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UC students awarded Gabby Robberds scholarship to support kids with cerebral palsy

Emma Larouche

27 April 2022: Two University of Canberra health students are about to embark on a final placement with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA), after receiving this year’s Gabby Robberds Scholarship.

For both recipients, it was their involvement in sport and love of volunteering that led them to study at the University’s Faculty of Health.

Master of Physiotherapy student Beth Chaffers volunteered as an adaptive snow sports guide, where she helped kids with disabilities participate.

“It really set me on a path towards pursuing a career in physiotherapy,” she said.

“I saw that being able to facilitate independence through movement was very important to optimise the health and wellbeing of individuals with a cerebral palsy diagnosis.”

Bachelor of Occupational Therapy student Josie Gillham was a competitive swimmer growing up in regional New South Wales.

She volunteered to teach kids with disabilities to swim.

“I became passionate about making sure there were equal opportunities,” she said.

“In my gap year, I worked as a teacher’s aide at a school in Orange for kids with disabilities, and I saw what the Occupational Therapists did and thought I’d love to able to help kids like that.”

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Professor Michelle Lincoln says this year’s scholarship placements come at a time where the disability sector is grappling with a workforce shortage.

“Now more than ever, the disability sector needs really well qualified and experienced OTs and physios,” Professor Lincoln said.

“Scholarships like this encourage more students to take up the challenges and rewards of working with people with disabilities.”

She added that the University of Canberra is very grateful to the CPA, a long-term supporter of the education of allied health students at the University.

Both recipients have been awarded $1,500 under the annual scholarship and are looking forward to capping off their studies by getting first-hand experience with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

“I’m super excited about doing a placement with them and seeing how OTs work in a not-for-profit organisation to help families and children with disabilities,” Ms Gillham said.

“I feel extremely lucky to be working towards a degree in occupational therapy and working in a profession that is centred around supporting people of all different abilities and circumstances.”

“I think the value I can get out of my placement in terms of practical application and the knowledge and skills, is just going to be amazing for me,” Ms Chaffers said.

The scholarship honours the memory of Gabby Robberds, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and passed away in 2010.To find out more about the story behind the scholarship, read more here.