Frequently Asked Questions

What is Filling the Gap?

Filling the Gap is a non-government charitable organisation incorporated in NSW and run primarily by volunteers.

It began as a simple idea that grew from conversations between a number of people wanting to do something about the great disparity of health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and mainstream Australians.

When we began in 2006 our aim was to assist in reducing the chronic wait for dental treatment experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in far north Queensland.

More recently we have been expanding and are assisting with dental services in a number of new locations including NSW, NT and SA.

Since 2006 more than 230 dental professionals have volunteered their time with Filling The Gap and provided approximately 10,000 dental appointments and over 25,000 procedures.

Who's behind Filling Gap?

Our Board of Directors includes retired dentists, a dental industry specialist, community advocates and Indigenous health academics.

We have an executive officer and a team of dedicated volunteers helping with the projects and administration.

Our team is based in Sydney.

Funding comes from grants, public fundraising and private benefactors.

How does FTG work?

We work in partnership with Aboriginal communities/health services, following an invitation to get involved. The arrangements to provide volunteers vary in each location, depending on needs and availability. Generally we recruit volunteer dentists, dental assistants and occasionally hygienists/therapists, to spend two weeks or more at the health service.

Filling the Gap usually covers the cost of airfares, if required, and the health service usually provides the accommodation and use of a car where possible.

Why did it start?

The program started in order to meet a crisis at an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health service in far north Queensland. They had a purpose-built, modern centre with two fully equipped dental clinics, a similarly well equipped mobile dental van, and facilities for a dental technician. But in 2005, it was down to one dentist, one day a week to service their entire community of over 18,000 people. They simply could not recruit a permanent dentist. Which is why the volunteer arrangement began.

What kind of dentistry is practiced?

You'll find a wide range of dentistry is needed, like in any dental practice, including preventative, restorative, prosthetic, endodontics and minor oral surgery.

However, there will be a higher percentage of people with compromised chronic health conditions than you would probably see in an average metropolitan, mainstream dental practice. Diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and rheumatic fever.

Often there will be a medical service with full-time medical practitioners close by who are always willing to give advice in any situation or in an emergency. Dentists are not pressured into performing any particular style of dentistry, but are encouraged to independently evaluate each individual patient's needs and practice in an evidence based, clinically proven style of dentistry under the guidance of the Practice Manager.

What documentation do I need?

The DA & Dentist requirements have been put together & the minimum required documentation for dentists;

  • Updated and inclusive CV
  • Current registration with the Dental Board of Australia (AHPRA)
  • Current Professional Indemnity Insurance cover in Australia
  • Legal right to work in Australia, either an appropriate Work Visa or Australian Residency (if appropriate)
  • Recent National Police Check
  • Certificate of Immunisation from the infections listed in the Ministry of NSW H policy Document Number PD2011_005

Will I be working in a remote community?

Most Indigenous run health centres you will be sent to are situated in rural towns or cities, not in remote communities. Some centres have vans that travel to more remote communities or have arrangements for patients from remote communities to travel to the centre.

Your volunteer work will make a valuable contribution whether you work in an urban or remote community as the dental health of urban Indigenous communities is often just as compromised as remote communities.

What will the dental facilities be like?

We generally work with well-equipped dental clinics located in Aboriginal health services. Sometimes you may be working in a mobile van to provide an outreach service to smaller communities. Infection control procedures are strictly followed and adhere to the State Health guidelines. We make sure that there is a dental nurse / manager as part of the team.

What hours am I expected to work?

This is determined by the service you are volunteering with. It is generally usual business hours, for example 8.30am or 9.00am to 5.00pm. Generally the clinics close on weekends and public holidays.

What sort of accommodation is provided?

There is usually a fully self-contained apartment or house available.

Is there a car I can use?

Yes, usually.

Can I take a holiday before or after my volunteer work?

Volunteers can choose to extend their flights before or after the time they work to take the opportunity to visit the surrounding areas.

Can I bring my family or friends along?

Yes, certainly. Many volunteers have come with their family members or friends. The accommodation we provide sometimes has extra room, otherwise the extra accommodation needed for family or friends will have to be arranged by the volunteer.

What about the flights? Who organises these and do I pay?

Filling the Gap covers the cost of your flight/travel, if required. We will discuss the organisation and booking of flights once you are confirmed as a volunteer. We cannot pay for accompanying people.

What about insurance?

I work in the public health sector. Will I be covered?

Please check with your PI insurer at your place of employment, as they may be able to endorse the policy, which covers you, for the period of time that you will be volunteering.

I work in my own practice. Will I be covered?

Most policies have an Australia wide coverage. Please check if this is the case in your specific policy. You should, in any event, inform your PI insurer that you will be practicing at the health service and let them know the dates you will be there.

If you have any further queries about insurance, please contact either Uri Windt, Chair (uri@fillingthegap.com.au) or Michele Sharp, CEO (michele@fillingthegap.com.au) in order to make alternative arrangements.

Is there paid work available?

There may be opportunities from time to time for paid locum work. This is usually for dentists interested in a longer commitment for one or two months or more. If you are interested in locum work, let us know and we will discuss this with you directly.

Can I speak to other dentists or staff at the health service for more information?

Yes, either a dentist from our Board or from the Health Service, the Practice Manager or our CEO will happily respond to your questions about the facilities and equipment, type of dentistry etc. You will also have a short orientation on arrival, before you begin work.

Are there opportunities for other dental professionals to volunteer?

We do recruit dental assistants and occasionally we may need hygienists and therapists. Please contact us to check the current situation

Governance

We are a strong and proactive team Our Board of Directors is responsible for the oversight of Filling the Gap and is assisted by a part-time CEO & several volunteer Project Officers.

  • Michele Sharp, CEO Filling The Gap

Board of Directors

  • Uri Windt, Chairperson & Co-Founder
  • Michele Sharp, CEO
  • Gael Kennedy, Co-Founder
  • Dr David Rosenwax AM, retired dentist
  • Jacki Maxton, solicitor
  • Sally Fitzpatrick, Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit, UNSW
  • Prof Lisa Jackson Pulver AM, Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit, UNSW
  • Jennifer Symonds, community advocate
  • Simon Palmer, dental industry specialist
  • Dimitrios Thanos, dentist