Professor Beth Armstrong is leading a research project examining communications disorders in Aboriginal Australians in WA.
Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to suffer a stroke and 21 times as likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury as the general public. Yet they are less likely to be diagnosed with these conditions and often have less access to treatment and support services, confining them to a lifetime of being cut off from family and society.
The project, Missing Voice:Communication difficulties after stroke and traumatic brain injury in Indigenous Australians, will examine the extent and impact of Aquired Communications Disorder in Western Australia.
Stroke and traumatic brain injuries are two of the leading causes of ACD in Indigenous Australians.
However, very little is known about how many Aboriginal people are living with ACD in Western Australia and how those people get by in everyday life.
They are also less likely to seek treatment and to back that treatment up with follow up visits and rehabilitation due to cultural reasons and the lack of appropriate services in many areas.
The lead researcher in the project, ECU Foundation Chair for Speech Pathology Professor Beth Armstrong, said ACD was an incredibly isolating condition which could leave people cut off from their family, friends and the community at large.
“The disorder creates huge difficulties in everyday life for both the sufferer and their family.
“This is particularly pertinent for Aboriginal people.Communication is essential for their sense of identity as it allows them to engage and remain connected to their family, community, culture and history.”
She said it was incredibly important to find out the prevelance of ACD in Aboriginal people to improve the way the disorder is treated and to assist people in living a normal life after stroke or a traumatic brain injury.
ECU researchers will interview Aboriginal people suffering from ACD, as well as speech pathologists, GPs and health professionals around the state to understand the extent of the problem.
The project will target six sites around Western Australia with local interviewers and indigenous mediators employed across the sites in Kalgoorlie, Albany, Perth, Geraldton and the Kimberley.
The project received more than $630,000 in funding as part of the National Health and Medical Research Council grants last year.
The grants are a significant achievement for ECU’s Speech Pathology program and is one of two such grants won by the program Since its establishment in 2009.