Professor McDermott to address speech pathologists on ‘Big Sister Wisdom’!

Professor McDermott, a Koori psychologist, academic and poet, will open the Speech Pathology Australia National Conference, at the Adelaide Convention Centre, on Monday 28 May 2018. The title of Professor McDermott’s presentation is: ‘Big Sister’ Wisdom: How might Non-Indigenous speech pathologists really engage, effectively, with Indigenous Australia.

Professor McDermott’s mother’s family are from Gadigal land in inner Sydney; with connections to Gamilaroi country in north-west New South Wales.

In his conference presentation Professor McDermott will focus on the fact that non-Indigenous speech pathologists deliver the majority of interventions and programs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

While the work of non-Indigenous speech pathologists is pivotal to improving a range of Indigenous health outcomes, many report uncertainty regarding how to engage with Indigenous health issues, cultures, clients and communities.

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Professor McDermott’s sister has a simple phrase that captures much: “Meet people in their own reality”.

But for the speech pathology profession in Australia, what exactly does this mean?

In particular, Professor McDermott will focus on what it means for the profession when communicating with Indigenous Australians, providing access to services for Indigenous Australians, and ensuring Indigenous communities drive service delivery.

In 2014, Professor McDermott was awarded a National Senior Teaching Fellowship by the Australian Government’s Office for Learning and Teaching. His program title at that time was, “Having the hard conversations: Strengthening pedagogical effectiveness by working with student and institutional resistance to Indigenous health curriculum”.


Professor McDermott’s presentation to the Speech Pathology Australia National Conference in 2018 is timely as Speech Pathology Australia is currently in the process of establishing its own Reconciliation Action Plan. The final plan is to be presented at the 2019 Speech Pathology Australia National Conference.