Local returns to share her skills with the community

Occupational Therapist, Nicola Harbison, works with a range of different clients
including preschoolers. Nicola has recently been working at Cobar Pre School evaluating the children through play activities and is pictured with the Green group of five year olds. At front are Izzy Best, Grace Mackay and AJ Fakahua.

Nicola Harbison enjoyed her time
growing up in Cobar and, after four years of study and
four more working, she’s decided to return home and put her
Occupational Therapy (OT) skills to good use here.

As an OT Nicola’s skills are diverse and while she’s recently been working on a developmental screening program at Cobar Preschool, she also works with people at the other end of the age spectrum.

“Basically we work from birth through to death, enabling people to do things they need to do each day or things they want to do,” Nicola said.

“It might be they can’t do something due to disability or injury or their environment’s not set up to support them.

“It’s all about function, it’s client-driven and it’s whatever their goals are.

“If they want to be able to hang the washing on the line (even if they have 10 other people to do it for them), if that’s their goal, that’s what we’ll work on.”

Nicola said as an OT she doesn’t really “fix anyone”, it’s more about enabling them.

“There’s a saying in our profession that a physio will teach you to walk again while an OT will teach you to dance,” she said.

Nicola said her decision to come back home was partly because her family are here but also because she wanted to give back to a community that enabled her to get where she is today.

Nicola said she was given a lot of
opportunities growing up in Cobar, including getting an excellent education at Cobar High School.

However by Year 12 Nicola said she still really didn’t know what she wanted to do.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself and told myself that I had to go to Uni but I really didn’t know what I wanted to study.

“I did a lot of research and OT appealed to me as you got to work with people and it’s very diverse.

“I’d always liked working with older people—I’d done a bit of volunteering at the [Lilliane Brady] Village when I was still at school.

“That’s the area where I sort of thought I’d end up.”

Her first job out of Uni was however in pediatrics working with kids with disabilities.

“Then I went to work in a nursing home and then went back to working in pediatrics in the Northern Territory.

“That job was a really good experience, totally eye-opening.

“Now I’ve come back here and I’m doing a bit of everything,” she said.

Nicola said people can be NDIS or private patients.

They can self refer or get a referral from a doctor and access her services through a chronic disease management plan.