OTher Symposium Tables OT for the Future
Occupational Therapy is rapidly gaining traction worldwide as an underappreciated yet vital component within healthcare systems aimed at improving conditions of people’s lives.
This was the sentiment of UKZN Occupational Therapy (OT) lecturer, Ms Chantal Christopher, whilst speaking at the OTher Symposium, a multidisciplinary international conference whose aim was to provide practitioners with an opportunity to disrupt generic and, tired ways of practicing.
Hosted by UKZN’s Discipline of OT at the Edward Hotel in Durban, and themed: OTher voices, OTher stories, OTher ways of doing which speaks to the myriad praxes and stories that go untold the symposium brought together local and international practitioners from Canada, The Netherlands, Portugal, USA, Chile, and the United Kingdom. Delegates included practitioners who work as occupational therapists, caregivers, physiotherapists, educators, pharmacists, psychologists, speech pathologists, audiologists and academics.
The conference looked at presentations that reflect OT and its partners’ practice/s on the periphery, fostering humanity, pushing the boundaries of the profession and expanding knowledge that confronts hegemonic dialogues.
It reflected on alternative practices, narratives from lived experiences and the field, stories from practice, professional/ trans - disciplinary innovation and research findings that are at the forefront of creating a different society.
‘The symposium space was carefully constructed to facilitate and engender deep discussions and sharing in a reflective place, that fostered micro and macro adjustments in our framing of practice,’ said Christopher.
She said the persistence of isolated professions, working towards similar goals is an example of the commodification and “specialisation” trend in healthcare.
This well known worldwide condition was turned on its head when the Symposium ensured that the intersectionality of its programme fostered connection between professionals and universities.
Contrary to large single professional conferences that perpetuate the ways of practice that are derivations of old, the OTher Symposium purposefully disrupted this, through its multi-professional attendance, the variety and depth of its programme and the move away from staid podium presentation to interactive sessions and reflection.
The programme was packed with diversity from Mr Suntosh Pillay, a Psychologist who presented the new Practice Guidelines for Psychology Professionals Working with Sexually- and Gender Diverse People, to Ms Mary Black, an Occupational Therapist discussed her work with refugees at the Kovler Centre in Chicago, USA and UKZN OT lecturer Lauren Hepworth highlighting the professional gains in UKZN’s work with the eThekwini Municipality on the Inanda Children’s Wilderness Park.At the conference, delegates shared experiences and practices for the future. Ms Crystal Dieleman travelled from Canada to share her Wall of Hope, where works of art are used to represent hope with people who have had a justice system sentence.
Ms Jennifer Creek and Mr Frank Kronenberg, authors who continue to shape the OT profession presented on issues that created debate and deep reflection.
The delegates were impressed by the proceedings and thanked the organisers for having created the space and the energy for such deep and stimulating questioning of the profession! ‘I’ll be watering and nurturing this seed inside my heart. I am sure all those seeds will enrich our professional debate and development. Well done to the OTher Symposium,’ said Ms Silvia Martins from Sintra Portugal.
‘All contemporary healthcare professionals know the debate about inherited practice and the hegemonic understanding of practice we obtain from the North. The issue is why do we perpetuate these praxes and lens? This symposium is a beginning: a call for us to step up and make those connections, ruffle those feathers and “unbecome” what we have “become” in pursuit of social and occupational justice and hence a better society,’ said Christopher.
Words: Nombuso Dlamini