A new occupational therapy program being run at Charles Darwin University (CDU) for the first time is set to drive much-needed professionals into the Northern Territory’s allied health sector.
The Occupational Therapy Program was established after two years of planning with dedicated staff since October 2020, marking a new era in CDU’s allied health portfolio and a milestone for the Northern Territory’s health services.
The postgraduate program will equip students with field-ready skills through the 1,000 hours of practical education and online learning supplemented by intensives throughout the course.
The first intensive for the inaugural cohort of students will commence on 27 September 2021, launched by an official welcome ceremony for the students with CDU Vice-Chancellor Scott Bowman.
Occupational therapists make up for 18.5 per cent of the allied health workforce in Australia and qualified practitioners are in high demand.
CDU’s Occupation Therapy Course Coordinator Nicole O’Reilly said the inaugural program would encourage local students to stay and work in the Territory’s allied health sector.
“It’s really important to have a course offered locally, because research shows students who are trained locally are more likely to stay. It can also help improve service availability in rural and regional places,” Ms O’Reilly said.
Ms O’Reilly said the course had already received a lot of interest from potential students keen to study close to home.
“There has been a significant level of interest from students, but the combination of virtual and campus-based learning means students from across Australia can study it.”
“The course will help students understand the link between occupational performance and health and wellbeing, and students will work to provide a better environment and services,” Ms O’Reilly said.
CDU occupational therapy student, Malia Ford, is set to fulfil her dream of becoming an occupational therapist and helping others live their healthiest lives.
Ms Ford has been working in the health sector as an executive assistant and wants to forge a career in the mental health space of occupational therapy.
“There’s a lot that can be done in the Territory. The new course meets the demand. As a born-and-bred Territorian, being able to stay local and learn in the Territory is really appealing to me.” Ms Ford said.
She is also enjoying the mix of online and on-campus study options at CDU.
“I love the hands-on units. I also have the flexibility to do my studies whenever and wherever. It’s nice to be able to stick to my other commitments,” she said.
“Studying this course would definitely expand my horizons, being able to do something no one has done in the Northern Territory before,” she said.
The current course is part of a dual degree with graduates from the Bachelor of Health Science degree commencing their master’s studies in Semester 2 2021. A standalone Master of Occupational Therapy degree will commence in 2022.