This is branded content for ACU. There is a famous saying in showbusiness, 'Never work with children and animals'. For Australian Catholic University occupational therapy (OT) graduate Hannah Forbes, the opposite was true. Hannah's found herself thriving in an OT role that saw her working mainly with children on the autism spectrum alongside her therapy dog Otto, an Australian Cobberdog, at Psychology and Animal Assisted Wellbeing (P.A.A.W.) "An OT's role is to help people participate in everyday activities as fully as possible. I loved being able to work alongside like-minded and passionate individuals, pulling together to achieve the same goal, she said. "I loved learning how to integrate my therapy dog Otto into my practice as an OT. It is incredible to see the positive impact a therapy dog can have supporting children of all ages." When considering her options in high school Hannah knew she wanted a career that combined health, science, music, art and helping others. "I wanted to pursue a career that would satisfy my creativity, push me to learn new skills, grow as a person and would enable me to work with people of all ages - OT provided that perfect fit," she said. "In my final year of high school, I attended the ACU Open Day and met course coordinator Associate Professor Dr Laura Miller and attended a tour of the campus and facilities. I was blown away by the facilities, conversations with the OT senior academic staff and the university culture. "Studying at ACU immediately felt like the right choice for me - the opportunity to be viewed as more than just a number, and to have support and guidance from lecturers as well as develop genuine connections with other students, was a top priority." ACU will be offering the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy at its Ballarat campus for the first time in 2024, expanding the program to be available at four campuses. The new offering responds to growing demand for allied health professionals in regional areas and from local students. ACU's Executive Dean of Health Sciences, Professor Suzanne Chambers, said ACU was thrilled to see the expansion of this program at a time when the Federal Government's National Skills Commission has identified a shortage for occupational therapists throughout the country. "Occupational therapy is an essential and growing area of allied healthcare," Professor Chambers said. "It uses a whole-person perspective when working with individuals, groups and communities with the goal of helping clients to achieve optimal health and wellbeing and assisting them with navigating everyday tasks." Right from the start ACU occupational therapy students are in the field learning what OT is all about. ACU students are out on placement from Semester 1 in their first year - putting theory into practice. "I was fortunate to have been offered the opportunity to experience a wide range of practical experiences and community engagement opportunities in my time at ACU, each opportunity gave me the chance to build new skills and broaden my understanding of what an OT does," Hannah said. However, it was Hannah's third year five-week placement with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) that sparked her interest in research and her passion in working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and family practitioners to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, children and their families. "I love that as an OT I can support and walk alongside children, parents/caregivers and families in their unique journey, to enhance health and wellbeing outcomes, and participation in meaningful roles and valued occupations," she said. After graduating from ACU, Hannah worked at IUIH for the next three and half years. Occupational Therapy is a career for those who want to give back to others and Hannah certainly pays it forward. "My interest in research led me to completing a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours), giving me confidence in not only my clinical skills but my academic skills. I have been fortunate to work as a sessional academic at ACU for the past few years, which has been a career pathway I would have never expected but have enjoyed thoroughly," she said. Hannah is now undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy at ACU, completing her thesis, Co-Operative Spaces: An ecological approach examining participation, health and well-being in intergenerational programs. Her advice for others thinking about studying occupational therapy? "Take every opportunity available, make the most of supports and services available at university and the broader OT and allied health community and don't be afraid to make mistakes and take on challenges, it is the best way to grow and learn." Ready to make a difference like Hannah? Explore the allied health courses at ACU. Find out more about studying OT at Ballarat by booking a guided visit of the Ballarat campus on 15 November or 12 and 13 December. Check out our student accommodation options in Ballarat which offer the best of both worlds: off-campus independence with support from our Residential Services team.