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Meet the Team: Melissa

Hi, my name is Melissa, and I am a speech pathologist and team leader in Child and Family Services at Royal Far West.

What does your role involve?

I wear a couple of different hats in the Child and Family Business Unit at RFW. I am a speech pathologist working within the Paediatric Developmental Program (PDP) and I am also one of the team leaders in Child and Family for Team Wombat.

What Aboriginal Country do you live/work on?

I live on Cammeraygal land

How long have you been with Royal Far West?

Almost 4 years now!

Have you seen any changes in the sorts of issues children have during your time at Royal Far West?

I think the changes I have seen have been shaped by my everchanging role at RFW. Before Covid my role was primarily working with children, families and their schools over Telecare. I then shifted to include PDP into the mix which meant I was working more with children and their families at the beginning of their journey. At one point I had a bit of Windmill in there too! Overtime, the clients and families we have been working with have had more thrown at them because of everything happening in the world including the pandemic, bushfires, floods and drought. As a result, they are carrying more and benefitting from more support, both during their weeks with us but also in the community.

What led you to work at RFW?

I have worked across quite a few sectors in my almost 10 years of being a speech pathologist. I started off working for a private practice in the North Shore of Sydney which was a steep learning curve! I then moved across to the UK for a couple of years working across several different hospital trusts and completed a lot of early intervention groups (I still feel bad for all my singing that people had to endure!). Returning to Australia I knew I wanted to work somewhere that aligned with my values and supported wider communities. RFW was the perfect answer as it combined my love for speech therapy and my passion for exploring rural and remote Australia.

Can you describe your typical day?

No two days at RFW are ever the same! But my typical day involves an early morning walk with my puppy Indi – who does often make an appearance in the office on her journey to become a therapy dog! When I am in the office, I love arriving at CCK and catching up with the team and often sneaking in a coffee walk. I then usually jump around between meetings and catch-ups with my team, before swapping my hats and jumping into a clinical appointment or two.  I will often end the day by taking Indi for a walk to the dog park or by heading to a Pilates class with a couple of friends.

What do you love about working with families from rural and remote Australia?

Seeing their resilience and perseverance! We know that paediatricians, allied health clinicians and specialists are desperately needed in rural and remote Australia and I am constantly amazed by the time, effort and not to mention kilometres families are putting in to support their kiddos! So many families we work with are going above and beyond to get their kids what they need. I am often astounded by the sense of community across rural and remote Australia. The way people across the community, whether it be a teacher or SLSO or even the lady down the street, chips in and helps out families who are doing it tough or just need a little bit of help.

What do you think makes RFW unique?

RFW is such a unique place to work. We are very much a family with the passion and care we show for one another and also the children, families and communities we work with. Within the Child and Family team we are always trying new ways to work with the children and their families. I love when team members come to me with a new idea on how to work with a child and their family especially when the face-to-face week is a lot for them all. Seeing the team go above and beyond in their day to day to understand and work with children and their families makes me incredibly proud to part of the RFW family.

Can give us an example of a family’s positive outcomes through working with RFW?

I think the best outcomes are when we get to a kiddo to a stage when they are able to engage more freely with the world around them – whether this is supporting their local school in understanding them better and implementing changes to ensure they can shine their brightest or whether this is supporting the kiddo themselves in understanding why some things might be a little trickier for them whilst other things they are great at. We are really lucky to be able to part of the process and hopefully leave a positive change in a kiddo’s life.

Where’s your country? – Where do you feel most connected to?

Growing up my grandparents had a place on the Central Coast of NSW on Darkinjung land. I can remember from about the age of 5 years old heading up there to ‘help’ as they were building and renovating it. Looking back, I am sure I was more of a hinderance to the building process, but my Pop never let that on. Now as an adult whenever I head up there, I always feel a sense of peace and connection to the land.

Can you share some career highlights from your time at Royal Far West?

A key highlight that comes to mind is an Outreach trip I completed as part of the Glencore partnership back in 2021 with Hannah (OT) and our previous team member Gina (partnerships). This trip was incredibly eye-opening and threw us into some unexpected situations. But there was a moment when Hannah and I were discussing with a pre-school how they could incorporate movement and regulation strategies into their day and began modelling how this could be done with an obstacle course and we could see it all making sense to the educators and the children having the time of their lives.

Brown dog lying on a green beanbag with their ball 

Indi the therapy dog