15 Mar 2018

The Shepherd Centre graduate Hamish Fairlie to dispel common misconceptions around hearing loss

Six inspiring young adults with hearing loss will take the floor at Parliament House and address some of Australia’s most powerful pollies at the 2018 Power of Speech event sponsored by Cochlear Limited.

The participants, from across Australia and New Zealand, will present a short speech to key policy makers on the issues faced by people living with hearing loss and the need for the government to make hearing health a priority. They will touch on topics related to workplace and social inclusion, technology, and education for people with a hearing impairment. The event comes at a critical time for the hearing loss sector which is facing ongoing challenges due to the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The national event will be held on Monday 26th March 2018 between 6:00pm – 8:15pm at the House of Representatives Alcove at Parliament House in Canberra.

Hamish Fairlie, a 17-year-old graduate from The Shepherd Centre’s Early Intervention Program who was born profoundly deaf, will be addressing some of the misconceptions he’s experienced growing up with a hearing loss. Hamish, who has received two cochlear implants, completed The Shepherd Centre program graduating with strong speech and language skills and has been thriving in his academic and extracurricular pursuits ever since.

Hamish is currently in Year 12 at a mainstream school in Sydney, studying for his Higher School Certificate. Hamish was recently made a school prefect and is a well-versed musician who has had experience playing multiple instruments. He has been studying Latin for six years, and has studied French for eight years. Hamish is also a dedicated volunteer who has spent time helping children with intellectual disabilities and teaching literacy and numeracy skills to Indigenous children in the Northern Territory.

“Hearing loss has the capability to be debilitating. But with the right support—for children and adults—it shouldn’t stop anyone from doing anything. For this reason we are asking the decision-makers in our country to make hearing health and wellbeing the national priority that it should be,” said Hamish.

The Power of Speech event celebrates the remarkable outcomes possible for cochlear implant recipients and is part of First Voice’s world-leading early intervention programs for children with hearing loss. The six speakers from across Australia and New Zealand will help challenge common perceptions about hearing loss and what people with hearing loss can achieve.

Dr Jim Hungerford, CEO of The Shepherd Centre, said each of the Power of Speech participants are testament to the bright future possible for children with hearing loss – and he is certain Hamish and his peers will wow our pollies at Parliament House.

“We’re looking forward to seeing Hamish and his peers inspire our political leaders with his outstanding speech and language skills and share his unique insights into the challenges faced by young people growing up with hearing loss. Many people don’t realise the bright future possible for people with hearing loss, and these young adults are set to challenge these misconceptions,” said Dr Hungerford.

“These outstanding young Australians truly are testament to the value of early intervention when it comes to giving deaf young adults the very best chance in life. People deserve to have equal opportunities to make their dreams come true, regardless of disability,” he said.

A First Voice study into the education, employment and social outcomes of hearing impaired children who receive early intervention revealed that around three in five (62%) of these children go on to achieve a tertiary level qualification. This compares to only two in five (43.3%) of the general population 1

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