Palm Island Volunteer Experience – Final Reflections

Making An Impact

Day Five 

There was some sadness amounsgt the small remaining team of Lynda, Bronwyn, Sam and myself as we pack and checked out of the Palm Island Motel on Friday morning. It was the beginning of our fifth and final day together on Palm Island – it really zoomed by!

As always, there was a great deal we wanted to have done before we left the island. Five working days might seem like a great deal of time however the week had gone in the blink of an eye. On top of our list was ensuring Jin was as settled as possible in his new home and workplace. This meant some one on one time with Lynda tuning into the finer details of the Palm Island practice operations and how this differs from life in a Back In Motion practice where Jin was previously employed.

Jin and Lynda

In the meantime, Brownyn, Sam and I spent sometime next door at Sandy Boyd where we chatted with friends we’d made the past few days residing in the aged care facility. Our intention was to get the residents outside for a group exercise and socialising session. While the weather was lovely and suitable for outdoors (at least in out minds being from cooler more southern States!) we had a slight struggle to raise motivation as the mid 20-degree day was considered cold!. Brownyn took Linda walking and later we all spent time with Oriel and Kevin and his carer.

Bronwyn with Sandy Boyd resident Linda

We were then treated to a cultural talk from Palm Island local Dianne. We learnt more about traditions of the local people, first hand, and of the the challenges of growing up on Palm Island for some of the older generations and what it is like today. Dianne confidentially said that she’s seeing change, positive moves forward for the community and has high hopes for the future of the community and residents. Before lunch, we had a special activity to attend to.

Dianne with Sam, Lynda, Bronwyn, Jin and Alicia

At Thursday night’s Pilates class, Amy, the physical education teacher from Bwgcolman Community School had advised that an activity planned for the next day had been cancelled at the last minute.  Lynda quickly organised with Amy for Sam and Bronwyn to take the students through an exercise session which included Pilates and stretching. This was another lesson on the importance of being flexible. Plans often change quickly and by pitching we can ensure kids didn’t miss out on having some fun.

Exercise class at Bgwcoleman Community School

Fun at Bgwcoleman Community School

The last casual lunch (which had become a little adventure for us each day) was on the veranda of the practice. A couple of local girls who’d visited a few times during the week came and spent time with us.

Phyllis and Alicia

The last activities of the afternoon was clinical information sharing between physios – Jin showed Bronwyn and Sam the basics of reformer Pilates and later, they spent time discussing continence and pelvic floor physio.

Bronwyn, Jin and Sam using the practice Pilates reformer

After dashing to the airport, we said our goodbyes to Mia from Sandy Body and Jin, boarding the 10-seater plane excitedly for a scenic flight to Townsville ending our experience on Palm Island.

Learn more about what we got up to on Palm Island – recap of the first two days and the third and fourth.

Reflections since returning home

The outreach mission to Palm Island was a new experience for all of us.

Having returned home to our creative comforts and everyday lives, we’ve each had time to reflect on our experiences.

Bronwyn shares that the experience left her feeling like she had only just scratched the surface in terms of what could be offered regarding continence and pelvic floor physiotherapy on the island. She now feels motivated to return to make more of an impact.

Sam, final year student physio, now feels even more motivated to develop his clinical skills and to volunteer in more remote and disadvantaged areas of Australia and abroad, especially wishing to return to Palm Island.

We all realised that our time in the community was very short. We achieved some great things in that time, mostly finding satisfaction in the support we were able to provide Jin as the new permanent physio living on Palm Island. Continuity and stability in services is extremely important.

Advice to those thinking about a Health Outreach to Palm Island

  • I would strongly encourage any students, physiotherapists or other interested people to get involved, listen to this story and learn from the people; aboriginal, volunteers and community members. Don’t hesitate, get involved. – Sam Ballinger (student physio)
  • Be open minded. Be prepared to do different things. Try to take home the feelings you experienced – both positive and negative – and see how those feelings can impact your ‘regular life’. It is so easy to fall back into routine. But perhaps those feelings can influence how you live your ‘regular life’. Make changes? Set a goal to learn something about yourself from the experience. – Bronwyn Jest (pelvic floor physio)
  • Being open minded is important. The community is so different to main Australian cities in so many ways. Prepare to meet interesting people and hear stories. Learn and embrace it all! It’s a wonderful, rewarding experience. – Alicia Foreman (marketing professional)

Alicia's selfie boarding the plane!

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