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Diversity in practice



Volume 17, Number 1 2015

Journal of Clinical Practice in Speech-Language Pathology

Nicole Byrne














Diversity in speech


Endangered or extinct?

Nicole Byrne

the census data reported for 1996 and 2011 (Health

Workforce Australia, 2014) and discusses the trends and

the possible future implications for the profession. The

report also provides information on student enrolment in

university programs.

The drivers and demographics of

the speech pathology workforce in


University programs

Speech pathology is a growing profession in Australia. Both

the number of universities providing SP programs and

student intake numbers have grown steadily. For example,

in 2007 there were eight Australian universities offering a

four-year (full-time) undergraduate Bachelor degree (and

some Masters programs) in SP (Charles Sturt, Curtin,

Flinders, James Cook, La Trobe, Newcastle, Queensland,

Sydney). Macquarie University offered only a Masters

entry-level program. By 2014, there were an additional six

universities offering the SP program (Australian Catholic

[which offers the program on three campuses – Sydney,

Melbourne, Brisbane], Melbourne, Central Queensland,

Southern Cross, Edith Cowan, and Griffith; Speech

Pathology Australia, 2014a).

Male participation rates

Table 1 shows that the number of people working as a

speech pathologist more than doubled over the data

collection period and there was an increase in the number

of males working in the profession. Unfortunately, the

increase in the male numbers has been proportionally lower

than the increase in female numbers. The 2011

participation rate for male speech pathologists (i.e., the

proportion of speech pathologists that were male) was the

lowest that it had been for the preceding 15 years.

Australia’s Health Workforce Series’ report

Speech Pathologists in Focus

provides an

opportunity to review the demographic profile

of speech pathologists in Australia over the

last 15 years. Currently, speech pathologists

are not representative of either the Australian

population, or of the clients who access the

services. The scant research available also

suggests that some population groups are

less likely to access health and speech

pathology services (e.g., Indigenous

Australians, people from non-English

speaking backgrounds). Greater workforce

diversity, commensurate with the populations

serviced, may assist in enhancing equity of

services and increasing engagement and

attendance at therapy for currently

underrepresented client groups.


he recent Health Workforce Australia (2014) report

Speech Pathologists in Focus

in the Australia’s Health

Workforce Series provides the first comprehensive

information on the speech pathology workforce in Australia.

Byrne (2007) identified that a comprehensive workforce

report on speech pathology (SP) has not previously been

provided as had been available for other allied health

professions, such as physiotherapy (Australian Institute of

Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2000) and occupational therapy

(AIHW, 2001). This Health Workforce Australia (2014)

Speech Pathologists in Focus

report is the first government

agency publication providing information on all people

working as speech pathologists in Australia.

Previous speech pathology workforce reports have

been conducted via the professional association, Speech

Pathology Australia (SPA; Lambier, 2002). Consequently

the data, which were gathered via membership surveys,

were limited to those people who were voluntary members

of SPA and not necessarily representative of the whole

working profession. Additionally, the data may have

included people who were not actively working as speech

pathologists, but who maintained membership. The

current Health Workforce Australia (2014) data reports on

SP participation in the Australian workforce and makes

comparisons to census data for each of the four-year

periods from 1996 to 2011. The current paper considers

Table 1: Male participation in SP workforce

Census 1996 Census 2011

Total speech pathologists



Number of male speech




% of total that are males



Source: Health Workforce Australia, 2014