Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (School of Physiotherapy)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Associate Professor Dale Edgar

Second Supervisor

Professor Fiona Wood,

Third Supervisor

Dr Anne Poelina


Background: International and national research confirms the disparity in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations. Inequity of access to healthcare for remote and very remote Aboriginal people makes relocation for specialist medical services a necessity. The aim of this research is to investigate the effects of relocation on Aboriginal patients admitted to the State Adult Burn Unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Aims: This qualitative study sought to define and describe this experience of relocation, with a strong focus on structural complexities. Aboriginal women were asked to describe their experiences of relocating from remote and very remote communities to the State Adult Burns Unit for treatment. In addition, information was also sought on the participants’ experience of isolation from family, whilst in the State Adult Burns Unit.

Methods: A case series used qualitative data collected from three semi structured interviews by ‘yarning’. These were conducted by the researcher and in the presence of an Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer. Thematic data analysis and cross-case analysis was used to identify themes in the participants’ experiences.

Results: Four main themes emerged which had layered complexities. Firstly, communication difficulties with health staff, secondly, prolonged travel, including multiple modes of travel to reach Perth, and thirdly, concerns related to maintaining contact with family. Participants also discussed receiving good care within the Burns Unit both from staff, and complimented the quality of the hospital meals.

Recommendations: Six recommendations arose that aimed to address these three themes; to improve difficulties with communication with health staff, to ensure that ongoing contact with family was optimised, and to assist with transport difficulties. Practical solutions, such as upskilling for relevant health staff, consideration for referral to an Aboriginal Health Liaison Officer for all remote Aboriginal patients, and providing remote patients and their families with the correct address and contact details of the State Adult Burns Unit, prior to travel to Perth improve ongoing family contact. Despite the restricted sample size, rich data was extracted, which will be used to promote best practice for future remote and very remote Aboriginal burn patients via the implementation of the recommendations, commencing with education initiatives for staff, to address communication challenges.