Charles Sturt University (CSU) experts have called on state and federal governments to address the national shortage of speech pathology services for people experiencing communication difficulties.
A number of CSU academics have contributed submissions to the federal Senate inquiry into communication difficulties and the state of speech pathology services in Australia, highlighting the lack of services in rural and remote areas compared to metropolitan Australia.
CSU speech pathology course coordinator, Dr Jane McCormack, said communication difficulties are prevalent across Australia and across the lifespan, but were particularly challenging for children and people in rural and regional areas.
"Communication difficulties can affect people of all ages, from infants as they learn to talk, children as they progress through school, adults as they interact in the workplace, and the elderly due to stroke or progressive conditions such as Parkinson's disease," she said.
Dr McCormack said communication difficulties could lead to social, academic and economic problems.
"They may be associated with various long-lasting and potentially negative consequences such as frustration and withdrawal in childhood, bullying and social isolation at school, reading and writing difficulties and reduced employment options," she said.
Dr McCormack believes speech pathologists can effectively intervene to reduce and manage communication difficulties, "but there are insufficient speech pathologists and related services to meet the current demand across Australia.
"Children and adults are missing out on vital assistance and this problem is most noticeable in rural and regional areas where people have long waiting times and travel long distances for services," Dr McCormack said.
"Australian governments need to address the shortage of speech pathology services and trained professionals to manage the growing problems caused by communication difficulties in all ages and all parts of Australian society."
based on CSU in Albury-Wodonga offers speech pathology degrees particularly suited to practice in rural and regional Australia.