Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours)


School of Psychology and Social Science


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Professor Elizabeth Armstrong

Second Advisor

Ms Abigail Lewis


Purpose: To synthesise and critique the available diverse literature related to communication disorders experienced by Indigenous Australians. This is in order to provide health professionals with a resource guide for evidence based decision making. The review has a specific focus on prevalence, assessment and effective treatment of communication disorders and explores these across the lifespan.

Method: A three phase systematic search process was adopted. A number of key databases, speech pathology journals and grey literature sources were searched to obtain articles relevant to the research aims. Two researchers independently rated articles for inclusion as well as methodological quality using the Kmet rating tool. Data synthesis was completed by categorising articles according to communication disorder type and methodology used.. Each article was then summarised for key findings relating to the research aims.

Results: A total of 85 articles rated highly relevant were included in the review. A total of 60% of the available literature was textual or grey literature and 40% was quantitative or qualitative studies. Methodological quality of the 34 quantitative and qualitative articles ranged from limited (13), adequate (2), good (5) to strong (14). The majority of articles focussed on hearing loss, language and early literacy. No articles were identified addressing voice or fluency disorders. Limited evidence was found for any of the areas addressed in the research aims.

Conclusion: High quality scientific literature surrounding Indigenous communication disorders is limited. The available sources of information favoured textual papers or ‘grey’ literature government sources. Very little published scientific quantitative or qualitative studies are available to address the issues of prevalence, assessment or treatment of specific communication disorders. Given the likelihood of the burden of communication disorders amongst this population, the lack of evidence is concerning. The complexities of conducting research within the Indigenous Australian population are acknowledged and whilst empirical scientific evidence is still lacking, the last five years has seen greater focus and commitment to improving the knowledge base with higher quality scientific research being conducted.