Sandra Stephenson is a Dental Assistant from Torquay in Victoria. Sandra has undertaken three RAHC placements including one where she visited a number of remote communities in East Arnhem Land. In her role as a RAHC health professional, Sandra provided support to the hard-working permanent health workforce in remote Northern Territory communities.
“Despite not knowing much about this part of the Northern Territory, I left Torquay feeling confident and excited for the adventures that lay ahead of me,” said Sandra. “When I arrived in the community of Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, approximated 550km north-east of Darwin, I met the dentist I was going to work with during my placement, and together we visited other remote communities in East Arnhem Land including Mapuru, Matamata and Gawa.
“The most important thing I have felt when going on a remote Indigenous placement is to go with an open mind and be prepared to learn from the community”
By doing this Sandra felt she had the best possible chance of making a difference by helping to improve access to services and health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
In addition to dental work, Sandra and her colleague were in charge of loading and unloading the light aircraft with all the dental gear needed for their work including the overhead light, the compressor, dental bracket table, mobile suction unit, dental materials and more.
The first community Sandra worked at was Mapuru, which has a population of approximately 200 people. Sandra describes Mapuru as “Beautiful, not just one particular feature, but the arrangement of things, like the dense bushland, the gum-trees, the smoke filtering through the trees, the dirt tracks, even the rusted out cars are beautiful!”.
During Sandra’s placements the dental team conducted a number of children’s check-ups and exams, fissure sealants and extractions and small fillings on adults.
In Mapuru, Sandra enjoyed being a part of the local community, rolling out her swag and reading and chatting with the locals. By the Friday afternoon Sandra and her colleague had packed everything back in the plane and flown back to Elcho Island for the weekend.
“I played basketball with the local kids in the afternoons and one day was even invited to go sailing by the school principal’s husband.
“It was magic and the sunset was amazing. Mind you, I couldn’t help but think about what was lurking around under the water and what would happen if we capsized due to crocs being everywhere.
“This experience has shown me what I was capable of doing, and I was able to use a variety of skills that I had built up over the years from working with lots of different people from different backgrounds.
“I would encourage my work colleagues to step out of their comfort zones, just this once, and go on an experience of a lifetime!” said Sandra.
Would you like to share your RAHC experience with other Health Professionals? We are always looking for RAHC Health Professionals to tell us about their experience, by preparing a RAHC story. If you are willing to share your story, please contact your Placement Consultant or email us.