Our Alumni Shine Bright at Inaugural Event

17 Jun 2019


Inaugural Alumni Awards highlights The Shepherd Centre's Amazing Outcomes

On Thursday 6th June The Shepherd Centre held their inaugural Alumni Achiever Awards at NSW Parliament House. 

Whilst there was only time to celebrate five individual winners, every graduate in the room had their own unique experience to share and own success story, making the event a celebration for everyone’s achievements; including the families and loyal supporters who are committed to The Shepherd Centre’s work. 

The winners pictured from left: Olivia H (Champion of Ability Award sponsored by Cochlear), Isabel (Voice of the Future), Joel (Award for Excellence and People’s Choice), Naomi (The Dick Smith Award for Advocacy and Support). Not pictured: John (Dr Bruce and Annette Shepherd Oration Award). 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our alumni and families who were nominated as well as all of our supporters who participated in the People’s Choice voting, please read the winning submissions from each of our finalists below:


“I am currently doing my HSC however, during 2018, I had the chance to complete one of my year 12 subjects a year early. I chose to do the Design and Technology Accelerated course. As a part of this course, I had to complete a major design project, which consisted of completing an 80-page portfolio, and a final design prototype. I was encouraged by my teacher to choose something that I could identify with closely. Instantly I thought of how I could help hearing-impaired children like myself and improve their way of life.

After discussing with my family, I thought of the idea of producing an affordable waterproof hearing aid case that could be used by hearing-impaired individuals to participate in aquatic activities without having to take out their hearing aids. After identifying a need for this product and how successful it could be in helping hearing-aid users, I needed to think of various design options to achieve the right balance between, sound quality, functionality comfort, and affordability.

Despite having to overcome many obstacles, I was able to produce a successful waterproof hearing aid case. The design project was really successful and I received a mark of 92% and an HSC band 6. In addition, I got shortlisted for SHAPE 2000 exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum.

To be considered a role model for other hearing-impaired kids knowing they have the ability to improve things for not only for the hearing-impaired community but the broader community as well.”


“Born with a sensory-neural hearing loss, undiagnosed until she was 2 years and 10 months old, Olivia struggled as a baby, born with such major deprivation of oxygen and residual trauma that she was not expected to survive.

Olivia’s innate survivor response to life has proved to be a constant theme in her life. Every obstacle in Olivia’s life has seen her seize the challenges and work with tremendous diligence to achieve her best. Olivia achieved a Science degree in Occupational Therapy at Sydney University, and worked in Sydney, regional Victoria, Nowra and Canberra in this profession. The courage, determination and effort shown by Olivia has never ceased to astound us, her family, her friends and her colleagues.

Last year Olivia made a courageous decision to be fitted surgically with the cochlear implant in her right ear, where her hearing had deteriorated over many years to a profound loss. Her rehabilitation was a longer than expected process, as she experienced some ongoing and disconcerting vertigo. Olivia maintained her regular social media inspirational visual and textual posts, including poetry, which tracks her brave journey.

Olivia has been invited on occasion to tell her story in a range of media over the last few years. She has done this with honesty and integrity, appreciating the importance of her own personal experience possibly helping others who may struggle with their own abilities and disabilities. In this way, I see Olivia as a genuine inspirational person, who deserves to be recognised and honoured.”


“Naomi is an experienced advocate for disability inclusion. Since 2009, she has been involved in access and inclusion initiatives through the following roles:
– Accessibility Producer for Australia’s first universally accessible theatre production, which was awarded a national captioning award,
– Diversity Analyst at the Westpac Group, facilitating key changes in accessibility and managing its major sponsorship of the NSW Government’s Don’t Dis My Ability campaign,
– Project Manager, Deaf Arts Access Project at Accessible Arts NSW,
– Research Consultant, MQ Hearing Strategy for Learning and Teaching at Macquarie University,
– Deputy Chair, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations,
– Exhibition Curator, ‘Access Leads to Inclusion: Disability at UTS’, and
– Member of inclusion advisory panels at the City of Sydney, Australian Museum and Anzac Memorial Centenary Project.

Profoundly deaf, she is a graduate in arts and laws from the University of Sydney and has a MA in Public History and a PhD in history from the University of Technology Sydney. Currently, in addition to providing access and inclusion advice, Naomi is a consulting historian, authoring a book for the Shepherd Centre to commemorate its 50th anniversary in 2020.”


“Isabel Hathorn is a Shepherd Centre Graduate. She received her cochlea implant when she was in Year 4. Since that time, I have seen her self-esteem, her creative skills and her wellbeing at school flourish. Now in Year 7 Isabel has developed skills in drama, has written several plays recognised at school and is undertaking a special project about hearing impaired students.

She is currently writing a play called Listen Up which is specially for the Shepherd Centre, to be played by different ages at the Centre and taking up issues from bullying to friendship.

In Year 6 she was elected to the Student Representative Council and undertook extra duties with enthusiasm.  Her sensitivity to students with special needs has been enhanced by her own experiences. Isabel has also developed the idea of cochlea for dogs she’s calling the ‘doglea’ and has of her own volition made contact with Janet Menzies at Cochlear arranging a meeting for further discussion and development.

I am happy to nominate Isabel for the award seeing the growth and development in her since Year 4 in self-confidence and in leadership I don’t think would have been otherwise possible.”


“John Lui is a graduate who is making change for many people’s lives through his passion; tennis as a professional tennis coach, and through Hear For You, developing mentors and being a mentor himself in the NSW program. John is an internationally ranked deaf tennis player and recognised by Tennis Australia in their elite athlete program https://www.tennis.com.au/player-profiles/john-lui.  

John has consistently led by example to encourage The Shepherd Centre graduates to have a go at Deaflympics and excel in their chosen sports.   At Hear For You working under the CEO Dave Brady, he developed the NSW programs from 1 workshop in NSW in 2013 to delivering 11 programs around NSW in 2018 to 2019, enabling 200 teenagers, of which 50% plus are The Shepherd Centre graduates. John developed and led a team of 38 young deaf adult mentors, many of which are Shepherd Centre Graduates.

In short, John deserves consideration for this award because he encouraged, listened, and supported others, hearing and deaf, and encouraged Shepherd Centre Graduates to engage as mentors, in their communities, or through sports.”

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