2017 Hearing Awareness Week Launch Transcript

Draft Transcript

 WA Deafness Council


Hearing Awareness Week Launch Event

 Tuesday, 22 August 2017


About This Document


This document contains a draft transcript only.

This draft transcript has been taken directly from the text of live captioning provided by The Captioning Studio and, as such, it may contain errors.

The transcript may also contain ‘inaudibles’ if there were occasions when audio quality was compromised during the event.

The Captioning Studio accepts no liability for any event or action resulting from this draft transcript.

The draft transcript must not be published without The Captioning Studio’s written permission.


BARRY MACKINNON:       If you can take a seat, ladies and gentlemen, please, we'll get this show on the road, thank you.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance. For those of you who may not know, my name is Barry MacKinnon, I'm chairman of the Deafness Council in Western Australia and at the outset I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of our land and pay respect to their elders both past and present.

This morning is a pretty simple ceremony. We have the launch of Hearing Awareness Week by the Minister for Disability Services, the Honourable Steven Dawson. Thanks for coming today, Steven. Parliament's sitting and he's got a busy schedule but he's taken time out of that to be here with us. We'll have the presentation of the Dr Harry Blackmore Award and I'd like to just apologise that we haven't formally got an Auslan interpreter, we've got an acting one, because they cancelled on us yesterday and we couldn't get a replacement. But we have the realtime reporting and I hope everyone can understand what's going on.

So to introduce the Minister, I want to introduce Paul Higginbotham. Paul is an active member of our council, he's a teacher of the Deaf, he worked in Japan for many years, he was the CEO of the Hearing Centre and is in the inaugural CEO of the Earbus Foundation. Paul has been active in promoting issues of the Deaf and hearing‑impaired people at the State and national level. He's a member also and has been promoting particularly the ‑ what did I do there? Muck that up. Neonatal screening across the State right from the beginning, right through to now, where the Earbus Foundation are in fact involved in that. So please welcome Paul Higginbotham. Thanks, Paul.

PAUL HIGGINBOTHAM:    Thank you, Barry, and good morning, everyone. It's my pleasure to introduce the Honourable Steven Dawson. He's the Minister for the Environment and he's here today in his capacity as Minister for Disability Services. Steven is a member of the Legislative Council, his electorate is mining and pastoral for those of you who don't get further than Wanneroo, that takes about two thirds of the State. It covers the goldfields, the midwest, the Kimberley and the Pilbara. It's probably the size of five European countries put together. In addition to his ministerial responsibilities, Steven's also responsible for that electorate.

His meteoric rise, I suppose, into Parliament in 2013, so one term in Opposition and now Minister for Disability Services and the Environment. I met Steven a couple of years ago in his electoral office in South Headland and we were trying, as Earbus Foundation, to get some assistance for particularly disadvantaged remote community and we haven't solved it yet but Steven was very approachable, impressively knowledgeable and very helpful with his advice. Those are good qualities to have in the minister for our sector. So would you give a warm welcome to the Minister for Disability Services.


STEVEN DAWSON: Thank you, Paul, for your lovely words. Good morning, everybody. (Speaks language)  Can I acknowledge the traditional owners on the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to their elders past and present. I acknowledge some of the special guests here today, Dr John Byrne, Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Mr Barry MacKinnon in his role as president of the Deafness Council of Australia. Mr Paul Higginbotham, Ms Julie Edmonds and ladies and gentlemen.

Being able to hear is something many of us take for granted because we haven't experienced any barriers to our own hearing. But with this in mind, it is alarming to learn that 1 in 6 Australians are either hearing‑impaired, deaf or have an ear disorder. This statistic reinforces the importance of organisations such as the Deafness Council of Western Australia and the role it has played in the community.

Since its inception in 1974, the Deafness Council of Western Australia has been worked hard to improve the lives of Deaf or hearing‑impaired people and to promote research in this field. As part of this work, the Deafness Council hosts Hearing Awareness Week each and every year with the aim of creating opportunities to raise awareness of hearing impairments and of ways to protect our hearing. This year's theme for Hearing Awareness Week 2017 is Hearing is Precious and Fragile. And this is therefore an important time to remember that exposure to loud noise is the single biggest cause of hearing loss in Australia for those who are born with an impairment.

