Academic journal article The New Zealand Journal of Music Therapy

Navigating Cross-Cultural Pathways on Rarotonga: An Exploratory Collaboration Bringing Together a Music Therapist a Speech-Language Therapist, the Cook Islands Ministry of Education and a Day Centre for Adults with Intellectual and Physical Disabilities

Academic journal article The New Zealand Journal of Music Therapy

Navigating Cross-Cultural Pathways on Rarotonga: An Exploratory Collaboration Bringing Together a Music Therapist a Speech-Language Therapist, the Cook Islands Ministry of Education and a Day Centre for Adults with Intellectual and Physical Disabilities

Article excerpt

Introduction

"Rather than dilute what we do in adopting other frames of reference, we gain from and add much to such collaborations. "

(Sutton, 2008, p.9)

In July 2012 Jenny, a speech-language therapist, and Marie, a music therapist, undertook voluntary work on Rarotonga, the main island of the Cook Islands, an independent Pacific Island nation in free association with New Zealand. Rarotonga is the capital and the largest of the fifteen islands of the Cook Island group, situated in the Central Southern Pacific Ocean. It is the most heavily populated of the 1 5 islands, and the Cook Islands Parliament buildings and International airport are situated on Rarotonga. The Cook Islands are home to several tribes, with three Vaka (Tribal districts) on Rarotonga: Te Au o Tong, Takitumu, and Puaikura.

We offered our services as therapists to conduct brief assessments with several school students identified by Cook Islands Ministry of Education staff as requiring therapy intervention and additional classroom support with a teacher aide. We also visited service users and staff at the Creative Centre, which provides a day programme for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. This work built on Jenny's three previous annual voluntary work trips and the contacts she had forged with both the Ministry of Education and the Creative Centre over this time.

This paper builds on a conference presentation (Willis & Watkins, 201 3) and is written primarily from the view point of Marie, the music therapist, with contributions from Jenny, the speech-language therapist who initiated this outreach programme. Alison's support for Jenny and Marie's work, including this article, stems from her own voluntary work experiences in Fiji, another Pacific Island nation (Cooper, 2008). Whilst on Rarotonga, Marie and Jenny were given verbal permission from the school principals to present our experiences in a professional forum and the Education Advisor for the Cook Islands Ministry of Education was aware of our intention to publish this work.

We recognise that professional integrity in a post-colonial world requires overt acknowledgement of our own cultural and professional backgrounds, our unconscious biases and prejudices, and a process of coming alongside people rather than imposing practices from another place. We therefore felt it important to acknowledge Marie and Jenny's own cultural and professional backgrounds when preparing, undertaking and writing about this work.

Marie was raised in Southampton, England, and also lived and studied in multicultural Manchester and London. After qualifying as a music therapist in 2005, she worked with children and young people with visual impairment and special needs in the UK. In 2007 Marie moved to New Zealand (Aotearoa)6 to work with children, young, people and adults with special needs at the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre - clients mainly of European and Asian (particularly Chinese, and also Indian, Malaysian and Japanese) ethnicity. Jenny, raised in Auckland, New Zealand and trained as a speechlanguage therapist in Christchurch, has worked for over 34 years in the health and education sectors, as well as five years in private practice. She currently works with Pakeha7, Maori8 and Pasifika9 students at Carlson School for Cerebral Palsy, Auckland. Jenny is a New Zealand European (Pakeha) and is aware of Maori culture and language and their similarities with Cook Island culture.

We (Marie and Jenny) have chosen to write about this work because we have both gained much from our time on Rarotonga. The experience has enriched our professional practice at home in New Zealand, and we highly recommend this form of voluntary service as intrinsically rewarding. Carefully planned cross-cultural, collaborative and consultative work has provided us with valuable professional development as well as an opportunity for service in the international community. We came home with a greater appreciation of professional disciplines beyond our own and feel more attuned to our culturally diverse clients. …

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