What is your role at Royal Far West?
I’m a social worker. My role is to work for and support the child and family. I’m non-clinical, so I don’t get involved in diagnostics. I help families understand their child’s diagnosis, and also help our clinical team to understand each family’s social circumstances to help them tailor their therapy and treatment plan.
For example, if a family lives in an overcrowded house it would be difficult for them to create a sensory space for their child. I say, “Okay, we need to address the housing situation or think about how we can be more creative around those recommendations.”
What is your typical day?
I don’t have a typical day – anything from case work to crisis. My day can go from nothing to everything on the turn of a dime. Case work could be me on the phone all day liaising with support services, clinicians, families, bringing people together and gathering information.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot more work using our telehealth technology to contact people by videolink. This means I can include a wide-ranging team, for the one child, into our virtual meeting space. We work together to develop the child’s plan. This is particularly helpful with kids with complex needs where a number of teams may be involved in their care.
Sometimes I get pulled into crisis work. For instance I often support parents at their wits’ end, struggling with their child’s difficult behaviours. I coach parents and offer strategies.
What’s the best thing about working with families from rural and remote Australia?
The best thing is the sense that we’re really plugging a gap. There’s lots of awesome people out in the bush, working hard. Our social work team calls them the ‘Gems of the Bush’.
We recognise that there are healthcare workers out in rural and remote areas, but often they’re isolated themselves, and don’t have a support network around them to talk about these really complex cases. Also, sometimes they’re fresh out of university and are maybe a little bit inexperienced. I feel like when we work with rural and remote communities, we’re actually filling a gap. People really appreciate what we do. We’re a multidisciplinary team and we work really well together. We’re actually offering a very comprehensive service that I don’t even know if city children have access to. Sometimes I speak to my local friends, and they say, “Wow, that happened at your work? You’re video conferencing into schools with a psychologist and OT and a speech pathologist at the other end helping the teacher with strategies. That’s amazing!”
What do you think makes Royal Far West unique?
We’ve got education, health, and the social side of the things all under the one roof. I think the other thing that makes us unique is that we have the accommodation facility, Drummond House. We can provide families with everything they need. Then, we can follow up with their schools via telecast. There might be a three hour time difference, but we can work around it. We’re just so well set up for working in that remote way.
Tell us about a family that you’ve seen amazingly positive outcomes through working with Royal Far West.
There was a family that came from a very remote Aboriginal community, who came to stay with us with their five year old son who was non-verbal with severe autism. To start with he only had a couple of words. After only two weeks he had started to say a lot more words. He really started to show a desire to communicate. Because of that, his parents had this massive eye-opening moment and were so enthused by what they were seeing it made them decide to make changes for themselves. He continues to have intensive therapy, which is expensive and complex. They came here to us in Manly because there was nowhere else for them to go. There’s nothing anywhere, as far as I know, in Australia that does what we do.