+61 2 4924 8000   myRDN login



3rd March 2021

Aboriginal people in Australia are disproportionately impacted by hearing loss and ear disease. Early interventions delivered through primary care provide a significant opportunity to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. On this World Hearing Day, NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) is celebrating the work of the health practitioners committed to improving ear and hearing health outcomes and the broader health and wellbeing of the communities they work with. 


Meet Laurie Clay, Aboriginal Health Worker

Laurie ClayLaurie is an Aboriginal Health Worker with Werin Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre providing support to the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist who visits four times a year to Kempsey, Port Macquarie and surrounds. 

“I decided to join outreach as I had been working in Durri for 24 years with people with chronic disease, and ear disease was a huge problem. The outreach job was a natural fit for me.  

The thing I love most is the interaction with patients. Seeing a child suddenly regain their hearing is something you can't quantify in words. I'll never forget watching these kids running up and down the hospital corridors screaming because they could finally hear themselves. The acoustics in the hospital elevated the sounds and the looks on their parents' faces were of such joy. 

In terms of day-to-day tasks, I support the visiting ENT specialist by performing  pre-appointment checks, managing the appointment register, compiling referrals, equipment checks, incentives for children (lollies, balloons etc), educational materials and ensuring all the arrangements for the ENT are confirmed. Working in Aboriginal ear and hearing health is very specialised.  

I also provide education for parents, carers and children around ear and hearing health. This has enabled me to be an advocate in this field. 

To people out there considering working in outreach, I'd say "get into it!" For me, restoring a child's hearing is so rewarding, you can’t describe it, it’s better than finding life on Mars, there are truly no words. 


About outreach 

RDN-administered outreach programs significantly increase access to health services for people living in rural and Aboriginal communities. If you’re a registered health professional and interested in learning more about the positions and projects available, visit the RDN outreach vacancies homepage or email the outreach team at outreach@nswrdn.com.au. The program also supports students and registrars.

Hearing health outreach services target improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth (aged 0-21). In 2019-20, the 92 services funded through these programs delivered 1,148 visits and almost 8,500 patient occasions of service to 50 towns across NSW and the ACT. Funded services include Aboriginal Health Workers trained in audiometry, audiologists, ENTs (including surgery if required) and speech pathologists.

The visiting ENT service in this story is supported through RDN’s outreach programs. These are funded by the Department of Health and delivered with the support local stakeholders including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, Local Health Districts and NGOs across NSW and the ACT.


The Ear Health Coordination (EHC) Program

Winanga-le - To hear - Option 2In addition to supporting ear and hearing health outreach services, RDN and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC) have partnered to deliver the Ear Health Coordination (EHC) Program in NSW and the ACT. The main objectives of the program are to enhance the monitoring and treatment of ear and hearing health in primary care. A particular focus is to support access to quality, culturally safe ear and hearing health services for Aboriginal children before they commence primary school. For more information about this program join the discussion group on Rural Health Pro

<< Previous | Next >>