Dr Sandra Devine, Brisbane (dentist volunteer, Danila Dilba Health Services, Darwin 2013)

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the program at Danila Dilba.

This was my first experience of dental volunteering and it won't be my last.

I found myself quite fulfilled by the experience. I was exposed to a very different side of life from my comfortable suburban dental practice life in Brisbane.

I learnt much about Indigenous culture and attitudes to health care and enjoyed the challenge of being out of my comfort zone.

I was lucky to be able to participate in screening with the mobile health visits as well as clinic duties at Palmerston.

Aiyad Sbieh, Melbourne (dental assistant volunteer, Danila Dilba Health Services, Darwin 2013)

It was one of the best experiences in my life. I am very happy that I had a chance to contribute to the "Filling the Gap" project. I met a very friendly group of people with whom I could help with solving their health issues.

I found my experience at Danila Dilba both educational and enjoyable. I have gained a great deal of respect for the Aboriginal Community and also learnt a great deal. I felt very welcomed and appreciated during the volunteer program. It was a rewarding two weeks and I would be more than happy to return in the future! We worked hard during the two-week stay, and there were many patients with difficult cases. I was shocked by the miserable state of general and dental health of the majority of the patients we saw. But the work was very rewarding, and there is a real need for treatment in this area.

I understand how important your program is, and the association does an excellent job 'filling the gap'. I would thoroughly recommend for any dentist or dental assistant to volunteer their time for this association, for what you gain from the experience, makes it worth every minute.

Olga Havnen, (CEO Danila Dilba Health Service, Darwin)

Danila Dilba Health Service has been extremely fortunate in having had the invaluable assistance and support of the Filling the Gap team over the past 12 months. The professional support and assistance of the volunteer dental team has enabled DDHS to provide much needed dental services to Aboriginal people who in all likelihood, would not have been able to access treatment elsewhere.

The volunteer dental program has enabled DDHS to plan and budget for the establishment of our own dental team in 2014.

DDHS strongly supports and encourages other Aboriginal community controlled health services to collaborate with The Filling the Gap team and their volunteers particularly in communities where there is limited or poor access to dental services.

Patient comments (Bogabilla/Toumelah communities, north west NSW 2012/2013)

"Truly fantastic to be able to eat again"

"We have needed help for so long with teeth. Thanks"

"My family is so thankful for this service"

"Thank you so much, my kids teeth are being looked after, after so long. It is the best service ever"

"Great service, thank you so much, we so needed this. Staff are wonderful"

"The staff were very professional but friendly. They made all my children feel at ease, particularly my 3 yr old daughter who has autism. If this wonderful service didn't exist, we couldn't get help with our dental issues. Thanks so much for this much needed service, myself & my family are eternally grateful."

Dr. Gráinne Mulcare, Ireland (dentist volunteer, Danila Dilba Health Services, Darwin and Durri Aboriginal Health Service, Kempsey 2012/13)

Thank you to the Filling the Gap team for putting together this program which is hugely beneficial to the Indigenous communities it serves but equally rewarding for participating volunteers.

Planning the two-week trips to Durri and Danila Dilba from Ireland was easy with the help of the Filling the Gap team who were well organised and extremely supportive throughout.

Both clinics were well equipped and staff very helpful. Dental and non-dental staff were warm and welcoming and took time to act as tour guides and give insight into Aboriginal culture.

Accommodation was safe and comfortable at beautiful Crescent Head (Durri) and on the Waterfront in Darwin (Danila Dilba). Having the use of a car was much appreciated and allowed the opportunity for plenty of sightseeing after work and at the weekends.

I would highly recommend volunteering with Filling the Gap not only as a way of offering time and expertise to a worthy cause while combining it with a holiday, but also as an invaluable opportunity to experience working within an Indigenous community.

Sarah Houston, Brisbane (dental assistant volunteer, Danila Dilba Health Services, Darwin 2013)

"My Darwin experience was great, the practice was very busy whilst we were there, though no doubt it always is, due to the high need for this kind of service. The patients were very receptive, warm and friendly."

