The Aboriginal Health Council of WA has unveiled a unique new health education tool – a giant inflatable ear – believed to be the first of its type in Australia.
Koobarniny, which means ‘big’ in the Noongar language, was officially launched at the Warlang Festival at Murdoch University earlier this month.
The ear is 10 metres wide and 4.1 metres high, takes 30 minutes to inflate and looks like an ear-shaped bouncy castle, which can be used by up to 8 children or adults at a time.
AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said the design of Koobarniny featured the intricate parts of the inner and outer ear, with colour coded parts.
“This inflatable ear will allow people to learn about ear health in a fun and interactive way,” said Ms Nelson-Cox.
“AHCWA has developed lots of fun and informative activities, including getting people to label the anatomy of the ear both internally and externally, explore the various parts of the ear and discover how normal hearing works.
“We can also use the ear as a tool to explain the importance of early detection and treatment of ear diseases in children.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said the ear was a light-hearted way to educate people about a serious topic.
“The prevalence of ear disease and hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children has a major effect on their speech and educational development, social interactions, employment and future wellbeing,” she said.
“While many children are vulnerable to chronic ear disease, in WA it represents a significant burden for Aboriginal children who can experience their first onset within weeks following birth.
“Aboriginal children can also have more frequent and longer lasting episodes compared to non-Aboriginal children.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said Koobarniny would visit various community events throughout the Perth metro area, and it was hoped it would also travel to the regions next year.
“Children living in remote communities have some of the highest rates of chronic ear disease in the world,” she said.
“We want to spread the message in regional communities that early detection and treatment of ear diseases in children is vital to ensure optimum development of speech, language, and to minimise the long term effects on educational performance.”