Page 1255 - Week 04 - Thursday, 26 March 2015

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Motion (by Ms Burch) proposed:

That the Assembly do now adjourn.

Aboriginal oral health scholarships program

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (4.51): The Poche centre Aboriginal oral health scholarships program is a partnership between the Rotary Club of Sydney, the University of Sydney Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and the Centre for Oral Health Strategy in the New South Wales government. Last year I was offered and accepted an ambassador role for the Aboriginal oral health scholarships program.

The Aboriginal oral health scholarships program aims to assist at least 24 Aboriginal people from across rural and remote New South Wales to undertake the certificate III in dental assisting or certificate IV in oral health promotion. Each scholarship is valued at about $15,000 and provides one-on-one mentoring, course fees, a laptop computer and prepaid internet access, face-to-face and online learning, career and education planning.

With the exception of the three face-to-face sessions over 10 days, the course enables Aboriginal students to remain in their community and maintain their employment and community obligations. By using a mixed method of teaching and mentoring for local people this initiative develops the capacity within rural and remote communities to address oral health issues locally.

Last week I travelled to Sydney to attend as guest speaker at the first cohort of dental assistants’ graduation. I was proud and honoured to be there and meet the 14 bright-eyed graduates who will make such a big difference to the oral health and wellbeing of Indigenous people in rural and remote communities. I look forward to witnessing the continued progress of the Poche centre Aboriginal oral health scholarships program and its contribution to closing the gap in oral health.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have markedly worse oral health than the rest of the Australian population. There is a higher level of decay, periodontal disease and tooth loss. These lead to substantial impacts on the overall health and wellbeing of children and families. Oral health has been identified as a priority for the national strategic framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health because of its contribution to chronic diseases. With a healthy mouth you can eat properly, speak well and smile with confidence. Poor oral health is associated with chronic disease, especially cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

It is also important to recognise that barriers exist for Indigenous people accessing many dental services and that there are very few Indigenous people working in oral health services, which can lead to a lack of cultural safety. A priority in tackling these oral health barriers is to increase the number of Indigenous people working in these professions, including the provision of scholarships. A strategic objective of the

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