QUT final year Optometry students travelled to Katherine, Northern Territory to deliver services to members of the Katherine community. Through such practical and ‘real world’ experiences, the students and the public can benefit. Here is their story.

Without health we have nothing. We can’t read like the white man but we can read stuff in the bush – the way the leaves are blowing, that tells us so much. Without eyes we cannot tell what is going on and that’s bad. If we see someone cannot see the leaves blowing then we can tell the aunty or the uncle and they can tell health service and then they’ll do something about it.”

Francis Hayes
Director, Wurli Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Centre

For Dr Shelley Hopkins and her students this is more than a trip out of Queensland to put the classroom into practice, this is the chance to listen to rural and regional community needs, and to see first-hand the unique challenges facing the people of such towns as Katherine and Wurli.

As Dr Hopkins explains:

“We are here in the Northern Territory with final year optometry students delivering services to members of Katherine. We make two trips a year through the Brien Holden Eye Institute who deliver services in the Northern Territory.

For the students, it’s the chance to challenge their thinking and return to Queensland with a different perspective on customer needs:

“This is something I didn’t consider doing say ten years ago, but now we have these opportunities I am so pleased to be involved. Helping the aboriginal and regional community is so important and I have also been lucky enough to work with the Cherbourg community in Queensland. It has given me so much experience and practice and I know I will return to my studies in Brisbane with a different perspective.”

Fiona Cheang
Final Year QUT Optometry Student

Much of the work involves basic treatment, which reflects how hard come by essential services can be in regional and remote communities. If the teams cannot provide direct treatment, then they work with fellow health professionals to ensure the patient gets the right support following consultation, such as with regards cataract treatment, which is a common issue in the more remote communities.

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