Jan Owen Named Member of the Order of Australia

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Please see below an excerpt from the Echo News article posted 26th May 2021.

Crowning glory

By Melissa Sheil

SOUTH Guildford resident Janette Owen has joined a rank of industry heroes, having been appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) last week for her work in indigenous dentistry.

Mrs Owen and her husband John founded the Kimberley Dental Team (KDT) in 2009 after visiting Halls Creek and being shocked at the difficulty indigenous children faced in receiving dental treatment.

Having both worked in dentistry previously, the couple decided to develop a not-for-profit program to help treat and educate the local rural communities on oral hygiene.

“We were shocked by the children’s teeth and how difficult it was for them to access treatment,” Mrs Owen said.

“Very few kids up in the town had ever had any sort of dental treatment as the therapists were very difficult to come by – most didn’t even own a toothbrush.

“We came back from our trip and had a think, then decided we just had to do something.”

For the past 11 years, the KDT has embarked on two trips a year to Halls Creek and the surrounding area – often to communities more than three hours away from the town – to treat as many people as they can through their free clinic, giving out free dental care packages and teaching the importance of oral hygiene in school classrooms.

A team of about seven volunteers accompany the Owens for the three-week trips, and though many re-volunteer each year, the only constant companion has been the Oral Health Officer, Craig the Croc – a stuffed crocodile with a set of pearly whites for children to practice their brushing technique on.

On their most recent May trip, almost 500 patients were treated.

“One of the earliest cases we had was a lovely little boy who was about four-years-old when we met him in 2009,” she said.

“His mouth was in a very poor state, so much so that we had to take him to get a general anaesthetic in Perth so he could get many of his teeth removed.

“Every year that we come back, he always makes sure to come find us even if we aren’t speaking in his class, to say hello and thank you and show us how well he’s doing with his teeth.

“He’s now 15 and is such a lovely young man – we really get to see these kids grow up as well.”

Mrs Owen says alongside the reward of watching the community understand how to take care of their teeth, seeing the children learn not to be frightened of dental work has been wonderful.

“When we first started coming up, the kids were quite nervous around us and were frightened of the tools and treatments,” she said.

“Now they will come up and talk to us if they have a sore tooth and know we will look after them.

“Receiving the honour of an AM is lovely for me, but it’s especially meaningful because it recognises the program, the volunteers, the people and communities that we help.

“Without our volunteers being so generous and the community up there being as welcoming as they are, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”

See the original Echo News article here: https://echonewspaper.com.au/crowning-glory/