Jernej Sluga, president of AIA

The Australian Aphasia Association (AAA) Conference was held in Perth on 6-7th of November 2023. Claire Bennington, a member of AIA and AAA, spoke to me about the conference a few months earlier, and I have decided that it was an ideal time and opportunity to visit the land down under. Three other aphasics, Miša, Ana and Štefan, traveled with me.

There are over 26 million people living in Australia and about 140,000 of them are aphasic. “Moving forward” was the motto of this year’s conference, that was organized and carried out mostly by people with aphasia. Even the host of the event, Bruce Simcock, is aphasic. Over the next three days, we listened to various lectures on the subject. Some of the most interesting ones presented the development of a mobile application that could help aphasics in their daily training and on camps, that are intended for socializing and organizing outdoor activities for people with aphasia. My attention was also drawn by a presentation of an organized cycling group from Canterbury. The AAA Association has recently updated their website, which has been developed and freshly renovated specifically for people with aphasia. Ciara Shiggins and Kathryn Pettigrove spoke about recent updates.

Group photo of participants of the AAA 2023 conference.

The only non-aphasic lecturer at the entire conference was Professor Deborah Hersh, who is also a member of the AIA, and spoke about human rights of people with aphasia. Among many lecturers, 16 aphasics also had the opportunity to present their own life stories. It has been most stimulating being able to listen to their stories “from the other hemisphere”. We also took part in pleasant gatherings in-between lectures, where we had the time to get to know each other.

After the conference had ended, we had three days left to explore the city, and took the opportunity to visit the beautiful sandy City Beach, enjoying the view of the waves, but not being able to swim, since the water had merely 20 degrees. The next day, we visited the impressive Matagarup Bridge, which we also crossed on foot, as it is intended for pedestrians only. On our last day, we enjoyed at a farewell lunch at the seaside restaurant in the city center, The Island of Elisabeth Quay.

Slovenian aphasic group in Perth Australia standing in a view of the city Perth.

It has been a long way from home, but the experience and the people we have met during out stay made it all truly unforgettable.