10 December 2015

Ready to launch their dental health careers, 18 Aboriginal students from across NSW recently graduated from the Aboriginal Dental Assistant Trainee program which is boosting the Aboriginal dental workforce in regional areas.

NSW Health Statewide Aboriginal Oral Health Manager, Boe Rambaldini, said the group was the second round of students to graduate from the program since it commenced in 2014.

“The graduation marks the beginning of an exciting career path for every one of these students who will now have the opportunity to work as oral health professionals in communities across NSW,” Mr Rambaldini said.

“The program has been very successful to date, with every single student from the previous round of graduates having secured a job as an oral health professional. We expect the latest graduates will also find rewarding positions in the dental workforce.”

The six month traineeship covers dental assisting and oral health promotion. Students gain practical experience using dental equipment, assisting dentists and oral health therapists and teaching community members about good oral health. Eight of the most recent graduates received a Certificate III in Dental Assisting, six graduates received a Certificate IV in Oral Health Promotion, and four received both a Certificate III and IV.

Jointly managed and delivered by The Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, the Centre for Oral Health Strategy NSW, TAFE Western Sydney Institute and Rotary Sydney, the program was designed to build the Aboriginal workforce to meet the needs of Aboriginal dental patients across the state.

Graduate, Elanie Hippi, who currently works with the Redfern Aboriginal Health Service, said the course had helped her find a career in oral health.

“The opportunity to learn and train alongside my colleagues has been a rewarding and invaluable experience,” Elanie said. “Many of us see this as a stepping stone to further advance or start our careers.

“I have a strong commitment and passion to improving oral health for Aboriginal people and I am proud to have completed this course which will help me meet this goal.”

The program is part of the Aboriginal Oral Health Plan 2014-2020, which aims to close the dental health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in NSW.

Mr Rambaldini said levels of untreated dental decay were more than twice as high among Aboriginal people than non-Aboriginal people and far fewer Aboriginal adults accessed dental care than non-Aboriginal adults.

“It’s important that Aboriginal people have ready access to dental services in communities across NSW so they will be more likely to have regular check-ups,” he said.

“This program is helping to improve access to dental care by increasing the number of Aboriginal oral health technicians delivering dental services in Aboriginal communities.”

As a result of the program’s success, the NSW Government has made a commitment of $1M over four years for 96 additional traineeships for Aboriginal Dental Assistants in the rural public sector and Aboriginal Medical Services.