November 30, 2023

Earbus partnership launched

Earbus Foundation provides essential ear health services to Aboriginal and at-risk children.

A unique program that tackles ear health for Aboriginal and at-risk children will run in the Peel and South West regions of Western Australia locally for at least another three years thanks to support from the Alcoa Foundation.

The partnership was launched at an event at Harvey Primary School on 20 November 2023.

Earbus Foundation delivers vital ear health services including in Kwinana, Peel and the Upper South West regions near Alcoa’s Western Australian operations.

Ear infections occur among Aboriginal children at a significantly higher rate than non-Indigenous children and can have a serious, adverse effect on the ability to learn. Australia’s overall population has one of the lowest rates of chronic ear disease in the world however the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a special listing for Australia’s Indigenous people alongside its list of the five countries with the highest rates of middle-ear disease.

Initially supported by Alcoa Australia since 2018, the Alcoa Foundation funding, which was announced in July, will ensure the mobile service can continue to deliver its services to children in regional communities.

The ‘one stop shop’ mobile clinic goes where the children are, travelling to schools, daycare centres, kindergartens and early learning centres. The service is free to communities, removing cost and accessibility as barriers to Aboriginal and at-risk children receiving the care they need.

Alcoa’s support to date has enabled Earbus to conduct ear assessments for about 1,350 children across 33 schools, day care centres and early learning centres. That has included 3,046 ear screens, 1,647 hearing tests and 844 health checks.

Over the past three years, rates of middle ear disease in the areas served by the Alcoa Earbus Program have been reduced and rates of hearing loss have dropped from 11.6 per cent to 4.7 per cent.

Alcoa Australia’s Director of Corporate Affairs Jodie Read said: “Equitable access to education, especially for Indigenous and at-risk people, is a priority for the Foundation and one of the reasons why this partnership with Earbus Foundation is so important to us.”

Harvey Primary School Deputy Principal Simon Philp said Earbus provides early intervention that helps kids succeed at school.

“Having access to regular services pinpoints issues with hearing as well as learning difficulties, particularly in the younger years. This means we can get on top of the issues, support those students, get things sorted … it’s an essential service that we look forward to continuing in the future”, he said.

Earbus Foundation of WA CEO and Co-founder Dr Lara Shur said the program was crucial for improving the lives of some of the most at-risk children in Western Australia.

“This renewed partnership with the Alcoa Foundation is an outstanding commitment to the health and wellbeing of children across this region. This funding will allow Earbus to continue to build on our award-winning program, taking the multi-disciplinary team of ear health screener, audiologist and nurse practitioner to where children are. It will enable us to continue to provide a high-quality screening, treatment and surveillance program,” Dr Shur said.