Leah McKay, Sydney (dental assistant volunteer, Danila Dilba Health Services, Darwin 2013)

"Thanks again for the opportunity to lend a hand at Danila Dilba. I would do it again in a heart beat. It is a great set up and has the potential to provide a fantastic service to the Indigineous people of the northern territory."

Hayley Press, Wagga Wagga NSW (dental assistant volunteer, Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Darwin 2012)

The experiences so far for me have been so rewarding. I feel privileged to be involved in the Filling the Gap Program in such a hands on way, and look forward to the possibility of again volunteering to assist in such a beautiful and worthwhile cause.

Meeting the Larrakia people and hearing their stories has enlightened me in a way that at times has made me feel both incredibly happy and incredibly sad.

Professor Lisa Jackson-Pulver AM Head of Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit, UNSW. Board member Filling the Gap

"The effect over time of dentists providing service to Indigenous communities will be profound! Can you imagine, people being able to go to the dentist for preventative treatment, instead of only for emergency extractions? Can you imagine a child having the chance of not getting an early onset chronic disease because they are able to maintain good oral health and eat a normal, healthy diet? I can't think of many communities that have access to this type of consistent oral health care.

The dentists that give their time are to be truly commended. Their efforts should be an inspiration to us all!"

Dr David John Macaulay Lauder (dentist volunteer Wuchopperen Health Service, Cairns, 2011)

I worked in a private practice in Sydney for a year and a half but would say I had more fun in my three weeks in Cairns than the whole time in NSW. Treating patients in the mobile dental unit particularly felt like I was doing something really different and worthwhile. One day for example, I went spearing crabs on the mudflats at lunch time with one of my patients and that evening got invited back to his house where his wife cooked them up with butter, garlic and chilli. A great day and one that I will be talking about for years to come.

Thanks again Filling The Gap team.

Dr Stuart Cran (dentist volunteer, Wuchopperen Health Service, Cairns, 2010)

I feel like I achieved something worthwhile, being able to contribute in this way was both professionally and personally gratifying, while at the same time eye-opening, and enriching at a cultural level. It gave me the opportunity to give a little back for the privilege it is to be a part of the profession of Dentistry. Wuchopperen is a well run, well staffed and well equipped dental service that strives to effectively deliver much needed dental care. I can highly recommend this to anyone from my profession who is interested in giving a little of their time to a worthwhile service. The whole experience was a truly memorable one and one that we will be sure to repeat.

Drs Glenda and Grant Farmer (dentist volunteers, Wuchopperen Health Service, Cairns - regular visits 2007 - 2010)

"It's hard to know whose 'gap' is most filled in this program. As an experience in learning about indigenous culture and indigenous compassion and enthusiasm I would recommend all dentists take up this wonderful opportunity. With a long life in a dental career it is also good to just do what we are trained to do. Dentistry without practice management is actually quite a joy. The Filling the Gap program allows dentists to come and work for a week or two at a modern well-equipped surgery with well trained and friendly staff. Housing and a car are provided so at the end of a day the foreshore at Cairns beacons with great restaurants and beautiful sunsets. It is amazing that working in this environment is actually a holiday.

My husband and I are both dentists and we are at the stage of being "child free". Not financially (does that ever happen!) - but we don't need to be at home to feed or supervise our children so we considered going to a third world country for both the experience and to 'give back' to society in general. The filling the gap program offered an easier Australian version and we have linked a few days of R&R around the dental work. I was most hesitant working with new staff as my nurse has been working with me for 21 years and she reads my mind. The staff at "Filling the Gap" help make the experience special. We don't get to meet or hear the stories of indigenous life in middle class Glen Waverley in Victoria. This is a remarkable venture that I would commend to any dentist who either wants to do something for others or would just like an excuse for a break to revitalise their practice."

Dr Ivor Epstein, Sydney (dentist volunteer, Wuchopperen Health Service, Cairns, 2006 & 2008, Board member Filling the Gap)

"There's a lot of emergency work. People have been in pain for weeks, tolerating pain that no-one in Sydney would.

There are very neglected mouths, which are compromised by certain diseases. There's a high incidence of type 2 diabetes and rheumatic heart disease.

Wuchopperen has an extremely high standard of infection control, the staff are extremely well trained and there is a very good practice manager."