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Missing Voices: communication difficulties after stroke and traumatic brain injury in Aboriginal Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experience stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI) with greater frequency than non-Aboriginal Australians. Acquired communication disorders (ACD) including aphasia, dysarthria and cognitive-communication disorder occur frequently as a result of a stroke or TBI with significant and at times devastating impacts upon the everyday living of both the person involved and their family/community. Yet little is known about Aboriginal peoples' experiences of ACD, access to rehabilitation services and short or long term outcomes.

The research

The Missing Voices research project aims to:

  • Investigate the extent and impact of ACD in urban and rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations following stroke or TBI.
  • Develop and validate a culturally appropriate communication disorder assessment tool for use by health professionals working with Aboriginal people after stroke and TBI.
  • Describe the current status of communication rehabilitation services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Develop accessible and culturally appropriate service delivery models for the individuals and their families experiencing ACD.

In an Australia-first, the Missing Voices project has ‘given voice’ to and identified needs and wants of Aboriginal people with ACD and their families, in respect to rehabilitation and daily life after stroke and traumatic brain injury. The project also increases awareness of the extent and impact of ACD in the Aboriginal community of WA and within mainstream and Aboriginal health services, increasing the profile of stroke, TBI and rehabilitation.   It has also created the first ever screening tool to be used specifically with Aboriginal people to aid in the identification of acquired communication disorders after a stroke or TBI

Going forward, the Missing Voices project will trial culturally secure models of service delivery in stroke and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation with Aboriginal people, families, communities and health services. 

Funding body

The Missing Voices project is funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council (Project # 1046228) 2013 – 2016.


The Missing Voices project is led by Professor Beth Armstrong (Edith Cowan University) with a team of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers from Edith Cowan University’s Speech Pathology team, the University of Western Australia, the Western Australian Centre for Rural Health, Telethon Kids Institute, the University of Notre Dame and Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service. A strong team of Aboriginal interviewers and facilitators have been integral to the project, and Aboriginal community controlled health services across WA and the Western Australian Country Health Service have also actively participated in the project.


Student Projects

Linda Arabi: The Lived Experiences of Young Aboriginal Australians with Acquired Communication Disorders (Honours project 2016)

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