I certainly know in my younger days I spent lots of time in nightclubs and pubs and I guess it's shocking to realise that the fact that I did so I may have damaged my hearing within 7 minutes. It certainly wasn't something I thought of at the time. Many every day noises are only safe for limited periods before they start to affect our hearing and the fact is that noise damage is permanent and can also cause uncomfortable hearing loss and tinnitus. This is why Hearing Awareness Week is vitally important as we try to stem the tide of those affected by disability.

People can protect their hearing by avoiding long exposure to high noise levels and therefore wearing hearing protecting equipment when in such environments. Some people are born with hearing loss or lose it at an early age through illness or accident. It really is crucial to identify hearing loss and provide the right supports as soon as possible. This is particularly important for babies and children. Between birth and the age of 5, the incidents of hearing loss doubles. Children can often fall behind their peers in speech and language development and in cognitive skills and social skills. This is obviously magnified as they become older if the hearing loss if left untreated.

We are fortunate that things are greatly improving through research and awareness and advocacy and early supports but can I say this is really one of the big areas that the Deafness Council has made a real impact. Among its many achievements over the past 4 decades, the Deafness Council campaigned to introduce newborn hearing screening and for this to become standard practice in Western Australia. Current research has shown that babies who are diagnosed early, and who start wearing hearing aids and attending early intervention services by 6 months of age, may develop language and communication skills that are similar to children with full hearing by the time they start school.

I know this is a vexed issue for some people in the Deaf community so it's important we not cut off any opportunities but we ensure people have a choice and as a Government we should be ensuring that people can access things like cochlear implants but I recognise that different people have different views.

So it's really important because hearing loss is an invisible condition. This year, Hearing Awareness Week sees a number of planning events including a Q&A event for the community. It's to aim to inform the community about hearing loss and how to protect your hearing and the needs of Australians who are Deaf and hearing‑impaired. A way to get involved is to focus on your own hearing and that of your friends and family.

I was amazed, as I said earlier, to find out that it takes an average person ‑ sorry, it takes people on average of 7 years from the time they start thinking they might have a hearing problem to actually seeking treatment. So I hope you will all join me as I look out for anyone, anyone in my community that mentions hearing difficulty, we should look out for everybody else in our community who mentions similar issues.

Before I finish up, can I also offer my congratulations to the soon‑to‑be announced recipients of the Dr Harry Blackmore Award and the Clear Hearing Speech Award. Now I'm very honoured to say I officially launch Hearing Awareness Week 2017. Thanks so much.


PAUL HIGGINBOTHAM:    There's a nice back story for Steven. He arrived from Ireland when he was 14 to escape the struggling economy in Ireland which has followed him all the way. We thank you for taking the time today to be here, we know any new Government is a very busy Government and ministers are particularly busy, so would you join me again in thanking Minister Steven Dawson.


BARRY MACKINNON:       Thanks, Paul. Two things about the Minister. Firstly, Paul talked about his electorate. I'm not sure how many Irelands would fit into the electorate, Minister, but it would be plenty. And I'm really pleased that he's not a Federal Member of Parliament given the dual nationality at the minute. The Western Australian constitution don't have that sort of issues. And the other comment to make was the point the Minister made about people taking 7 years to act. I was talking to Ian Chapman earlier, which he said they had a member or a person came along to their group recently who was concerned about having a cochlear ear implant. He had a hearing issue but talking to other people it encouraged him to go down that path, which he will be doing in about a month. So it's really important that if people do have an issue, to address it if they wish to and to talk to others which will give them encouragement, I think, to go down that path.

The Dr Harry Blackmore Award, Dr Harry Blackmore, John Byrne, who will introduce this award in a moment, was an outstanding Australian and hence the award was named after him. Dr John Byrne will introduce him. John, himself, is an outstanding Western Australian. He's a deaf man, as you all know, but it hasn't stepped in his way of progress. He has a PhD in accounting, he has previously been the chief financial officer of the organisation of Calm and whatever other names it's had over the years. He's currently the Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner in Western Australia and has been for many years the best treasurer in any organisation in Western Australia. He's the treasurer of the Deafness Council and a previous recipient of the Dr Harry Blackmore Award.

