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Diversity in practice



Volume 17, Number 1 2015

Journal of Clinical Practice in Speech-Language Pathology

Cori Williams

survey carried out in late 2012 indicated that 30% of 540

respondents reported speaking at least one language

other than English. Of these, 25% reported that they

were proficient in at least one other language (Williams, in


Diversity in the range of practice of speech pathologists

is outlined in SPA documents, including


based Occupational Standards for Speech Pathologists

(CBOS; SPA, 2011) and the Scope of Practice (SPA,

2003). Speech pathologists work across the lifespan,

providing services to clients with needs in the core areas

of communication and swallowing and to their families,

carers, educators, and employers as well as with other

professionals involved in their care. The range of services

provided is similarly diverse, and encompasses both

direct and indirect approaches. The scope of practice

lists services under ten categories: clinical services;

specialist advice; use of instrumentation; behavioural

and environmental modification; services related to

hearing loss or central auditory processing disorders;

modification of communication; service management;

negotiation of service delivery models; and provision of

expert witness evidence. Services are provided in a wide

range of contexts, for many purposes and using a variety

of approaches. Similar diversity in range of practice and

contexts for working is embedded in the documents of

other speech pathology organisations (see, for example,

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA],

2007; Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

[RCSLT], 2006; Speech-Language and Audiology Canada,

2014). Such diversity clearly points to the need for

members of the profession to adopt a philosophy of lifelong

learning. It also provides opportunity for those of us working

in the profession to take up new challenges within the

profession during our working lives.

Diversity in the client base

The diversity of the Australian population is well known.

Compared with other western countries, Australia’s migrant

population makes up a relatively large proportion (around

26%) of the total (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS],

2014). Migration is the main component of population

growth in Australia – population increase through migration

has exceeded growth from births for six consecutive years

(Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2012).

Migrants come from a range of countries. The largest

number of migrants come from the UK and New Zealand,

but those from China, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, South

A column addressing the evidence on

diversity in the context of speech pathology

in Australia could take a number of different

perspectives. It could focus on the evidence

surrounding approaches to assessment of

clients from diverse backgrounds, or on the

evidence surrounding the important

questions of intervention with this population.

Neither of these possibilities is taken up here.

Rather, this column will address the evidence

surrounding diversity in the profession, and

diversity in the client base in Australia.

Diversity in the profession

What constitutes diversity in the profession of speech

pathology in Australia? It could perhaps be seen to

encompass two aspects – diversity in the workforce and

diversity in the range of practice and employment contexts.

Evidence of diversity in the workforce is difficult to track

down, one of the reasons that Speech Pathology Australia

(SPA) continues to advocate that speech pathology be

included in the national registration and accreditation

scheme. Some evidence is, however, available. We are all

aware that the gender balance in the speech pathology

workforce is skewed very much in the direction of women.

Records of membership of SPA indicate that only 2% are

male. From this perspective, diversity in the profession is

somewhat lacking. Evidence on the cultural background

of members is not available, although SPA plans to

request this information of members in the near future.

Currently, the association does record the languages other

than English that members report speaking. A total of

80 languages is recorded, from Afrikaans and Arabic to

Yolngu Matha and Zulu, and including a range of European

and Asian languages. A small number of members also

report speaking African (e.g., Shona) and Middle Eastern

languages (e.g., Arabic) and languages from the Indian

subcontinent (e.g., Hindi, Gujarati). The most commonly

reported languages are, in order of frequency, Auslan,

French, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Italian. No information

is available regarding the level of proficiency of members

in these languages, an important consideration when

evaluating the capability of the workforce to provide

services to clients from culturally and linguistically diverse

backgrounds. Proficiency levels may not be high. A national

What’s the evidence:

Diversity in practice

Cori Williams