For the past 10 years, I’ve worked as a Dental Assistant (DA) in Launceston, Tasmania and travelling in my spare time. However, when the opportunity arose to combine my two passions through placements with Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC), I jumped at the idea and signed up without a lot of thought.

Although, I felt I had a strong understanding of what it’s like working in rural and remote locations, I was not as prepared for the cultural differences as I thought I would be. Even though I’ve been immersed in various different cultures over the years, it is a completely different experience to immerse yourself into their culture to having someone from a different culture come into your world.

To assist with the transition to remote work, my placement consultant put me in contact with one of RAHC’s experienced DAs. This was very beneficial as the DA provided clinical support as well as further guidance about what to expect whilst on placement. I also completed cultural orientation during my first placement, which all RAHC health professionals complete, and which gave me a better understanding of Indigenous culture.

My first placement in Maningrida, a small community 500 km east of Darwin in Arnhem Land, provided me a new definition of what remote is truly like. However, as the days went by, I started to feel more comfortable and focussed primarily on the reason why I was there - helping improve oral health within the Indigenous communities. I went down to the local beach determined to win the children over on the first weekend, and with a bit of assistance from some chewing gum, that’s exactly what happened. The children are a huge part of why I like to do this work – they are so welcoming, curious and just gorgeous.

A few months later, I completed my second placement – this time working in communities in Central Australia. During this four-week placement, I worked with two different RAHC dental therapists in two Indigenous communities: Willowra (a small community with a population of 250 based 220 km north-west of Alice Springs) and Ampilatwatja (a community with a population of 500 based 325 km north-east of Alice Springs).

There are so many experiences to be had whilst doing this work in a professional and personal capacity. Troubleshooting is a common element whilst on placement as sometimes things just go wrong when remote and you must work together with those around to resolve the problem. 

I have found my experiences working in the Northern Territory very humbling as some of the people I have met whilst on placement truly make the most of what they have.  I often reflect upon my time and long to get back amongst the beautiful country that we live in. If someone was to ask me if I would recommend going on a remote placement, I would say absolutely, as you’ll never know unless you try it.

A spark has ignited inside of me – and it may just spark inside of you too.

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.