The other achievement of John's, which certainly should not go out recognition is over the years, when you're as old as I am, you've seen a whole lot of progress made and people now, as you would know, can get captions on their television. When they have Irish movies on we put the captions on so we can understand what they're saying. We put them on all movies, actually. But on television. But John, I'm not sure how many years ago now, about 10 years ago, said, "I want to go to the movies with my family and enjoy the movies." He complained to the Australian Human Rights Commission about the fact that there was no captioning of new release movies in Australia. As a consequence, a decision was made and now around this country of Australia in most major centres, you can go and watch new release movies with captions thanks to this fellow here who began that process. I think it's an outstanding achievement and one for which he should be well recognised across Australia. So please welcome Dr John Byrne.


DR JOHN BYRNE:   Thank you, Barry. The Harry Blackmore Award is an award given in recognition of the contribution of an individual or organisation in improving the quality of life for the Deaf and hearing‑impaired community. The award is made by the Deafness Council and began 20 years ago. It honours Dr Harry Blackmore who passed away two years ago. As Barry mentioned, among his many achievements, he founded the Deafness Council. In 1971 with a different name. In 1974 it became the Deafness Council, 45 years ago, he received Australian honours for his work with Deaf and hearing‑impaired people.

Among the 20 people who have previously received the award are people who are themselves Deaf or hearing‑impaired, parents of Deaf children, Auslan interpreters, teachers of the Deaf, audiologists, medical specialists. We also gave one to the CEO of Channel 7, Kevin Campbell, for introducing captioning the news in 1988, a long time ago, it's now commonplace but then it was very new and unique. You will find the names of the previous award winners on the Deafness Council website.

I am chair of the judging panel and I would like to thank Lynne van Olden who is a member of the panel. This year there were four nominations. They are Paula Bridges, Robert Eikelboom, Lara Shur and Janelle Macri. All four have made outstanding contributions and I congratulate them all. The judging panel found it very hard indeed, to choose one person. We decided that this year Robert Eikelboom should receive the award.

Adjunct Professor Robert Eikelboom is a senior researcher in the Ear Science Institute. He is an engineer by training and has made outstanding contributions to ear and hearing research, especially in telehealth and epidemiology. He has supervised and mentored many post graduate students. Please welcome Robert Eikelboom.


ROBERT EIKELBOOM:      Wow, this is unexpected. I just want to really thank all my colleagues at the Ear Science Institute because it's not me, it's really an award for everybody that I've worked with over 15 years. I see a lot of familiar faces in the audience.

I think we've all been working really hard to improve the lives of people with hearing loss, not only in rehabilitation but also in the detection and we're all passionate about it and it's good that we work together in this and I can see lots of doors opening amongst institutions now working together. Just, for example, we're involved with the project with the telethon kids institute looking at the mental wellbeing of children with hearing loss and I think that's a really important field to work in as well.

I just want to acknowledge a few people, I said the whole team but current CEO is here as well, a great support for me. Marcus, the director. And really I do want to thank Jen at the back of the room there. She's been my colleague for 15 years or so, 13 years, she's just stepped down and going to go into a new role and I think her contribution really deserves an award like this as well. So thank you, too.


BARRY MACKINNON:       Again, congratulations, Robert. That brings to a conclusion our short ceremony this morning. I want to say thank you to a few people. Rick Fern, please stand up, Rick. Rick is ‑ what do you call yourself?

SPEAKER:    Principal.

BARRY MACKINNON:       Principal of SSENS and they've hosted us today. Thank you very much for your support. Thank you, Minister, for coming, we appreciate again, you taking your time out of your busy day and we appreciate that. We appreciate also the work that Julie's done. Where is Julie Edmonds? She's on my right. She's done all of the work to get this thing together so thanks very much, Julie for what you've done as well and thank you all for coming today. Thanks.


BARRY MACKINNON:       If you haven't got anything to do tomorrow morning or you're interested we've got a Q&A function. You can see the poster over here at the Boulevard Centre in Floreat. Geof Parry from Channel 7 is our moderator and we're talking about the NDIS and the challenges that is presenting to people who are Deaf and hearing‑impaired. We want to make sure whatever the NDIS brings it provides services for all of the people whether they are having a cochlear implant or any form of listening device through to people who have Auslan users, that they get proper support through the NDIS program and that's the objective for tomorrow. What comes out of that we'll be running to Steven and the federal minister saying these are the issues that you need to be aware of when providing services to the community we represent here. Thank you for coming this morning. Please join us for morning tea. Thank you.