A unique experience and inspiring role models
More than protective equipment, the mouthguards will no doubt be worn with pride. Students were given their choice of colours and opted for the colours of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags.
“It was important for us to give students the opportunity to personalise their mouthguards,” Prof Abbott says, “They’re understandably proud of their heritage and they’ll look good in these mouthguards when they hit the field.”
AFL Cape York House Boarding Manager for the House for Girls, Sean Hunter says the partnership with JCU helps to promote healthy messages around dental hygiene and mouth care that the students can take back to their families and broader communities.
"It's a unique life experience for the kids," Sean says. "They get to come here and learn a few things and take home some new information and these special mouthguards. Ultimately, it's about the protection of the mouth, but having them branded in Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island colours creates a really deadly message for these young people. They'll be proud to wear it and they'll be representing where they're from every time they smile on the footy field."
The visit to the JCU Dental Clinical also gave students the opportunity to see Indigenous JCU Dentistry students in action, which Sean says can be a powerful motivation for young people in broadening their horizons of what might be possible.
"Sometimes our young people don't know who they can be because they can't see them. It's incredibly powerful to be able to have some Indigenous dentistry students build a relationship and make them feel safe and secure and have conversations around careers and pathways.
"We spoke about this being a life-experience opportunity here. It's more than protection and it's more than teeth. It's about creating a connection for our young people and them knowing this is an option for them if they put their heads down at school," Sean says.
It's a sentiment echoed by Indigenous dentistry student, Chris Cavanagh, who was helping on the project and says it has been a great way to give back to the community.
"I've been in their shoes," Chris says. "I never thought about uni when I was in high school and I've overcome a lot of barriers just to be here. This is a perfect opportunity to show these students that anything is possible and to say that this path is difficult and challenging, but it's also doable and really rewarding."