Allied health students providing crucial early intervention services

Kindergarten children in Benalla are benefitting from a university partnership bringing final year speech pathology students into the early learning centres – and helping to put children on an early pathway to effective and enjoyable learning.

From left to right: Jess Hann (speech pathology student), Lisa Mim (kindergarten teacher), Tara Case (Associate Lecturer in Interprofessional Rural Education at Going Rural Health, University of Melbourne) and Elise McColl (speech pathology student) outside Bernard Briggs Kindergarten in Benalla.

Made possible through the University of Melbourne’s Going Rural Health initiative, Charles Sturt University speech pathology students are working with Bernard Briggs and Munro Avenue Kindergartens in Benalla.

Through a partnership with the Northeast Regional Pre School-Association (NERPSA), the university students are benefitting from a unique and rewarding learning environment that enables them to develop clinical skills and feel they are positively contributing to health outcomes in the community.

Speech pathology student from Charles Sturt University, Elise, said her placement experience at the Benalla Kindergartens had been extremely fulfilling.

“We’ve been given ownership of our work because they know we’re capable.  Additionally, the professional guidance offered by our supervisors has also been so helpful.”

“Working with the kindergarten teachers and getting their feedback has been so beneficial and made possible by having the time to work together and not having to rush. I’ve learned so much.”

Speech pathology student Jess believes in the idea of empowering people.

“Working in a school context, exposes you to anxious parents who may be struggling with their children  having speech and language difficulties.  This is something I can help with.”

“My presence in a rural area will assist these children in the long run. It makes me proud to be a part of a process where support is provided.”

Speech pathologist student, Jess,  is providing early intervention services to kindergarten children in Benalla.

Parents of the children, as well as the kindergarten teachers, have warmly welcomed the university students into their centres as they recognise the need for these services, and appreciate the expertise the students can provide.

Lisa Mim, kindergarten teacher at Bernard Briggs Kindergarten said “it was very valuable to students screen the speech and language skills of the children.

“They initially spent time with the children, building rapport so that the children felt comfortable participating in the screening process”, she said.

“Feedback from families has been extremely positive. The children also enjoyed having the students’ visit, with one of the children saying ‘the games were fun. We know where to put our tongue to make an RRRR sound’.”

Through their assessments, the speech pathology students provided referrals to health services if follow-up was required. This collaboration with local community health services provides an intervention pathway for children and their families to follow long after the university students have left - creating a sustained program with long-term benefits to the community.

Speech pathology students spent time at local kindergartens in Benalla where they were warmly welcomed by staff and families.

Additional placements exist under this partnership, with Occupational therapy students based at James Tilson Kindergarten in Wangaratta. These current placements aim to formalise this partnership between Going Rural Health and NERPSA with a structured multidisciplinary program. It is hoped other allied health disciplines will be incorporated into the program as it grows.

To learn more about Going Rural Health and the service-learning placements, visit:

Going Rural Health

Going Rural Health is an initiative run by the University of Melbourne, Department of Rural Health.

Through funding from the Australian Government Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training program, our programs have been developed to support students enrolled in a nationally recognised nursing, allied health or other health science undergraduate or postgraduate degree at any Australian University (financial support is subject to eligibility).

This story featured in the Shepparton News on  the 10th of April 2023 here.

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Giacinta Caione