Three small but powerful voices stunned the more than 150-strong crowd gathered at Parliament House Theatre this morning at the 2014 Power of Speech Awards, a public speaking event aimed at challenging common perceptions surrounding what deaf children can achieve.
The Shepherd Centre’s Quinten Buwalda, 7, and Hear and Say’s Claudia Worland, 11, were named the 2014 Power of Speech Inspiration Award winners, presented by Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd); while 10-year-old Sophie Ardagh was presented the First Voice Courage Award by Prime Minister, The Hon. Tony Abbott MP.
In presenting the award, Mr Abbott said he was inspired by the courage of the 12 speakers, “to stand up, to have a go, to turn difficulty into opportunity.” “I’m sure Professor Graeme Clark would be absolutely thrilled that the cochlear implant he first thought of back in 1967 is now allowing young Australians, including many with us today, to have their voices heard in Australia’s Parliament House,” Mr Abbott said.
“To make your voice heard is an achievement. To make your voice heard in the face of adversity is a triumph.”
Quinten, Claudia and Sophie were among 12 deaf children from Australia and New Zealand invited to take part in the Power of Speech event, aiming to prove that hearing loss is no barrier to education, social inclusion and community participation – not to mention public speaking! – while celebrating the remarkable outcomes possible thanks to the life-changing technology of the cochlear implant, and the world-renowned Early Intervention programs at First Voice, a national alliance of member organisations providing listening and spoken language for children who are deaf or hearing impaired.
Therese Kelly, Chair of First Voice said each of the 12 participants are living proof of the bright future possible for children with hearing loss.
“Every child deserves to have the same opportunity to achieve their dreams, regardless of disability. The achievements of these 12 remarkable children truly are testament to the value of early intervention when it comes to giving deaf children the very best chance at life,” said Kelly.