Starting a conversation: Regional community members’ awareness of and engagement with speech pathology

Ms Tina Janes1, Associate Professor, Dr. Barbra Zupan1, Associate Professor, Dr.  Tania Signal1, Associate Professor, Dr. Megan Dalton2

1Central Queensland University, Rockhampton North, Australia, 2Australian Catholic University, Sydney, Australia

Speech pathology has a history of low public awareness in Canada (Breadner et al., 1987) and Australia (Parsons et al.1983). Although these authors advocated for increased public awareness efforts, no data exists to determine if this has occurred and/or whether awareness of what speech pathologists do has increased. The continued rollout of the NDIS reinforces the need for increased consumer cognisance so that people can be empowered to make informed decisions about their health care. If NDIS participants and providers are uncertain of speech pathologists’ scope of practice, it may negatively impact service access and potentially health outcomes.

To assess the public’s awareness and knowledge of speech pathology in regional/rural Australia.

An online survey using snowball sampling was conducted. Questions included self-reported knowledge of the profession, identification of patient populations that fall within the speech pathology scope of practice and case studies.

Ninety percent of the 208 respondents indicated they had heard of speech pathology. Of these, 75% had at least some knowledge of speech pathology, which translated in significantly better identification of the types of patients speech pathologists work with, F(1, 205)=13.66, p<.001. In comparison to identifying patient types, all respondents’ were significantly worse at identifying cases speech pathologists should be involved in [t(203)=22.27, p<.001], even respondents who had indicated knowledge of speech pathology, t(182)=21.03, p<.001.

Whilst community members may have heard of the profession, an appreciation of the varied roles speech pathologists assume is limited. The NDIS/A espouses empowering people with disability to be confident consumers and independently choose services. If speech pathology is to be a service choice, awareness of and engagement with the profession is essential.


Tina Janes is a senior lecturer in Speech Pathology at CQUniversity. Tina’s qualifications include a teaching degree; a Graduate Diploma of Aboriginal and Islander Education and Bachelor of Speech Pathology with Honours in Audiology. Prior to arriving at CQU, Tina has taught and practised speech pathology in a variety of interprofessional and cross cultural settings for over 30 years. Tina is currently enrolled in a PhD at CQU on speech pathology in mental health.

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