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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 aims of the Missing Voices research project (completed 2016) were 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 ‘gave 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 increased 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 also led to the creation of 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

The Missing Voices project has directly informed the Healing Right Way study which is currently trialling 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 was funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council (Project # 1046228) 2013 – 2016.


The Missing Voices project was 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 were integral to the project, and Aboriginal community-controlled health services across WA and the Western Australian Country Health Service 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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