2012). "Hiding the story": indigenous consumer concerns about communication related to chronic disease in one remote region of Australia. Int J Speech Lang Pathol, 14(3), 200-208. doi: 10.3109/17549507.2012.663791
  3. Sackett, D. L., & Rennie, D. (1992). THe science of the art of the clinical examination. JAMA, 267(19), 2650-2652. doi: 10.1001/jama.1992.03480190092040
  4. Shahid, S., Bessarab, D., Howat, P., & Thompson, S. C. (2009). Exploration of the beliefs and experiences of Aboriginal people with cancer in Western Australia: a methodology to acknowledge cultural difference and build understanding. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 9, 60. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-9-60
  5. Shahid, S., & Thompson, S. C. (2009). An overview of cancer and beliefs about the disease in Indigenous people of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 33(2), 109-118. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2009.00355.x


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Professor Linda Worrall
The University of Queensland
ST LUCIA QLD 4072   



The University of Queensland
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