Academics from Charles Sturt University (CSU) have been prominent among submissions to a Senate Inquiry into the adequacy and projected needs for speech pathology services in Australia.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry was established in late 2013 at the urging of Speech Pathology Australia (SPA), the peak national peak body for the speech pathology profession. The Inquiry has now delivered its report, 'Prevalence of different types of speech, language and communication disorders and speech pathology services in Australia'.
The Committee received and considered 305 submissions of which nine were contributed to and submitted by ten CSU speech pathology academics and PhD students; Professor Sharynne McLeod, Professor Linda Harrison, Associate Professor Jane McCormack, Associate Professor David McKinnon, Dr Kate Crowe, Dr Graham Daniel, Dr Linda Wilson, Dr Michelle Smith-Tamaray, Ms Sarah Verdon,and Ms Sarah Masso.
Professor Sharynne McLeod said, "There are many children and adults with speech, language and communication needs in Australia".
"Speech pathology is a vitally important though possibly under-appreciated service, which the Senate now understands and values.
"The important question the Inquiry posed is 'what is needed for policy makers and governments to understand the dimensions of the problem and frame an appropriate response?'
"The Senate report makes 10 recommendations, with sub-recommendations, with the aim to improve the outcomes for individuals and society broadly in the coming years.
"The Inquiry was concerned with the prevalence of speech, language, and swallowing disorders in Australia, and sought clarification about how they affect a person's ability to function in everyday life, and how these people can be supported in early education centres, schools, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and correctional centres."
Associate Professor Jane McCormack said the Senate report recommendations also address the need to examine current and preferred service delivery models, the distribution of speech pathology services nation-wide, standards and qualifications for speech pathologists, and the projected locations of speech pathology graduates relative to the national need.
"Charles Sturt University has a significant contribution to make regarding research, and the education and qualifications of speech pathologists," she said.
"The University was specifically referred to in one recommendation, and it is an acknowledgment of the contribution we are making to this national issue."
The Inquiry was also concerned with how effectively current demand for speech pathology services is being met; whether and where publicly-funded and operated speech pathology services are offered within Australia and are these adequate to meet current demand? It asked what is the cost and the adequacy of private speech pathology services, and, moreover, what is the projected demand for speech pathology services in Australia?
"The research undertaken through the Research Institute of Professional Practice, Learning and Education (RIPPLE) at Charles Sturt University addresses many of the recommendations within the Senate report," Professor McLeod said.