28 February 2024

It’s smiles all round for Yalari Scholars

Yalari student, Noami Buchanan was in Year 10 at The Glennie School when she was told she needed braces.

“I was trying to go through the public system with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service, but it was a very slow process with a very long waiting list.”

Noami with Dr Kent Farmer

“Yalari struck a chord with me the first time I heard of their work,” said Kent. “Having grown up in North Queensland and, later, being the dentist in charge at Mt Isa Hospital, I have a very good understanding of the problems accessing dental health services in general and orthodontics in particular.”

Ethos Orthodontics provides Yalari students with full fixed appliances to correct malocclusion and address aesthetic issues at no cost.

“It is a privilege to witness the amazing transformation in confidence and health for young people like Noami who would otherwise not have access to orthodontics.”

Noami got her braces in August 2021, midway through Year 10, and had them off by the end of Year 11, in time for the all-important formals and functions of her graduating year.

“I couldn’t believe the difference in my smile before and after I had braces,” she said. “I just couldn’t stop smiling after Dr Farmer had removed them.”

Yalari’s pro bono dental donors came about through the outside-the-square thinking of Brisbane dentist, Dr Stu Garraway.

“My good friend, Tim Wilson (long-time supporter and Chair of Yalari’s Northern Regional Council) took me to a dinner in Brisbane a few years back,” said Stu. “I’d never heard of Yalari but I was extremely impressed with the educational opportunities being offered and I was happy to chip in on the night to buy some IT equipment.

Noami at Ethos Orthodontics

But the next day, I started to reflect on my own skills and experience, and the services we offer at my practice that may be even more useful than cash.

In the earlier years of my dental career, I worked in remote areas of northern and western Queensland and had a lot of contact with Indigenous health services.

In the Torres Strait, I worked as the school dentist, travelling to the outer islands. (In fact, I suspect some of the Yalari kids’ parents would have been treated by me all those years ago). Having been to those communities, I know there is often a great need for dental care and it can be quite difficult to access that in remote areas.

So I spoke to my business partners at the Wilston Dental Group and we decided that, rather than offering a sponsorship donation to Yalari, we would offer the professional dentistry services that so many teenagers need.”

Thinking even further outside the square, Stu then reached out to other dentists and dental specialists to see who else might be interested in helping.

As a result, Yalari now has a whole community of dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons and anaesthetists helping our students across Australia.

Over the past few years, Dr Victor Lalieu, Dr Laura Barbagallo, Dr Matthew Voltz, Dr Charles Angliss, Dr Ross Foreman, Dr James Andrews, Dr Kent Farmer and, of course, Dr Stu Garraway and his colleagues have ensured more than 20 Yalari students just like Noami have received the dental, orthodontic and oral surgical care they need.

At Yalari, we will never stop singing the praises of our scholarship supporters. It’s also just as awesome to find thoughtful people like Stu Garraway who, through one chance encounter, are moved to find their own unique ways of changing the lives of our students.

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