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Culture with a cause

Cite Magazine

In July, Curtin health sciences students packed their bags and headed overseas to add some cultural flavour to their fieldwork experience as part of Curtin’s Go Global program. Working alongside local staff at host sites in Cambodia, China, India and Vietnam, students were able to learn about different healthcare systems and practice their leadership and discipline-specific skills in interprofessional teams.

Curtin Health Sciences Students
Curtin Health Sciences Students


Eighteen students travelled to Cambodia and were divided between two host sites: Veterans International Cambodia in Phnom Penh, which provides rehabilitation services to people living with disabilities, and World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang, a 110-bed trauma and emergency hospital.

The students worked with centre staff and clients to run education workshops covering topics such as scoliosis, hygiene, hand therapy, daily exercise and nutrition. Their trip included visits to two other locally-run organisations: Angkor Children’s Hospital Siem Reap, a hospital with overseas volunteers involved in training and development, and Siem Reap Physical Rehabilitation Centre, a physiotherapy and rehabilitation centre.

Go Global students outside Veterans International Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

Physiotherapy students Kristen Butcher and Emily-Jayne Warr working with a patient.


Sixteen Curtin students of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology travelled to China. Grouped into three interprofessional teams, they worked across three host sites: Sunshine Rehabilitation Centre, Hua Shan Hospital and East Hua Shan Hospital.

Built for the Special Olympics in 2007, the Sunshine Rehabilitation Centre provides physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and traditional Chinese medicine for patients. Twelve students worked across areas of paediatrics, stroke rehabilitation, spinal cord injury and orthopaedics.

Go Global students with medical staff at Hua Shan hospital.

Sightseeing at The Bund in Shanghai.


The India team consisted of occupational therapy, speech pathology, nutrition, dietetics, pharmacy and sports sciences students. Together they worked at the SEVAI Shanthi Matriculation Higher Secondary School, located in the southern region of Tamil Nadu, India. The school is one of SEVAIs large rural schools and Curtin students worked with over 1,500 children and adults in the areas of health promotion, education, disability and advocacy.

“The team of Curtin students implemented several projects,” says Go Global India Country Coordinator, Kristy Tomlinson. “One notable initiative was the construction of a vegetable garden on the grounds of a local school.”

Based on Stephanie Alexander’s ‘Kitchen Garden’ initiative, the project aims to provide children with fresh fruit and vegetables to improve their nutritional intake.

“It was a huge success,” says Tomlinson. “The Curtin students liaised with local gardeners to determine the most suitable crops to plant, and enlisted the support of several children with disabilities to assist in the planting and tending of the garden.”

They also developed activities to ensure that the garden is sustained far into the future.

“The garden now boasts an array of local, nutritious vegetables,” Tomlinson says, and she lists a number of species, including tomato, chili, bottle gourd, pumpkin, brinjal, luffa and bitter gourd.


The Go Global intake in July was the first time students travelled to Vietnam. Eleven students from physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology students travelled to northern Vietnam to work with residents of the Hoa Binh Social Protection Centre (HCSPC). The age range of residents at the centre was huge (from as young as 6 months to 94 years old), and students found themselves working with people with a variety of conditions from Down syndrome, autism and both physical and mental disabilities, to neurological conditions such as stroke and traumatic brain injury. The centre also caters for orphans and the elderly.

As part of their visit, students conducted a needs assessment of the centre, provided clinical interventions to individual clients in interdisciplinary teams, conducted education for staff and residents, implemented community-based projects and created opportunities for future projects. Some of their projects included English classes, arts and crafts, and a soccer project.

On the steps of a traditional stilt house at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.