Day two of Souths Cares’ four day health and education tour of the State’s Central West commenced at Wellington Public School and concluded in Weigelli Drug and Alcohol Centre just out of Cowra this week.

The charity’s Indigenous Oral Health Care Program delivers important messages about good oral health hygiene to Year 3-6 Indigenous students, and the trip to the Central West saw that message spread,

“The Program specifically targets Indigenous students because evidence shows that untreated dental decay rates are often more than twice as high among Aboriginal Australians compared with non-Aboriginal Australians,” said Souths Cares General Manager, Brock Scahefer.

“At Souths Cares we are serious about playing our part in delivering oral health education to young students.

“To provide our Program with robustness, Souths Cares works in partnership with a number of agencies whose job it is to provide services to regional and remote Indigenous communities.”

These partnerships include the Centre for Oral Health Strategy (NSW Health), the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health (The University of Sydney), Local Health Districts and Aboriginal Medical Services.

With the aid of such organisations, Souths Cares assists in closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Around 288 students from Wellington, Mumbil and Stuart Town public schools took part in the first of five educational sessions being delivered to students across the region.

Students are also provided with a free dental health screening provided by the trained staff from the Poche Centre who also make referrals where necessary.

Kylie Gwynne, Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at The University of Sydney, said the Poche Centre is delighted to support the important initiative.

“When role models such as Beau Champion, Cam McInnes, Kyle Turner and Josh Ellison of the Rabbitohs promote oral health, kids are more likely to brush their teeth and drink tap water,” she said.

“Improving the oral health of Aboriginal children is fundamental to reducing chronic disease and closing the gap in life expectancy.”

But a visit by the Rabbitohs wouldn’t seem right without the chance for the students to get outside and show-off their Rugby League skills.

Thanks to the development staff from the NRL, students were able to participate in a skills clinic today, learning new drills and the fundamentals of the game alongside their sporting idols.

“Having Kyle, Cam and Josh participate in the clinic added a real highlight for the students, many of which demonstrated a natural sporting ability,” added Brock.

“Despite the heat, the students worked their way through each station and were impressive in their commitment and focus.”

The road-show then travelled to Parkes to hold afternoon sessions with another group of students, where Souths Cares were hosted by Middleton Public, who also invited students from Parkes East, and Parkes public schools to participate in the sessions.

“In total our team and partners educated and screened another 150 students – that’s 438 students who are now better placed to start taking better care of their teeth,” said Brock.

On the eve of their visit to schools in the Cowra and Bathurst areas, Souths Cares and the Rabbitohs participated in Cowra Neighbourhood Centre’s Footy Clinic, coordinated by the Country Rugby League.

Souths Cares Health and Education Manager Leellen Lewis, said the clinics were specifically designed to introduce the under-five age group of future League players to the game.

“This afternoon’s session was attended by around 20 young children, who worked their way through a set of four drills aimed at developing their fitness, hand-eye coordination and team work skills,” said Leellen.

“After a quick game of touch football with a group of 30 students and a signing session with many of the Rabbitohs faithful who heard that the Rabbitohs were in town, Souths Cares and the Rabbitohs headed just outside of Cowra to visit residents of the Weigelli Drug and Alcohol Community Centre.

“The purpose of that visit was twofold – firstly to give the residents an opportunity to feel part of our visit to their town and secondly for the players to learn more about Weigelli’s therapeutic program.”