Speech pathology becomes passion for long-time communications expert

25 August 2022

After many years in a professional communications career' Leonie Fishburn has turned her attention to another field of communications – this time in the field of speech pathology.

The second year Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours) student said although the two careers focused on communication they couldn't be more different – and that's simply exciting for the mum of two young boys.

"After 20 years in the field of professional communication I needed a new challenge' and to feel like I was making more of a contribution to my community'" Leonie explained.

"I find speech and language development quite fascinating and there are also plenty of jobs in the field' so it seemed like a good fit for me."

Leonie shared her story this week as part of Speech Pathology Week and was on hand on the CQUniversity Rockhampton North campus to inspire others to consider studying the field at the University.

"I'm really enjoying the breadth of the degree – speech pathologists work with people of all ages and in a huge variety of areas'" she said.

"While most people know we can support those with speech and language difficulties' not everyone is aware that swallowing and voice issues are also in our scope of practice."

Leonie's new-found passion for speech pathology comes on the back of a very different career journey.

.Speech Pathology event

"I feel like I've had a few former lives. For the main part I was an ABC Radio journalist and communications professional' but my first job was as a cattle station cook on a property out of Clermont'" she explained.

"So' if you need someone who can ride a horse and cook for a crowd' whilst interviewing you and checking out your speech patterns' I'm your gal!"

Leonie said while her previous jobs were poles apart from her new field of study' she believed her experiences to date were sure to contribute to her career as a speech pathologist in years to come.

"I'd like to stay in rural and regional Australia and support our communities out here. There is such a high need for speech pathologists' and it makes me sad to know how many people are on waiting lists to receive speech and language support."

Returning to study as a mature-age student comes with many challenges' however Leonie is meeting each one head on with the help of supportive family and lecturers.

"I have a wonderfully supportive husband who encourages me' listens to me whine about study' and makes me cups of tea when I'm doing late-night cramming sessions.

"I also have a couple of gorgeous little boys who are two and four years old. Neither of them ever sleep through the night' so I now exist on coffee and sheer determination.

"The Speech Pathology lecturers at CQUniversity have been nothing but supportive and approachable and they are certainly role models for me.

"We've also had some speech pathology guest speakers' some of whom were former students' and they were great examples of people doing jobs they loved. I'm excited to join the profession."

Leonie said pursuing the degree was a "big leap of faith"' but was convinced she was on the road to success and encouraged other mature students to consider a similar path.

"If anyone is in a similar position and wondering 'can I do it?' I'm here to tell you that you can."